Clients often ask me, “Dr. Wright, how did you learn what you know?” They recognize that my background and upbringing don’t necessarily say financial, business, career innovator. They review my training and, though social work is varied, they don’t see how I could know so much about the life that they want to live. Truth is, I have intentionally lived multiple realities in order to understand choices and opportunities beyond my experience. How did I do it?
Following, I provide ways that you can learn beyond your experience. Not just reading or taking a class, but living the education so that it changes your perception. The prerequisite is one that many lack due to their attempts to be perceived as competent and their fear of failure. In order to impact your perception, you must be willing to look stupid.
1. Try it Yourself
I have actually registered every type of business. I had valid ideas for businesses, but the real value to me now, as a business coach and board member, is that I can bring those experiences to clients and companies. I have been in the trenches of county clerk offices, accountant’s waiting rooms, and department of revenue web sites.
I have started applications for various things. I have read the rules for others. I have received the packets in the mail. I have even signed up for a multi-level marketing program. I have tried. Now, that knowledge, much of it gained in failure or at least revision, is available to me.
2. Talk to the Haves
Warning: For every person that talks straight and shares wisdom, you will encounter 3 to 5 who will give you cliché answers. You will know the difference because straight wisdom will normally shock you out of your comfortable thoughts and challenge something you think you have learned.
My favorite example of this was a conversation with a millionaire who asked my why my goal was to be debt free. I had a great answer, “Because the Bible says to owe no man.” He responded with wisdom that shook me and deepened my desire for more financial literacy. He said, “If you don’t carry debt, what you will do will be only what you can pay cash for. You won’t be doing very much.”
3. Stay on the Line
Back when I started, connecting with people on the phone was the way to learn. Now, you can search the Internet and get the information you need. I do a lot of that in the age of wikipedia and google. It wasn’t just self-initiated conversations though.
Some of the information came from telemarketers as I answered the phone. Once I found that they were in a sector or industry that I had little information about, I engaged the person on the other end with questions about process, sales, and their industry. My most memorable conversations came from salespersons. I gained a great sense of the globalization occurring back then.
This lesson is still valid today even with the availability of wikipedia and google. It can be extended to bulk mailing, but it is still applicable to cold calls. You can also see it in the promotions and sponsored links in your social media feeds. Pay attention to what is being promoted and how it’s being promoted. They do what is working. You can learn as the techniques change over time.
4. Embarrass Yourself
It is as true in the classroom of college as it is in the classroom of life. You must be willing to look like an idiot in order to learn. The need to appear wise is the enemy of wisdom. You must ask questions in order to get many of the answers you seek. That means, you are going to be vulnerable. Know that some will laugh in your face. But, do not fret over that. Judge the experience by whether you received valuable information that you can put into practice.
My experience with this is myriad. My favorite instance was back when my wife and I had only been married 2 years. We were thinking about moving from our apartment, and got the bright idea that we should begin looking for a house. Wanting to know more, we made an appointment with a housing lender at our bank.
I tell you how long I had been married so that you could envision two 20 somethings, still in college, making a combined annual income of about $18,000 per year, paying a significant car note each month, and $350 in rent. Do the math, and you realize that even a small house was out of our reach. But, our purpose was to find out what we needed to do, not what we could do at that moment in time.
We kept our appointment. The lender ran our credit reports, reviewed our debt-to-income ratios, reviewed our ability to finance the closing costs, returned to us and laughed in our faces. He literally chuckled while telling us that we did not qualify for any lending services he had available. Rather than anger and storming out, we asked what the criteria were. We asked what financial choices impact those criteria. It took us 3 years, but we purchased our first home based on the knowledge we gained in the midst of embarrassment.