Entrepreneurship requires cogent business skills that unfortunately no business school can teach you, yes not even Harvard. Schools aren’t designed to teach you a practical skill set that would help live a balanced life.
Did they teach you how to do taxes in school or college? Did they teach you how to have a pleasant domestic life because lack of it would harm your health? Did they teach you how to eat right? No, schools just don’t do that.
Talking about running a marathon and running a marathon are two different things. Why do we go to school? What do we do in school? We TALK about things. We read textbooks. We do case studies of other companies to see how and why they failed or succeeded. But one size doesn’t fit all. You can do thousands of case studies on why certain businesses failed and still not be able to figure out your route. Then why do we work so hard to get into a fancy college to learn the business?
In this article, we are going to explore 5 cogent business skills that you may not even learn at Harvard.
Ingredients of a successful life
Life is a bag of mixed nuts; you cannot just know almonds and expect everything to run smoothly, you have to know every single nut in the bag to live a healthy and prosperous life.
You will need to learn:
1) How to become financially independent
2) How to manage your bills and taxes
3) How to keep yourself healthy
4) How to contribute to your society
5) How to find opportunities for growth and improve
No college course will help you learn all of these things. Most of it you will learn through experience. You can read the definition of sales tax, but to learn what it is you must shake hands with it.
It’s important to remember that life skills and business skills go hand in hand. You can’t expect to know one and have it all without the other.
5 cogent business skills
1. Ability to fail right
There is no magic pill that you could swallow and garner a lifetime of experience overnight. Experience is something you must gain with consistent effort. Millionaires and billionaires know how to fail right. It’s the most important cogent business/life skills that you must have.
How do you fail right?
Failure has many faces. But if you know how to fail right, you will only invest time and effort in projects or opportunities where you’ll get substantial experience as a result. For example, at an early stage as an entrepreneur, you can participate in as many business contests as possible not to win but to gain knowledge and experience. Of course, winning would be nice too, but it may not come early in the day.
To fail right, you must choose your path very carefully so when you fall you know where to start again. For example, if you want to run a clothing store, it’s wise to start selling clothes one way or the other and see what works and what doesn’t. Do not expect to learn how to run a successful clothing chain by investing your time in selling books.
Pick a line and stay on it. Failure is inevitable but at least you will get the knowledge you need to introduce improvements into your current business model. Failing right would bring more than just experience and knowledge; it will help you build a thick skin.
When we are young, we are naive and sensitive to harassment that we have to encounter in the world. We can easily become agitated, frustrated, angry, and even lose hope.
Failing right would teach you how to not get agitated, frustrated, or even lose hope over little things. It will teach you how to take constructive criticism and ignore what doesn’t help you with your life and business.
A college degree may help you garner certain expertise, but it won’t help you build a thick skin. So fail right, fail often, so you can learn right and grow stronger.
Entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet did not become who they are today ust because they know how to do business. They are where they are because they are obsessed with what they do.
A college cannot infuse obsession into your personality. This is an asset that only belongs to you. You either have it or you don’t. If you have it, you will soon realize that college isn’t helping you keep up with your obsession, so you must tread on your own to get to your goals faster. If you don’t have it, you need to build it.
Unfortunately, obsession is something that exists in a person naturally and not by environmental factors. Nobody can make you obsessed enough to finish a six months course in three days like Elon did when he was young.
If you aren’t obsessed enough with what you want to do in life, no fancy degree or IVY league college would help you.
How to be obsessed enough?
Obsession is deeply rooted in passion. You have to want something bad enough, so bad that you cannot live without it. You cannot imagine your life without it and have to have it at all costs. When you have that kind of attitude towards a goal in life, your mind starts to look for ideas and solutions to make things happen to get you to your ultimate goal.
So to become obsessed enough, you must have the right passion for something. If you want something bad enough, you would know passion. The key is to focus on it with all your might and not worry about what’s trendy or hot out there. Most schools teach kids to mold themselves according to what is required in the market.
So most students don’t even get to explore their passion and simply become what is expected of them. This is perhaps why a lot of entrepreneurs drop out of college to pursue their own goals.
If you already have found your passion, don’t let anything kill it. If it doesn’t seem possible to get your goals done today, make adjustments in the plan, and keep going. James Cameron had to wait years before he could start working on Avatar because when he first wanted to do it, the technology didn’t exist. It’s the obsession that kept him going.
3. Business acumen
Business acumen is a broad term that refers to an individual’s ability to quickly gauge a business situation and make decisions that bring the best outcome. Some people naturally have business acumen with or without a degree from a fancy college while others learn it through their experience in college. Some never get the hang of it even when they invest time and money in a college degree.
How to build business acumen?
A) Shape your intuition and experience
You should learn how to build business acumen without having to rely on any outside resources. You don’t need a course to teach you how to make the right decisions. You only need your intuition and experience. Your intuition and experience will aid each other in decision making. Smart entrepreneurs with cogent business skills aren’t born with them; they gradually get the hang of them with time. So, all you need to do is get on the path that you want to pursue and keep going. Take the longest, roughest road. The bumps alone will help you shape your experience and understanding.
B) Hang around the right people
Business events are a great way to meet the right type of people. There’s a lot you can learn from their experiences. Talk less, listen more. Wisdom is sometimes buried deep in a random conversation. You must pay attention to make sure you don’t miss anything. If you are going to attend any parties, they better be business-oriented.
C) Understand the market and your customer
Knowing your customers and the market are another set of cogent business skills that every entrepreneur needs to have from very first day. Don’t take your customer for granted. Gone are the days when you could sell to the masses. Customers have become highly diversified; each market segment with its own unique needs. You must learn how to make decisions based on the current market and customer needs. Knowing your customer and market will also help you develop strategies for a competitive edge.
Curiosity is another cogent business skill that nobody will teach you in a school. But wait, you must be thinking how is being curious a skill? It is when it pushes you out of your comfort zone to figure out solutions for problems. It is because of curiosity that we were able to listen to the radio signals from Proxima Centauri, Sun’s nearest neighbor located around four lightyears far from us. Had it not been for curiosity, would we even care about the alien radio signals echoing in the deep space? It is because of curiosity that scientists are exploring and creating advanced tools and techniques to better our lives every day. If we weren’t curious enough, we wouldn’t even care. So curiosity is a skill, a cogent skill that as an entrepreneur you must have. If you are not curious enough, you probably don’t have enough passion and as a result no obsession.
5. Value of time
Take a moment, think about how you could have spent your time had you not gone to college? If you have yet to decide whether to go to college, take a moment to think if there’s any other way you could spend that time. Schools are great at helping us learn a subject, but not so much at teaching us about longevity and the value of time. That you must learn on your own. It’s the importance of time that young Elon could finish a six-month course in 3 days. Entrepreneurs and people with a business mindset understand the value of “today”.
To fully understand the value of time, know this: you will only be young once. Things you can do today, may not happen tomorrow because of health concerns. You are not invincible and nothing ever stays the same. That is why we have the phrase “Carpe diem” meaning “seize the day”.
When we are young, we take our health and resources for granted. Because we had yet to see what life would be like without the health and the resources we enjoy today. Don’t wait for something bad to happen to make changes in your life.
Imagine the worst and make changes today. If you didn’t do it yesterday, do it now. Take advantage of what you have today because you won’t have it tomorrow.
If you don’t exercise, start today. If you didn’t start your business for whatever reason, do it today. Invest in health and opportunities that would likely pay off in the future.
Time is your most valuable commodity, spend it wisely if you don’t want to have regrets in the future. The ability to know the value of time is probably one of the most important cogent business skills.
The bottom line
No manual would outline the path to success. Every individual is different and hence the path has to be unique too. Don’t expect the school to outline the path or give you the blueprint for success. They can’t. They can only teach. How much you learn and apply to your life is all up to you.