While writing for Inc., a big part of my focus has been introducing readers to the tools and technologies that can take every entrepreneur's game to the next level. In keeping with that, let's feature learning technologies; I've used them my entire life and believe that if implemented well, they are the key to gaining a competitive advantage in any industry. By outlearning your competition, you can navigate industries with ease, help your clients gain competitive advantages and move up the career ladder at rapid rates. I couldn't think of a better person's brain to pick for this piece than Matthew Pollard, a lifelong learner. Pollard has been responsible for 5 multi-million dollar success stories, and he attributes much of his success to the learning technologies he used along the way. Many of these same techniques, I've used to grow my career, and so can you.

As Richard Branson so aptly says in Screw It, Let's Do It, "Use the problems you have been dealt to your advantage."

Pollard has done just that: due to a disability known as Irlen Syndrome, he found himself in his last years of high school with the reading speed of a sixth grader. While many might have used this as an excuse not to try, Pollard was motivated to search for different methods of effective learning. Here are some of his and my favorite learning technologies that we've discovered along the way.

1. Online Video Learning Tactics

When starting his business career in telecommunications with a door-to-door, commission-only sales job, Pollard, a self-described introvert, struggled through nearly a hundred cold calls before landing one sale. He realized that he'd have to do a lot of learning quickly, if he wanted to survive. Use YouTube and Vimeo, to watch sales seminars and truly learn a trade. The amount of knowledge that you can obtain at such a quick pace actually gives you an advantage over competitors. While YouTube is no longer a flashy new piece of technology, it's still home to a wealth of valuable "how to" videos--and best of all, they're free. Here are 25 top YouTube Channels for Entrepreneurs to get you started! YouTube, not just for cat memes, fail videos, and Gangnam Style!

2. Using Podcasts as a Learning Channel

Podcasts are another phenomenal, free source of information; they're especially useful for staying on top of a wide range of topics and learning the fundamentals of your specific industry. Many podcasts feature a variety of guests, and you'll be amazed how much information most give away for free. An exciting hack for maximizing your podcast information intake: listen at 2-3 times the speed. You're probably thinking, "wait, that sounds crazy," and it is if you don't pace yourself.Start off by listening to podcasts at 1.5 times the normal speed, then work your way up. Before you know it you'll be able to extract the useful information from a podcast in a third of the time, making this an incredibly effective method of learning. Check out iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, etc. to find a few podcasts in your wheelhouse.

3. Audiobooks for Learning on the Go!

While podcasts are great for finding a professional in your industry that you can view as a mentor, your next step should be to dig a little deeper. Listen to a wealth of podcasts relating to various industries for the primary purpose of determining which books to read next. Audible is the fantastic tool that allows you to consume books faster than actually reading, and during those times when a person couldn't typically read: walking the dog, driving to work, etc. While many people can read a book faster than they can listen to someone reading it aloud, you can also digest audiobooks at an accelerated speed. The average book is four to six hours of audio; you can listen while walking your dog for 15 minutes, four times a day. That's an hour of reading each day at the normal speed but accelerated, it's three hours--or a book every one-two days--all during a time when a person couldn't typically read.

4. Use Blog Reading Software to Listen to Articles

How many emails do you get daily from experts that you follow offering you amazing free content published on their blog. We wish we could read them all, but who has the time? Reading post after post just isn't an option for some, so you can use a tool like Lisgo, a free app that lets you turn blogs and articles into audio you can listen to on your mobile device. You can turn any reading list into dust in mere hours.

5. Turn any Kindle eBook into an Audiobook

Did you know that you can use your smartphone or tablet to listen to your Kindle ebooks? Yes, you can! By turning on accessibility options in your settings, you can set up shortcuts to allow Kindle to read your book to you. While driving in your car, working out at the gym or walking the dog, you can be listening to that ebook, effectively turning any ebook into an audiobook. To explain this easily here is a YouTube video that I created to show you how to Use Accessibility Options to Listen to Your Kindle Ebooks on iOS. There are other ways to do this via Android, but that's not an OS that I personally use.

6. Use Online Learning Platforms to Gain a Competitive Edge

There are so many different learning platforms out there and online universities to learn from. You just have to decide which is right for you. Here are some that you may choose:

7. Find a Mentor, Physically or Online

Mentors are an extremely valuable source for personal development. Some of my mentors have had a huge impact on the way I think about business. Ask people that you respect and those that you'd wish to emulate in business to help mentor you. If you can't find a mentor, read more books. That's a great way to get mentored. Another way, is through the app Audvisor. Audvisor brings you short and powerful insights from the world's top experts for you to listen to anytime, anywhere. Thousands of insights from hundreds of all kinds of experts - all under 3 minutes. Another way that you can be mentored is via conference presentations. Log into Slideshare, search for any topic and you'll find a ton of relevant conference presentations that you can learn from!


Throwing in a bonus is always good, right? Another great way to learn is by reading short, summarized books. Some of the top solutions are BizSum, Summary.com, getAbstract, SparkNotes and the ol' trusted Cliff Notes.

Robert Kiyosaki says, "In today's fast-changing world, it's not so much what you know anymore that counts, because often what you know is old. It is how fast you learn."

Using these learning strategies you could easily consume 2-3 books, 5-10 podcasts, and 20-30 blog posts every single week, generally during times most people would spend checking their Facebook feed or waiting in traffic. When you consume this amount of valuable information, no one can compete! You can become an expert in any subject in a short amount of time.

Published on: Nov 12, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.