Using professional development to stay motivated also allows you to increase your skills, expand your networks and learn from your business heroes.
I recently undertook an advertising course led by a particularly inspiring teacher. ‘Leaders dance with leaders,’ he quoted, ‘So who do you dance with?’ I nodded enthusiastically and took down every word he said, but it wasn’t until later on when I looked over my business plans for the year that it hit home.
As a soloist, it’s easy to let the months pass by while I concentrate on sourcing clients, keeping them happy and managing IT, finances, marketing and other business essentials. However, I’ve realised it’s also important to prioritise learning and development throughout the year to make sure I’m ‘dancing with leaders’ and not shyly peeking through the crowd on the edge of the dance floor.
As I updated my professional development plan, I considered what leaders I would dance with if I had the chance. Who could I meet and learn from that would keep me inspired in business? Where would I find these business heroes? How could I develop my skills to expand my networks and opportunities?
Whether it’s formal education or salsa classes, there are many different ways to continue learning and stay inspired.
Courses and events
Enrolling in a course or attending conferences are great ways to meet new contacts and allow you to work on your business rather than in it. Often physically stepping away from the desk and learning in a group environment, whether it’s an interactive class or listening to a formal presentation, provides the mental stimulation you need to come up with fresh, creative ideas for your business.
Aim to attend a set number of networking events every year. This will not only give you an opportunity to practice your elevator pitch, but you’ll build long-lasting relationships through the networks you create. At each event, try to ask lots of questions and really focus on what you can learn from other people and their experiences.
Business books and magazines
Reading literature on a topic of interest is often the best way to learn from business heroes you will never meet but feel you could learn from. Instead of skimming though the book or article, make note of key points and think about how you could apply them in your business.
Hobbies and interests
Don’t underestimate how important your hobbies and interests are to your business. Whether they are directly related to your industry or not, activities that get you thinking and meeting new people are bound to benefit your solo venture. Until recently, I was studying French on Saturday mornings and was surprised to discover how refreshed I felt after challenging my brain to learn something new.
You can find mentors in the most unlikely places. Whether it’s a surf instructor or a fellow business owner, there’s always an opportunity to learn. Social media are hotspots of business heroes sharing ideas and advice—all you have to do is connect.
This year I plan to join a few business networking breakfasts, a social media seminar and a creative writing course in Bali. I have a reading list to keep me inspired and will continue to follow a number of my business heroes on twitter to see if I can pick up some pearls of wisdom.
How about you? Are you dancing with leaders? What business heroes do you plan to learn from this year?