7 Surprising Tricks to Build Your Business Skills/ August 1, 2016
Like it or not, it’s important to build your business skills.
Whether you’re embarking on your first entrepreneurial venture or taking your company to the next level, there are certain things you’re going to have to face.
You’re going to get into tough situations.
Sometimes, your wit will be put to the test.
Success in any business venture requires creativity, tenacity, and more than a little intestinal fortitude.
But there’s good news:
You don’t have to wait until you’re in the business-building trenches to test and develop those skills.
Here are 7 surprisingly fun ways you can build your business skills…before your economic success depends on it.
Let’s Build Your Business Skills
Before we get into the list, here are a few words of caution:
Your priorities still matter.
Spend your time and money in a way that makes sense according to your priorities.
These 7 activities will expand your horizons and teach you things you never knew about yourself, but even education can be a form of procrastination.
Keep your end goal in mind, whatever it may be.
It might be hard, but try to measure honestly whether completing an item on this list will get you closer to that goal…
And don’t let fear cloud that judgement:
A certain amount of fear is good for you.
Even sheer terror can be beneficial if you manage to work through it.
Here’s the thing:
Entrepreneurship is scary.
Sooner or later, you’re going to face some of your deepest fears.
If you’ve managed to function even in the midst of sweaty-palmed, fever-chilled, muscle-clenching dread, it puts things into perspective for you.
But we’ll talk more about that later.
Whenever possible, choose activities that bring you in contact with strangers.
Combine your networking (which most people are afraid of) with your self development activities, and you’ll more than double the positive results.
Maybe you’ll make some new friends.
Perhaps you’ll spark a valuable new business relationship.
That’s the thing about networking:
It rarely happens at networking events.
While most people are standing around in a bar handing out business cards to uninterested strangers, you’ll be building relationships with people who have the guts to do more.
There’s power in that.
Still do the normal business stuff, though.
Toastmasters, lead generation groups, and well-organized networking events still have their place.
They’re always going to be there to test and build your business skills.
But you’ll be far better equipped to extract every last drop of value from them after this.
Now, if you’re ready…
Here they are:
7 Non-Business Ways to Build Your Business Skills
1: Improv Comedy
Improv comedy is sort of like acting, but the actors take cues from the audience or some other outside source and must come up with something on the spot.
Most people know about improv from that old show Whose Line Is It Anyway.
Here’s an example:
- Develops your ability to think under pressure
- Quickens your wit
- Sharpens your observation and processing skills
- Improves your public speaking ability
- Builds your skill as a storyteller
Once you get a few improv comedy classes under your belt, networking and conversing with strangers is easy.
Obviously, improv comedy is one way to build your sense of humor, but that’s not all.
Improvisation forces you to observe and react in the heat of the moment.
You have to communicate complex and abstract ideas with just your words and gestures.
And usually, you’re cooperating with other people to build a scene together with no prior planning.
People who have done improv make engaging public speakers, even when their subject matter is dry and boring.
They’re better writers, too, which is ridiculously useful in the blogging world.
And maybe this isn’t quite your thing…
But they tend to be more popular with the opposite sex, too.
To find an improv class near you, check out any local theater companies, or use a website like Meetup.com to find a free group.
2: Do Something Terrifying
When I say “terrifying,” I don’t mean that sense of anxiety you get before drunkenly singing karaoke with your friends.
I mean this:
Do something that scares the (figurative) poo out of you.
Skydiving might be a good example.
Or perhaps facing your serious phobia of clowns.
If you’re not sick with fear before you act, you’re doing it wrong.
- The fastest, surest way to build your confidence and self-image
- Expands your comfort zone
- Makes you a more interesting person
- Reveals your character
- Sharpens your ability to accurately assess risk and reward
- Puts uncomfortable situations into serious perspective
To be clear, I’m not telling you this from theoretical knowledge.
I’ve taken this advice for myself.
I can tell you from experience that even though the initial terror is acutely unpleasant, the elation and catharsis is well worth the cold-sweating, brain-blanking fear.
Do this right, and it will be one of the most difficult things you ever do.
It will also be one of the most worthwhile.
And here’s a little tidbit of information that might surprise you:
People will tell you that action cures fear.
The fear is still there.
It’s still just as mind-numbingly terrifying as before.
But once you act in spite of that terror, it’s easier to make a conscious decision that fear doesn’t call the shots – you do.
3: Become a Pickup Artist
Before you start sending me hate mail, read this whole section, okay?
You don’t have to literally go out and pick up chicks.
I am, in fact, a straight female, and I’m not advocating that you spend your evenings in bars and clubs hitting on girls.
Remember, this is a blog post about how to build your business skills.
Also, let’s be clear:
I despise the manipulative and dishonest techniques taught by popular pickup artists.
This section has nothing to do with sex.
It has everything to do with confidence.
- Clarifies body language – both yours and other people’s
- Teaches you to build instant rapport
- Makes it easier to talk to strangers
- Encourages you to be more observant of others
- Helps you get to the point by steering conversations effortlessly
- Promotes a higher level of self-awareness without self-consciousness
If you fear networking, this is the section for you.
For those of you who need to constantly generate leads for your business, pay attention.
Pickup artists teach men who are intimidated by women to overcome their anxiety, approach said intimidating women, and make a connection.
You can use the same techniques to approach and connect with important business people who intimidate you.
What could you accomplish if you had the ability to talk to and connect with anyone?
And there’s an added bonus!
If you’re a single woman (like I am) you’ll be able to immediately recognize and avoid guys who are using pickup artist tricks to get laid.
It’s like a secret superpower.
4: Learn a Language or Instrument
Before you make the long-term commitment to learn a complex skill like violin or Mandarin, go back to the beginning of the post and read the thing about priorities.
If you do have the time/energy/money/desire to proceed, then go for it!
- Literally improves the physical health of your brain
- Makes it easier to learn new skills in the future
- Gaining a new perspective makes you more empathetic
- Can raise your IQ
Let’s get nerdy:
Learning new skills, especially languages and musical instruments, physically forges new neurological connections in your brain.
It’s called neuroplasticity and it’s cool.
Music, with its mathematical basis, employs your creative and analytical skills, and builds things like hand-eye coordination.
Meanwhile, learning languages improves your intelligence, memory, and overall mental health.
Both practices reduce the risk of brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As for building your business skills…
This type of mental exercise helps you focus and sharpens your memory, and we could all use a little more of both.
On top of that, you’re building up the all-important skill of empathy.
Learning to see things from someone else’s perspective is vital for business – from marketing to negotiations, you’re going to need it a lot.
Plus, being multilingual and/or a musician makes you generally more interesting.
It will sound great when you’re interviewed for Forbes.
5: Get a Professional Makeover
Like it or not, looks matter.
You don’t have to be sexy.
You don’t have to be beautiful.
You don’t even have to be normal looking.
But you should look attractive – and that means that you look like you care about yourself.
- Looking better leads to feeling better, which leads to doing better
- Gives you a mental reset that can get you out of a rut
- Makes a positive difference in public interactions
- Can attract more attention to your business or cause
Smart entrepreneurs use every ethical tool at their disposal to achieve their goals, and if your physical appearance can boost your success, why wouldn’t you use that?
You already know that your look sends a message to the world.
But it also sends a message to your subconscious.
Getting a makeover from competent third parties (think stylists, haberdashers, and estheticians) strengthens that positive mental messaging.
You’re telling yourself that you’re worth a little extra time, effort, and money.
A good makeover helps change your own self-perception.
When you treat yourself like a high-profile professional, you subconsciously take actions to live up to that image.
Women already know the mental lift that comes from even a mini-makeover or spa day.
Men, you can do it, too.
Get a manicure.
Have a shave from a barber, and ask him about your haircut.
Go to a haberdasher to have your suits styled and tailored.
Just make sure that if you need to look sharp and professional, you mention that before getting an undercut and neon green socks.
6: Get Healthy and Stay Healthy
This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this advice.
Have you followed it yet?
- Promotes accountability, determination, and discipline
- Improves prioritization skills
- Makes it easier to meet the physical demands of entrepreneurship
- Increases energy levels
- Improves mental focus and clarity
Whether you sit at a desk all day or fly all over the country, some healthy lifestyle changes are probably in order.
Your business can be your excuse as to why you’re unhealthy.
Or it can be your reason to make your health a priority.
You don’t need me to expound on the far-reaching benefits of good health.
You know it’s important.
So let’s move on.
7: Quit the News
You won’t be “uninformed.”
- Improves outlook and positivity
- Benefits mental health
- Reduces useless distractions
- Promotes more critical thinking
- Helps you see social trends from an outside perspective
This might be hard for you to accept right away, but news is a form of entertainment.
The “information” that gets shared on a daily basis isn’t useful to you at all.
It’s just the most popular form of gossip.
Trust me – from my own personal experience, I can tell you that you’ll be much happier and more productive after you quit the news.
But I’m not the only proponent for the no-news lifestyle.
Tim Ferriss calls it selective ignorance, and he’s been practicing it since before I graduated from high school.
Here’s what he says in his famous book, The 4-Hour Workweek:
Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence. I challenge you to look at whatever you read or watched today and tell me that it wasn’t at least two of the four.
I read the front-page headlines through the newspaper machines as I walk to lunch each day and nothing more. In five years, I haven’t had a single problem due to this selective ignorance. It gives you something new to ask the rest of the population in lieu of small talk…and if it’s that important, you’ll hear people talking about it.
Quit the new, quit recreational use of social media, and quit over-education.
Action is far more valuable than information, anyway.
Sometimes, making a change can seem like a huge, insurmountable task, especially when it comes to improving your health or changing your financial situation.
Big tasks, though, are made up of little steps.
This week, you have options to complete your homework assignment.
Pick ONE of these three things and get started now:
- Check Meetup.com for improv comedy groups in your area.
- Make a healthy meal for dinner tonight.
- Schedule an appointment with a great stylist to help you update your look.
Just do any one of those things, and your homework is done.