Leading, Living, and Life-Long Learning

“The world needs dreamers, and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” — author Sarah Breathnach

When I think of women entrepreneurs, I think of women who are dreamers and doers. I think of smart women starting businesses, large and small. I think of women who have vision, power, and passion.

According to research from McKinsey, gender equity is essential to the health of the U.S. economy. Women as business leaders within organizations—and outside them, as entrepreneurs and consumers—are a key part of our country’s economic growth.

Women entrepreneurs often work alone, at least initially, as they tenaciously move forward with their dreams and visions. As they are faced with business challenges, they often say that continuing education is more important than ever. But it can be difficult for them to continue their education and learning, often due to a shortage of time or money, or both.

I challenge women to think beyond traditional learning environments like classes and conferences. The research about creativity and innovation suggests that we can spur both in a variety of ways, including trying new things and meeting new people.

As I was growing up, my mother opened my eyes to the wonders of our city and the larger world. I learned that success is about access to opportunities. I also became aware that people often have unequal access to opportunity, and changing that has been part of my life’s mission.

As we think about broadening our access, I encourage entrepreneurs to seek out personal and professional educational opportunities that engage them, excite them, and help them reach their goals.

Some suggestions:

Harness the power of social media. Social media is a strong force in our quickly changing world. (To see its impact, search for “The 2012 Social Media Revolution” on YouTube.) I read between 20 and 40 articles and blogs a day—and most come from Facebook or Twitter. Create your own virtual communities of learning by “following” and engaging with other entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and people who inspire you.

Take advantage of free educational resources. Ted Talks are a weekly favorite for me. They allow me to listen and learn at my leisure. There are many free online talks, webinars, and other resources as well.

Unplug. This may seem contradictory to the other suggestions, but it makes sense. Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen, says, “I believe that genius in the 21st century will be attributed to people who are able to unplug from the constant state of reactionary workflow (focusing mainly on responding to the influx of e-mail and other messages), reduce their amount of insecurity work (obsessively checking website analytics and other data), and allow their minds to solve the great challenges of our era. Brilliance is so rare because it is always obstructed, often by the very stuff that keeps us so busy.” When we take some quiet time, we are able to see things differently and be more creative.

Not all of us enjoy the same method of learning. Everyone must identify which approach to personal and professional growth works best for her. But when entrepreneurs continually connect to new information and ideas, they set themselves up for boundless creativity and innovation.

Tanya Odom, EdM, is a consultant, facilitator, coach, author, and speaker. She was recently named “One of the Top 5 Diversity Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter (@TMODOM).

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