In a few weeks, preschoolers will be experiencing their first day of school. They will be confronted with managing the fear associated with being away from the comfortable environment they’ve grown used to since birth. Depending on how well their parents prepared and conditioned them for this milestone, they will cry out loud clutching to their parents in agony during the first hand-off, or not. They come to learn. They are afraid.

After they’re settled in the routine, and as the years go by, they learn that they need to go to school to learn. This axiom solidifies more and more if school is where we all think most of the valuable learning takes place. If you turn out to get a good handle on your learning in school, reinforced by good grades and progression, you go through the years and each time get accustomed to a new level of comfort. You are back in your comfort zone, perhaps no different than the one you were in the day before your first hand-off in preschool. Still there may always be some fear, or at least apprehension, associated with going to school as you go from grade to grade and face new unknowns each year.

Through this ladder approach, some get conditioned to associate learning with fear. In each cycle through each rung, if you are diligent, you work hard on your learning to achieve the steady state comfort level again. Eventually you may be seeking comfort rather than seeking learning. This is so because learning new things is hard, and if you are going to be tested on them, and you are conscientious, the fear of a bad grade makes you concentrate on studying so you learn what you will be tested on. If you don’t get the grades you want, you may apply yourself more, or may even learn bad grades are not the end of the world. There’s all sorts of alternative solutions to them: remedial courses, changes in course of study, taking time off from school. This leads to new comfort zone levels. You may even eventually get good grades.

If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, we need to drop out of this cycle. You need to decouple learning and fear. You need to decouple learning and school. You need to get used to the notion that in entrepreneurship, you never achieve a steady state level of comfort. You can’t seek comfort, you can’t seek steady. You must get used to the notion that learning never stops, and that lessons are epilogues to failures. If you get enough of them, you may even learn that failures are not the end of the world. There’s all sorts of alternative solutions to them: new ideas, new approaches, new business models, new industries, new things to be learned by the decoupled-you, without fear. To succeed, in school or as an entrepreneur, there’s no getting away from applying yourself, don’t fall trap to comfort, don’t be afraid to learn.

Our View from the Top – July 30, 2019