“There’s an unspeakable pleasure,” observed Oliver Goldsmith, “attending the life of a voluntary student.” It’s no coincidence that the most successful entrepreneurs are enthusiastic voluntary students.

Author Jess Lair once said that when it came to living his life, he wanted the best teachers he could find. That made perfect sense to me and I’ve continued to build my own portfolio of teachers.

Some of them stick around for a long time; others come along and share an idea or show me how to do something in a better way and then I move on. 

In the past few days, I’ve encountered three insightful fellows who all added to my learning. 

One of them is Dave Courvoisier who is best known here in Las Vegas as a television anchorman. He also is building a voiceover business and actively shares tips and information with others who are doing the same.

His article on making better videos caught my eye and I promptly filed it for future reference. If you’re an aspiring vlogger or YouTube star, check out these on camera tips from a pro to improve the look of your videos.

As I told my Facebook friends, I don’t always agree with Ben Stein, but yesterday he and I were soulmates when I heard his piece “Follow Your Heart: Risk Be Damned” on CBS Sunday Morning. Don’t miss it.

Finally, there’s Jason Mraz. I’ve been a big fan of his music and became even more intrigued when I learned he’s also an avocado farmer. After seeing this piece on MSNBC Business, I realize he’s also a kindred spirit.

Although it’s hardly ever mentioned in most business books and magazines, one of the great bonuses of being joyfully jobless is that it gives you an opportunity to be an enthusiastic lifelong learner.  Every new profit center idea requires locating new information, new explorations and new learning. 

Doing the necessary homework before you start out gives you focus, direction and confidence. Yet many people have no notion about how to begin gathering information.

At the beginning stage of the process, you aren’t making permanent decisions, you’re just collecting all the information you can to help you make an informed decision later on.

Although information gathering is an on-going process, here are some easily accessible places to begin the search.

° Cyberspace. Increasingly many people begin (and end) their search on the Internet. Yes, there is a plethora of information waiting to be uncovered in your computer. As rich a resource as this may seem, there are serious questions about the accuracy of much of the information that shows up in cyberspace. 

I am not alone in questioning the Internet as the final knowledge authority. Movie critic Roger Ebert verbalized it perfectly: “Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.” Amen.

° Associations of like-minded people. In this country (and many others), there are associations for everything you can imagine—and thousands of things you’d never guess existed. 

Aligning yourself with groups that share your interests can be a rich source of practical information, as well as a way to connect with kindred spirits. Even if you live in an area where no appropriate organizations exist, there’s probably a national group that would prove helpful.

Begin your search at the reference desk of your library where you can find a directly of associations. My favorite such source is Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations.

Once you’ve identified the groups that sound promising, write for membership information. In most instances, you’ll receive a packet of material that will help you decide if membership is worthwhile. 

National associations usually have annual conferences which are wonderful sources of learning, networking and information-gathering. These affiliations can provide inspiration as well.

° Adult education. Adult education comes in many packages and you need to understand the differences before you enroll. In addition to traditional degrees, many colleges and universities offer non-degree classes through an extension program. Usually held on weekends or in the evening midweek, these programs are often geared to current trends.

These programs like to keep up with trends and change their offerings as new interests appear on the horizon. Teachers in these programs tend to have hands-on experience and are often quite passionate about their subject.

In almost every town and city, you’ll also find a miscellany of learning opportunities. Community education programs sponsored by  the school district, classes offered through places like the YMCA, and independent teachers conducting public seminars may have exactly what you need, so stay alert to those less formal options too.

And, of course, Webinars and teleclasses are abundantly available.

° Read, read, read. Almost anything you might want to do has been the subject of at least one book. And while not every book on your subject will be appropriate to your needs, the more familiar you become with the subject, the better. So any new search should begin with a trip to the library and the bookstore.

This is so obvious to me that I almost didn’t include it. Then I recalled the many times I’ve been contacted by would-be writers who says, “I think I’d like to write, but I don’t know how to get something published.”

“Have you read Writer’s Market?” I ask.

“What’s that?” they shoot back.

Had they done any homework, they would have been flooded with the wealth of resources aimed at helping people get starting in the writing business.

Or any other business.

In fact, if you test out the suggestions by taking one of your ideas and researching it to the hilt, you’ll think you’ve found a goldmine—providing that you do so with a mind that’s open and a curiosity that’s insatiable. 

Having accomplished that, you’ll be ready to start pulling the best of the information together and shaping it into a project that fits you like a tailor-made suit.

Author Robert G. Allen wrote, “The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win. Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do.

“It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

As a person who has traveled across the country to attend a seminar and even further to conduct one, I can’t imagine why everyone hasn’t discovered the joy of participating in events that have the power to change our lives for the better.

People who can’t be bothered never learn this little secret: getting yourself to a seminar may, in fact, be more important than what happens in the seminar.

When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.

Conversely, not investing this way also sends a strong message. As Sondra Ray says, “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.”

What would you like to be better at? Speaking German? Creative marketing? Managing your time? Boosting your emotional intelligence? 

You can accelerate your progress at anything by putting yourself in a roomful of people who are on a similar quest.

Best of all, an investment in yourself is the one thing that no one can ever take from you. No matter what is happening in the economy or where interest rates are headed, the investment you make in your personal growth—and continue to make— never stops paying dividends.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

With all the resources—the books, the seminars, the insights of  others—available, it makes no sense to skip the critical preparation stage. 

Because, in the the final analysis, winning isn’t about what you have or even what you do. Winning is about becoming the person you were meant to become no matter how long and difficult that journey may be.

If you truly want to join the winner’s circle, take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do.

You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.