I was recently asked by a close friend, “What is it that you do that gives you the edge in business?”. As I paused momentarily to ponder the question, the answer jumped out at me with certainty. “I think it’s the fact that I’m teachable”.
In the world that I navigate, I am always having to face up to challenges in relating to people. Whether it’s trying to get a new supplier on board and convincing them that we were interested in a long-term business relationship and not just here to make a quick buck. Or having to deal with the occasional difficult customers that our team may struggle to connect with. Or trying to lead the office team and to keep their eyes continually focussed on the vision. I find that I feel mostly inadequate for a lot of what I do. And I feel like this almost daily.
I think being young and relatively inexperienced is the prime reason for this. And many would think that that is a disadvantage I possess, that I’d have to make many mistakes before I am ‘experienced’ enough to effectively guide a business.
On the contrary, I have a firm suspicion that the lens of this inadequate, inexperienced and young businessperson by which I have come to view myself has helped to cultivate a sense of teachability. It’s allowed me to realise very early on that I do not have a lot of what it takes to grow a business. This has resulted in seeking advice right from day one. I remember knocking on doors of people such as Lisa Suttora, who runs a very successful online business coaching group at whatdoisell.com. Or Nathan Huppatz, who’s a highly sought after consultant in Melbourne who’s got an amazing gift at teaching and helping people understand concepts and systems. I remember coffees with my friend Tim Goh, who has a well of wisdom well beyond his years, which he generously draws from to share with me some of my most treasured life lessons.
This characteristic I find in myself, of being teachable, has allowed me to continually assess a lot of the preconceived notions of how I think things should be / can be. I don’t have any work experience to refer to when having to decide if something would be better one way or another. As a result, I’m very fond of seeking other people’s thoughts on even the simplest of things. The guys I work with, for example, will constantly put up with me picking on their brains and asking their opinions, but knowing that I value their knowledge deeply(i hope so!).
It may be true, that I am young and inexperienced. But I think if I was just a couple of years older, I’d have built up too much knowledge of what is good and what is evil to the point where I lose my edge. It will be too easy to drive the business based on what I think is good experience or to steer it away from what I think are bad choices. Experience then becomes a double edged sword. We can all testify that every opinion and every idea is good for something. It is very rare that one person’s experience will cover enough depth of any one subject matter. Let alone for one person to understand the full range of complexities in running a business.
As for me, I am thankful. Thankful for those that have been willing and generous enough to share their experiences, their journeys and their stories with me, that I may be a student of the richness I see in the lives of those who have chosen to do so. May I continue to be that for the rest of my own journey for many many years to come. So let it be.