Like some of us, I worked hard in academics my whole life when entrepreneurship was not yet in view.
I remembered how I took my studies so seriously in high school that I will get myself lost in a bush because I wanted to have full concentration to read.
It was same in the university but in a different form. I wasn’t reading on a tree this time. Lol. But I was damn too serious about excellence.
Although my seriousness only lasted for a year; my first year in University before I found my place.
I graduated from the first University ever founded in Nigeria, University of Ibadan, and since then I have been spending years unlearning everything I had learned before I could start living my life fully as an entrepreneur.
Though, I am still in my early years as an entrepreneur and I have failed in a couple of ideas I planned to create and startups I started.
I discovered there was something I am not doing right which wasn’t my fault initially. It was all based on the things I have accumulated from formal education over the years.
Like being in school, I kept approaching them like I approached exams.
I would learn everything I could about my market, prepare so hard on my product development and rely on my IQ to predict how the market would respond to my product on the launch day – The Exam.
When I finally launch my products and they didn’t sell as I thought they should. I would think I had failed, get depressed. But most of the time, I started all over again.
It took awhile to realize that entrepreneurs are the opposite of academics. They don’t put knowledge before action. They put action before knowledge, and learn through practice not theory.
Since I realized this, I have been launching early anything I have decided to sell, and all the learning starts happening once the exam had begun.
In my early days before I realized this, I would try and do it all myself, thinking that if I had to get others to do the work for me I was cheating.
It was not until recently I realized that while at school the smartest people knew how to do it all themselves, in business the smartest people know how to not do it all themselves.
Getting others to do the work wasn’t cheating. It was leadership.
The reward of being smarter than those around you at school was high marks and class prizes.
The reward of being smarter than those around you in business was guaranteed financial failure.
It was only when I realized that the smartest entrepreneurs weren’t the ones who were smartest in their team, but the ones who surrounded themselves with people smarter than them, that my small businesses began to have the chances to grow.
The biggest lesson of all, was that while success at school came to those who worked hard to know the subjects best, success in business – and in life – came to those who worked hard to know themselves best.
Not to say that school wasn’t valuable. It was.
But just as the rules of football are opposite to the rules of basketball, the rules of academia are opposite to the rules of entrepreneurship.
So if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, unlearn before you learn so you don’t have to undo the things you do.