Author Thomas Stanley did a survey of self-made millionaires and compiled the results in his best-selling book, The Millionaire Next Door. One of the interesting things that Stanley found in his survey results was that millionaires didn’t tend to watch a lot of prime-time television, but they do read one non-fiction per month on average. Will reading a non-fiction book every month make you a millionaire? I doubt it, but Stanley’s research does illustrate the point that millionaires tend to be life-long learners.
Self-made millionaires understand that there’s a lot in the business world that they don’t know. They recognize that the world is constantly changing, and there’s always new information to learn which could have a tangible impact upon their businesses. They know that there are critical pieces of information about their business and their industry that they don’t know that would be game-changing if they did know them. Unfortunately, people don’t know what they don’t know. So, they embark on a journey of life-long learning to become better entrepreneurs and more well-rounded people.
Life-long learning can happen in any number of ways. You can read non-fiction books, but you can also listen to podcasts, read magazines, listen to audiobooks, audit university classes, watch documentaries and take online courses through places like Udemy or Coursera. Your learning style might not be ideally suited to reading a large number of books, but maybe you’re an audio learner and would get a lot out of listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Maybe you’re the type that learns by doing and would benefit from participating in workshops and hands-on classes. The key is to identify how you learn effectively and consume the mediums that you’re best suited to.
I know that I don’t have a very long attention span and can’t read for hours at a time. But, I can read in 20 minute chunks and make sure that I read at least one chapter in whatever book I’m reading every morning. I know that I can listen to hours of podcasts on end and never really get tired of listening to them. I also do quite well in academic settings. In my journey of life-long learning, I read anywhere from 50 to 75 books each year, listen to a couple of dozen different podcasts each week and audit courses from local universities from time-to-time.
Most of the content you will consume won’t lead to an immediate game-changing breakthrough in business, but every now and then, you’ll find a needle in a haystack and uncover something that will change the way that you do business for the better. I can think of dozens of things that I’ve learned and implemented as a result of books that I’ve read, podcasts that I’ve listened to and online courses that I’ve taken.
If you’d like to have the same educational advantage that self-made millionaires do, the prescription is simple. Become a life-long learner. Start reading at least one non-fiction book per month or engaging other relevant non-fiction content on a regular basis.