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Many startup founders become CEOs of their own companies; however, the percentage of founders who remain CEOs declines over time. After three years, just 50% of founders still serve as CEOs, while only 25% make it to the IPO stage.
To maintain your success as a CEO, you need to be highly motivated, driven and curious — but most of all — you must possess a willingness to keep learning. As a founder turned CEO who is surrounded by a network of peer CEOs, I can adamantly say most are “born with” many of these qualities as part of our DNA. This commitment to lifelong learning and development of new skills, coupled with the ability to build a rolodex of knowledgeable peers is especially true of the success of entrepreneurs and CEOs of companies in the evolving tech landscape.
I’d like to share some tips and personal ways to further fuel your own hunger for knowledge and continuous learning to maintain success.
Related: 4 Ways Continuous Learning Will Make You and Your Business Unstoppable
Source the right kinds of information
CEOs are said to read an average of four to five books every month. Compared with the overall average of two or three books a year, it’s clear that successful CEOs take continued learning seriously. Carving out time to read as well as listening to podcasts or audiobooks is essential. Instead of listening to music, I do so during my morning workout and long drives and commutes. There’s no clearing your inbox as a busy CEO, so create forced downtime and commit a chunk of it to learning and listening to sources you admire and trust.
While finding relevant business-related resources is critical, learning can and should come from diverse sources too. Even before the war erupted in Israel where I am based, I had been turning to the Torah — the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible — for historical knowledge and guidance. I started learning the weekly Torah portion, also known as Parshat Hashavuah, to find wisdom that applies to life, leadership and business. Tapping into religious and cultural sources of inspiration outside of the generic business ones, no matter what they are, will allow you to expand your knowledge far more than you would by only reading or listening to things directly related to your industry.
Take learnings from your network seriously
Building a network of fellow entrepreneurs and CEOs provides another valuable knowledge resource. The organization ICON, which bridges entrepreneurs in Israel with those in Silicon Valley, helped me find others to share experiences with. Now, I have go-to people to connect with and trust when I need the perspective of someone else who understands my industry and the complex demands of leading a company.
Don’t be shortsighted in thinking you always know what’s best. Open your mind to the fresh ideas and perspectives of others you trust. It will help you to identify possibilities that you might overlook otherwise. When an important new technology or event impacts your business, you’ll want people to talk to about the potential benefits and risks it may create. Surround yourself with motivated, positive people to boost your drive.
Related: Why Lifelong Learning Is the Key to Entrepreneurial Success — and How to Embrace the Lifelong Learner Within Yourself
Value the lessons learned from others’ failures
Even Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk started companies that folded before their successes. While it’s useful to hear what business leaders do right, there are equally valuable lessons in the failures.
I regularly listen to leaders and founders of similar companies in my space being interviewed. Recently, I learned a great deal from an interview featuring Micha Kaufman, CEO of Fiverr. Interviewees often share key turning points in their journeys, what they did wrong, what went well, how to work well with board members and more. While I’m sure you’re taking time to learn from your own failures, being able to benefit from other business leaders’ hard lessons is a much less costly way to learn and predict potential problems that can be prevented.
Stay agile to best implement the market knowledge you uncover
There’s listening to knowledge and data that’s readily available at your fingertips if you look in the right places. Then, there’s looking for ways to actually put it into action. Recently, generative AI has been testing entrepreneurs and leaders and their abilities to adapt for their companies’ gain. The CEOs who looked quickly to find data, use cases and information to learn and move quickly to embed Gen AI into their repertoire are already seeing the benefits. I know we are.
If new data, developments and technologies pop up that seem to pose a threat or complicate your current strategy, don’t freeze or put your head in the sand. Find a way to adapt, whether it’s tapping into your network, looking for podcasts covering the topic or seeking advice from your board or team members. Fueling yourself and your company with a continuous flow of new knowledge from trusted resources will be key.
Related: Why Continuous Learning Is Critical for Entrepreneurs and Their Teams
CEOs’ journeys are filled with amazing thrills, common setbacks and ever-changing challenges. The most exceptional leaders are those who never stop asking questions. They take insights from diverse sources and embrace change — even when that change can be intimidating or uncertain. Sometimes you need to act and move and take calculated risks, that’s at the heart of being an entrepreneur.
Block off your calendar for learning and discovery time. Change what flows through your AirPods during your workouts. Your ability to learn, adapt and continue to gather knowledge from thoughtful sources will set the course for your company’s long-term growth and success.