A generous bet

Glenn Stearns was the subject of the 2019 Reality TV series, Undercover Billionaire. The series was based on Stearns’ $1M bet that he could be dropped off anywhere in the U.S. with only an old pickup truck and $100, and build a $1M business in 90 days.

He lost.

He was only able to create a $750K business. And the bet was that if he lost he’d invest $1M of his own money into the startup he’d created, which turned out to be a place called Underdog BBQ in Erie Pennsylvania. Some loser, right?

He may have lost the bet, but in each episode, he demonstrated a masterful combination of skills and competence. And those are the same two qualities you will need for success.

We learn skills, we grow competence

By now you’ve figured out the Launch & Learn series is about more than maid service software. This week it’s about learning and growing. We’ll start by exploring the difference between the two.

Skills are developed by learning how to do something. How to use the software, clean a bathroom, schedule an appointment in the new system. But competence is something more.

Competence is all about knowing what to do. How you do something is meaningless, or even destructive, if you’re doing the wrong thing. Knowing what to do, and what not to do, is where competence comes in.

The surprising thing about learning new skills is:

It’s mostly about making mistakes and failure. This may not seem like the happiest news you’ve received this week, but hold on. This is great news because it means you have plenty to work with. If you can see failure as fuel for learning, you can begin to differentiate yourself in the business world.

We think learning looks like this:

woman learning reading a book

When it actually looks more like this:

Power of Not Giving Up

Learning a new skill is like walking into a room blindfolded. At first, you’re feeling your way around, and bumping into stuff. But if the goal is to become familiar with the room, you can’t afford to quit the moment you fall or knock something over. The key is to keep moving.

Action accelerates the process of learning new skills.

Acquiring knowledge is important, but don’t get stuck in study mode. If you’re reading a book on how to manage your time and come across an idea that seems helpful, switch to action mode. Figure out a way to apply it with a messy first attempt. A highlighted passage of an idea in a book probably won’t amount to much. But that idea could become a highlight of your business journey. That is if you act on it.

Here’s the competence formula:

Skills + Experience + Reflection = Competence (S + E + R = C).

Our competence grows as we reflect on the experience of learning and applying skills. This takes time. And all the while you’re pressured by other time demands like meeting payroll or conducting job interviews. You have to take the time to step back and process your experience.

Growing a successful business is hard work. So is growing the balance in your bank account. But the most important work – and the key to growing your business and bank account in the future – is to grow yourself. Recognize that you’re playing a long game. That you’re building something.

Most sources agree that John D. Rockefeller was the richest American who ever lived. He was worth $1.4B when he died in 1937. But if you read his biography, you see that he wasn’t just in it for the money. As he put it:

I had no ambition to make a fortune. Mere money-making has never been my goal, I had an ambition to build. – John D. Rockefeller

Money struggles are real and something you can’t ignore, but the point here is that growing your bank account and growing your business depends on your willingness to grow yourself.

But what if you lack confidence?

You may be thinking, “I’m no Glenn Stearns or John D. Rockefeller.” And that may be true in one sense, but it’s also true that both men started with little or no advantage.

Stearns grew up in low-income housing, was diagnosed with dyslexia, and failed fourth grade. His parents divorced when he was 17.

Rockefeller’s father was a philanderer and spent months or even years away from his poverty-stricken family. When young John D. started his first business, homes were still without electricity.

You may doubt your prospects for success at times, but there’s no way to be 100% sure. Here’s what you can be sure of: competence creates confidence. And competence is within your control. Everything else can be taken from you, but competence is yours to keep.

How to choose better problems

Competence doesn’t just make you a better problem solver, it also gives you the ability to solve better problems. For example, scaling a business is a better quality problem than keeping ahead of the overhead. Many businesses go through a survival phase, but competence gives you the option of choosing better quality problems.

S + E + R = C

What are the most important skills for you to learn right now?

How often do you find time to think and reflect on your learning and experience?

Are there better quality problems you can begin to aim toward?

One last point

Did you watch the video above? If not, take a look now – it’s less than a minute – what do you notice about her last attempt?

Dad encourages his daughter. He’s probably telling her she can do it, that she’s almost there. Most likely, he’s been giving her feedback all along. Successful learning and growing is seldom a solo sport.

You too need others who can offer perspective, feedback, and support. Of course, the best way to do this is to offer your support first.

The Launch27 Facebook page is a great place to start. Or find someone locally, perhaps someone in a completely different line of business. The point is to share your thinking and have it played back by someone who is outside the fray.