During her freshman year in college, I got a call from my distraught daughter. She’d just heard from her bank and discovered she had an enormous overdraft fee. “Do you keep a balance in your checkbook?” I asked.


“What’s that?” she shot back. 


“Oh, dear,” I said, “something else I forgot to teach you.”


It’s a common mistake to assume that everyone else knows the same things we do. It’s not just our children that are missing useful information, however. Chances are you know all sorts of things that would be helpful to others, but it doesn’t occur to you to share what seems ordinary. I’ve always thought that the real genius of Martha Stewart is her assumption that everyday living things are not common knowledge. 


Sometimes we also need to be reminded of things we already know, but are neglecting. I thought of that recently when I was bemoaning the disappearance of independent adult ed programs around the country. For years, these folks were my favorite business partners and I held my seminars almost exclusively with them. It was a perfect match: they were small businessowners sharing ideas and information in their communities at a reasonable price. 


As the Internet became a convenient go-to source, enrollments in these programs began to go down. Printing costs for their catalogs continued to go up. Eventually, many owners decided the time had passed to run their operations and they closed up shop.


I’m not sure it had to happen, but I think we who were involved all failed to remind people of something most of them already knew. That huge advantage that adult ed had over the Internet is this: something happens in a roomful of other people exploring the same subject that goes beyond simply getting information. That’s a dynamic that can’t exist any other way. 


We must not assume that no matter how good our product or service is that it will market itself. We must not assume that everyone already knows how great our offerings are. And as entrepreneurs, we must not assume that what we learned about careers will translate into our joyfully jobless journey.


In his blog post, The Hierarchy of Success, Seth Godin points out that we almost never talk about the most essential things. He writes, “As far as I’m concerned, the most important of all, the top of the hierarchy is attitude. Why are you doing this at all? What’s your bias in dealing with people and problems?”


Obvious, isn’t it?



Knowing that information exists that can answer almost any question is an enormous confidence builder— but that fact is frequently overlooked. While the helpless loser goes around whining, “But I don’t know how to do that,” the successful among us are busy seeking information that will show them how.  Then they get busy putting what they’ve uncovered to work for them. 

This fascination with information is also necessary for entrepreneurial success. “In times of change,” wrote Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Whatever your business is about, one of the best ways to ensure success is to make a commitment to becoming an Informed Source. Here are some ways to do just that.

* Make learning a priority and schedule time for it.  While  just running a business can be a profound learning experience, we need other points of view, other bits of information in order to grow to our fullest potential. Make time for acquiring that knowledge by regular reading, attending seminars, meeting with other self-bossers who are farther down the road. 

* Learn from the best.  Jim Rohn is vocal in urging his audiences to seek learning from the best sources they can find. He says, “There are three ways one can go about learning from others: 1. Through published literature such as books and audio or video tapes. 2. By listening to the wisdom and folly of others. 3. Through observations of winners and losers. So become a good observer. “ 

The barriers that keep many people from learning from the best sources is that they either can’t discern good from not so good or they start comparing themselves to those who are more accomplished and miss the lessons they could learn. It’s far more effective to decide to find the best teachers you can and devour their experiences.

* Learn to edit.  Editing is the process of sifting through large amounts of material and taking out the bad, the so-so, the mediocre, the unimportant, and leaving in the best.  Learning to edit is also learning to discriminate, to prioritize, to evaluate. As an Informed Source, your audience depends on you to deliver only that information which is pertinent.  Incidentally, being a good editor doesn’t  just apply to information: it’s also a necessary skill for living your best life…or posting on Twitter.

* Be generous in sharing. Robert Allen earned his first fortune investing in real estate. He built a second empire sharing his successful system through seminars and books. Even if you have no interest in packaging information yourself, there are many ways to share what you know. For instance, one of the most popular guests on Minnesota Public Radio was Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens who frequently shared information on getting the most from your computer. That visibility (plus some fabulously creative marketing)  made him stand out from the crowd.

* Put it to work.  “Knowledge is power is only half a truth,” said Andrew Carnegie, “for knowledge is only potential power. It may become a power only when it is organized and expressed in terms of definite action.”  Yes, it’s fun to know things just for the sake of knowing them, but the truly brilliant users of information are always looking for ways to adapt what they’ve learned to their own situations. Doing your homework gives you confidence, but only if you use what you’ve learned.