entrepreneur dilemma

The entrepreneur’s dilemma: first learn or create?

Yesterday, out of the blue, my kids decided they wanted to do a science experiment and create a volcano. I was excited and supportive of the project, and I sent them on their own with an iPad to do the research and find what ingredients they’d need and how to proceed.

They started with a google search and found some how-to websites. There were different ways to make a volcano – some with baking soda and vinegar, some with a more complex mix of chemicals. Then they found some YouTube videos showing the process and showing the finished science project in action. Of course this led to all sorts of excitement but also more choices. Some of the projects used ingredients we already had on hand at home, others we did not already have.

But I noticed something interesting about their process. 1 hour after they’d decided to research how to make a volcano – and even after they’d discovered projects that they could do – they were still there on their iPad, researching and watching more videos.

And I thought, when are they going to actually DO the project? They are getting way too distracted in the process of consuming information.

Sound familiar?

As online entrepreneurs wanting to turn our passions into an income through our expertise or website, we often get caught in this common trap of learning vs. creating.

In your business, how often do you get swept away with the excitement of learning a new skill, only to find that you haven’t ever actually bothered to put it to use?

How many times have you gotten so stuck in indecision, that the more you learn the more indecisive you feel about how to approach something?

It’s the danger of access to unlimited information.

Sure, the kids had found a recipe to build a volcano with ingredients we had at home. But then, they saw yet another, more amazing volcano project that they wanted to make, which led to more inquiries and more desire to find the ultimate volcano project.

If you’ve found yourself stuck in learning and research mode, it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your goals.

If your goal is to make an income from your blog, and you have been pursuing learning to get you there — how could you start actually creating something that people would pay you for?

What are your obstacles that stand in your way? There’s a lot to figure out and learn, right?

That’s ok – but instead of going into student mode to learn all these things in totality first, start thinking about creating your product, and pursue your learning in the process of product creation, rather than learning for the sake of becoming an expert before you start creating.

Learn while creating — How does that look?

Do you need to market your product? Don’t go spend 3 months learning in hopes of becoming an expert on product launching or running a webinar. Decide which actions you need to take and then find the resources you need to take those actions. Your most important learning will come from your own trial and error. I’m not saying you won’t need to learn to be able to accomplish your task– but learning with an intent goal of doing takes a very different form than learning without the task at hand right in front of you.

Picture this: You decide you want to sell your first online course.

The Creator’s approachThe creator’s approach is to start with the product and values that she can offer. She will determine what she wants in her online course, and who she wants to sell it to. She will then work backwards to determine how she will sell it to people. She starts with the end goal in mind, and begins plans on the steps she needs to sell her product. She can then list out all the things she needs to learn to do this. She creates a timeline with plans for Facebook ads, running a webinar and writing emails to her list, and knows that even though she doesn’t know everything she needs to know now to do those things, that she will learn what she needs to along each step of the way to achieve her goals.
The Student’s approachThe person taking the student approach makes a list of all the things she needs to learn first, and then takes the approach of finding the perfect ways to learn all the skills. She focuses on the learning and plans to learn first, and once the skills are learned, she will then be able to plan her online course. She doesn’t set a date that she will sell her online course, because she is so focused on the learning that she prioritized first. In fact, she often will slip into a cycle of learning that months can go by and she’s still always considering the course in the “some day” future. She may even have stalled so badly, she isn’t sure she truly believes she can sell an online course until she’s a complete expert.

Sound familiar?

The creator’s approach is action oriented, the student’s approach is learning oriented. The problem with the learning oriented approach is that we can get stuck in the cycle of learning too easily. We think that if we learn everything well enough, that one day well be able to create and sell better. But what if we never create and sell because we keep discovering, like my kids did with the volcano research, who kept discovering there just more and more things available to learn about, and more and more possibilities, and ultimately they got so sucked into the joy of learning and passively consuming what others did, that they never got into the joy of actively creating their own and learning through their own experimentation and discovery.

How much do you even learn when passively consuming?

People retain much more of what they learn by actively doing, creating and teaching, than they do by passive learning.

People, on average, only retain 10% of what they’ve read, 20% of what they hear and see, and 30% of what’s been demonstrated to them. Compare this to active learning, where people retain 50% of what they discuss, 75% of what they do, and 90% of what they teach. Quite a case for moving into the creation phase, if you didn’t need one already.

In my mastermind, I encourage all my participants to jump as quickly into the creating phase as possible. We also share our expertise with each other, focusing on discussion, and allowing those who have some knowledge in an area to teach what they know and solidify their own expertise in the skill as well.

Become a creator

How can we help ourselves jump into the creation phase and get our genius focused on selling what we know?

Eight ways to jump in and start creating now:

  1. Clarify how you actually solve someone’s problem. Know deeply what their problem is and how you help them overcome it.


  2. Sell, then build. You don’t have to have your product built to ask people for money for it. You simply have to know what you can build, and market that. Selling it first proves the concept and helps you justify the time building it.


  3. Know that you don’t have to be as good as someone else in your industry, who’s been doing this for years, to sell something of value. The larger an audience someone has, the more polished their marketing and services will be — but you can offer value in a way they can not – with much more personal attention. Sell that.


  4. Create a line in the sand. Pick a date in the future, with enough time to outline, market and sell your product. Commit to having your product launched by your date so you won’t let the process slide. Publish the date in your marketing and share it with those who hold you accountable.


  5. If you don’t already have someone that holds you accountable, get a business coach or join a mastermind group right away. If you aren’t making an income off this new business yet, you are likely making an income elsewhere or living on funds with an expiration date, and you will be tempted to invest your time where you feel confident about income generation. Until you start seeing money come into your new venture, therefore, you may not be very good at prioritizing your time towards this new project. That’s where business peers and coaches play a huge part in keeping you focused, on track, and accountable.


  6. Redefine success and failure. Success should not require selling your program out and failure should not be defined as selling nothing. Instead – success is moving forward and putting yourself in a position to create and sell your expertise, by going through all the steps you need to and marketing your product. Success is learning from the process – learning from actually doing – rather than learning by consuming. If no one buys your product, but you actually spent two months attempting to sell the product, you’ve actually learned so much more than if you sent that same two months simply consuming how to sell your product? You now either know a) you have a viable business idea; or b) you need to tweak something about your marketing or value proposition to better connect with how you can solve the problem. Redefining failure means: you fail if you don’t try, and don’t move forward, or give up without trying your best.


  7. Stop comparing your product with other shinier products. Getting inspiration from others doing something similar is great. Feeling deflated because someone is further along than you in their ability to brand and market is futile. Have you ever thought about how many insurance agencies or tax planners there are in even one small city? Dozens. And some serve a big audience and some serve just a few clients. There are a lot of people out there, and you will sell to the people who connect with you, even though someone else out there is selling something you may feel is similar. The more that you allow people to get to know, understand, and connect I with you, and  focus on a niche, the more your people will connect with you and recognize that they want to buy from you. Your market will be created regardless of the real possibility that others have a similar solution they sell to their audience. Your audience wants your expertise and wants it because they like how you dish it out – in your style, from your approach, and with your level of attention and care. Show you care, and you’re half way there.


  8. Be intentional and accountable to yourself. Spend time looking at your schedule and daily routine to make sure you actually have created the time and focus needed in your life to create and focus on creating.

If you’re looking for help with any of the above, I am happy to be a further resource to you as a business coach or help you determine if my 6-month mastermind + entrepreneur retreat is a good fit for you. I truly believe in your power to get further into the active learning cycles – through discussion, doing and teaching others – as soon as possible.

How do you know what you’re capable of if you continue to focus on what you still need to learn? You have genius inside of you. I promise you that. It’s time to embrace it, and begin to CREATE today!

Oh, and if you are wondering what happened with my kids and their volcano project — I redirected their goal… in the end, they just wanted to experiment with something and play with science. So, I pulled up a basic milk paint project that I had bookmarked, and they dove into playing with milk and food coloring and experimenting with oils and other substances. Simple, hands-on fun that was explorative and enjoyable.