Last year, I decided to go back to school. After working for 3 years in startup accelerators, I realized that I had developed a strong interest in public policies, the European Union, international relations, and the way politics affect entrepreneurs in their daily lives.
So I joined a Master’s degree in European Union studies to grow my understanding of the political system surrounding me.
The experience has been mostly exciting and positive. However, there has been a few difficult moments. Going back to university life, after 3 years of financial independence, is complicated: I have to live in smaller apartments, accept to spend less money on shopping and restaurants and books, and devote my weekends to homework and essays… Despite this, being a university student is a privilege. Around the world, there are relatively few people lucky enough to be able to afford study fees and accommodations.
I believe that the act of learning should be widely accessible to everyone. Particularly, entrepreneurs can benefit immensely from “going back to school”.
The benefits of lifelong learning
1. Stay humble: there’s a lot that you don’t know. Entrepreneurs, particularly in the extrovert-heavy culture of the Silicon Valley, love to portray self-confidence. They have an answer to every questions and thoughts on every debates. Most of these founders usually fail to grow their companies. The most successful ones are those able to sit down, listen, and ask questions.
2. Fuel your creativity and innovation: discovering new topics, theories and systems allows you to enhance your mind for the better. Studying is, quite literally, an exercise. You need to understand a subject, read thesis and reports, write an analysis and memorize important information.
3. Discover new opportunities: career-wise, learning new skills is mandatory, even if you are the CEO of a company. Education forces you to stay relevant and up to date with the world around you, which can only benefit your start-up and career. Recently, The Economist defined continuous learning as an imperative for everyone, because of rapid technological advancements.
4. Grow your network: before anything else, learning is a social activity. In classes, workshops, and even with individual mentors and consultants, education places you in a social setting which allows you to meet a diverse range of people. That is always beneficial for yourself, as an individual, and your start-up.
Where can entrepreneurs study?
Of course, I am not suggesting that entrepreneurs should quit their jobs and enroll in universities. Degrees are expensive, time-consuming and not necessarily interesting for a startup founder. Thankfully, we have fantastic new methods today, allowing us to go back to “school” while working full-time.
– Online classes
I have been loving online classes for a very long time. I still cannot believe that we can easily access online resources from prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford! You can register to most of the classes for free, and study at your own pace. Read my article here where I list 7 free online courses to learn entrepreneurship, ethics and social development.
– Startup accelerators
Here is my (fairly) biased opinion: if you have launched a startup, you should definitely consider joining an acceleration program. The best ones will teach you amazing entrepreneurial skills, from learning how to pitch and building your strategy, to understanding the administrative and legal work necessary for a startup. If you are having doubts about accelerators, that’s a good thing! Read my article here on the three most important questions you should ask yourself before joining a program.
Let me know your thoughts on entrepreneurship and education. Are you a lifelong learner? Do you think it’s necessary for founders to take lessons from others? Personally, I strongly believe in the power of mentors and teachers.
More resources on the topic:
- “Lifelong learning is good for your health, your wallet, and your social life” by John Coleman for the Harvard Business Review
- “12 reasons you should join an accelerator to advance your startup” by Serenity Gibbons for Entrepreneur.com