Education: that’s learning more and more about less and less, until you know everything about nothing!
Recently, I’ve taken up woodworking. I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Even when things don’t quite go right, the process of learning what works is a journey. Of course there are mistakes, and a bit of trial and error, but gradually experience and confidence builds. It also provides me with a different perspective on tackling problems. It forces me to look at a problem carefully and consider the end product, and the possible solutions to get the result I want. I have to decide which tools will help me to get the best result without damaging the work piece or leaving DNA behind. The process of making something is a thoughtful endeavour, not to be rushed. You make a plan, use the appropriate tools, and gently cut, plane, sand, fit, glue, clamp, and varnish some rough wood into something useful and aesthetically pleasing. More than anything else, it’s taught me to use patience in developing solutions.
My go-to source for technical help is YouTube. Sometimes you have to put down your tools, and get some direction. That doesn’t quite fit in this time-deprived world of instant gratification, but that little extra effort to understand what you are doing goes a long way to producing a finished product which is functional. Sometimes I have to leave my project for a day, and when I return to it I have an entirely new perspective that generally yields a very good result. If you exercise patience and care, follow a plan, and use the appropriate tools, you may gently coax a work of engineering art out of a once blank piece of tree.
Operating your business is much like the creative woodworking process. You are working with a living thing that interacts with the environment around it, expanding and contracting in response to changes in the atmosphere. If you chop at it indiscriminately, you risk irreparably damaging it. If you attack it without a plan, you’ll likely end up with something workable but unpleasing to look at. When you look at your business, do you see a functioning creation without form? Do you see a form that works, but could be better? Is your business engineered to look good, to succeed, or both, or neither? Is your business adaptable to the environment in which you operate? Sometimes you need to step away and look at it from a new perspective. Building a business and a team is a fluid process. The singular demand on every business owner is the necessity to constantly be learning in order to succeed. If you hated school, and you hate learning, then you’ll probably be happiest doing one thing over and over the same way, forever. That may work for a time, but it’s not the key to creativity or longevity.
For a business to be truly successful, it has to build on itself and grow into the marketplace. As a business owner you need to promote the skills and enhance the talent that resides in the people that comprise your team. You need to encourage learning. Your people need to overcome the fear of learning new things and the fear of leaving accepted practice behind. They can learn to embrace change instead of fear it, based on your lead. Learning is the fuel that will propel your business into each succeeding decade. When you stop adapting, re-engineering, thinking and learning, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to keep your business unique and enduring. You end up with a formless piece of wood, instead of perhaps a work of art.