I’ve come to realize that you learn a million times more by doing than by just studying. This may seem like a no brainer, but I really believe that experience is one of the best teachers. This applies to just about everything in life.
A couple of examples that have really driven this home for me has been the current Omniture competition that I’m involved in, the Adwords campaigns that we ran in Paul Allen’s Internet marketing class, and my recent starting of a business.
This year is my first year actually competing in the Omniture Analytics competition. I’ve attended all of the past final presentations, but always thought I was too busy to compete. I’ve watched, taken notes, and studied the charts, findings, and recommendations that prior teams have given, thinking that I could learn to be an effective data analyzer by just studying what the top teams have done. I’m sure this has helped us in getting into the finals this year, but I’ve gotta say, actually diving into Omniture’s Site Catalyst application and trying to pull out some gems is harder than it looks.
Our team spent hours and hours during the preparation time before the preliminary rounds just trying to figure out which direction to go. We debated key terms, key performance indicators, success events, and such. It actually took a good amount of time to narrow what we wanted to look for. Once we put it together, it all seemed obvious, but it was hard to not get distracted by all of the cool data found inside Site Catalyst. We watched training videos, read knowledge-base articles, but still, applying what we had studied was a whole new ballgame.
Last semester, we ran an Adwords campaign for WorldVitalRecords.com during our Internet marketing class. I had read plenty about how Adwords works, but I had never actually done it. It almost seemed intimidating to actually spend money on ads, but actually doing it was one of the best experiences that I had that semester. I learned more from doing than from learning about Adwords through articles and case studies.
Starting a business has been another awesome learning experience for me. I have always been fascinated by start-up businesses, but until last year had no experience with an actual start-up. I was able to spend 8 good months at Provo Labs, learning about what it took to run LDSAudio.com, LDSLibrary.com, and WorldHistory.com. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that, but because ProvoLabs was venture funded, I missed out on a lot of the bootstrapped start-up experience.
My time at 42Co was a totally different experience, as we worked to get proposals to clients for contract work, pulled several all-nighters, and later pursued venture funding for TagJungle. I’m no longer with 42Co, but the time I spent there was very valuable. I was associated with a great team, and I moved closer to my goal of becoming an entrepreneur.
Now, Brian Corrales and I are starting our own venture, and things have been great. I’ve stepped into a new realm of managing my own business. It feels great to take charge of my future. I think the uncertainty and risk that comes along with entrepreneurship brings a lot of excitement and feeling of accomplishment when things come through.
I guess the point of all this is that experience is a great teacher. I know I’ll especially come to realize this in the next couple of days as all we’ve studied about being parents will fly out the window and we’ll be learning by doing.