Conventional: Be Prepared

On the Contrary: Be Open

There's an entire sub-section of the business world: a gaggle of writers, consultants and professors making a living peddling entrepreneurial advice.

First of all, most of them haven't sold anything but themselves in decades. But the bigger problem is that you simply can't learn how to run a successful business by reading a book.

It's like buying a suit off the rack. Someone designed that garment to mostly fit a large number of people, which means it doesn't fit anyone perfectly. Every business is unique. Even two McDonald's franchisees in the same city have different businesses because they're on different corners.

Like a well-made suit, learning how to run your business comes at a cost. If you think that means spending $23.99 at the bookstore, you're on the wrong track. The only valid currency here is your own time and failure.

The Uncomfortable Truth

Most business writers tell readers what they want to hear, that the decisions you've made and the plan you're following are right. That kind of pandering is not only useless, it's counterproductive. You learn how to run a business by being wrong, not being right.

Get into the field, talk to customers, learn about products. It illuminates the fact that you don't know much and you never will.

The problems that keep you up at night as an entrepreneur--the ones that make or break your success--are individual. No book will get you through them. Only experience does that.

Mapping Your Career ROI

The closest thing to a shortcut is to start off making mistakes on someone else's dime (if you pick the right person). Find a job at a company that values learning, innovation and moving fast.

That's not to say people will respect your failure--it's still going to suck. But the right kind of entrepreneur will appreciate that you took risks and write off a few mistakes along the way. Learn from your stumbles, and you're already way ahead of your competitors, who are still following the six-step program they learned in B school.

Learning That Matters

The only way to learn about business and see past the end of your nose (that's where the opportunities are) is to ignore the so-called experts. You're better off spending your time working to build your company instead of just reading about it.

Published on: Jul 31, 2015