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Learning by Doing and Other Tips This Week

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A roundup of the best tips of the week from


Successful individuals are often thought to have an innate talent that others don't possess. But according to Robert Greene, author of Mastery, what looks like genius is often the product of thousands of hours of work. "It's not a question of some natural talent or brilliance that you have, it's that you have reached that level of experience or practice," Greene says.

An important part of success, therefore, is learning by doing. Greene recommends skipping business school and instead "hir[ing] the people that have the MBAs." Your own education should involve a lot of hands-on trial-and-error, either in your own ventures or in small companies that will give you plenty of risk and responsibility. "You want to actually psychologically desire failure because it is how you are going to learn," says Greene. More: Dominate Your Industry: How to Become the Best in Your Field

Envision your ideal future, then reverse engineer it.

When planning to make a change in your business, you have to take human behavior into account. Greg Shea, a business professor at the Wharton School, recommends envisioning a scene in your ideal future and describing to yourself how your company would operate in this new status quo. You can reverse engineer the reality you want by asking yourself questions such as, "What sort of employees would best fit this new business? What skills would they have?" Shea says, "You're done [with the exercise] when you feel that it's grounded and specific enough that you can figure out how to produce [that behavior]." More: 3 Tips for Leading Successful Change

Ditch the office to cut costs -- and increase productivity.

Dealing with the ballooning costs of a growing startup can be difficult, especially for boostrapping founders. Sometimes the return just isn't worth the investment. Matt Jones, founder of QRlicious, a company that makes custom QR codes, found that his employees' productivity in his expensive new office space was lower than expected. He told them to start telecommuting, and saw a dramatic rise in their work output. Now the whole company telecommutes. More: Are Your Eyes Bigger Than Your Budget? Three Tips to Rein in Your Startup Costs

Use social media to monitor your competition.

Everyone knows by now that social networks are great for soliciting customer feedback and promoting special deals, but less commonly talked about is the way business owners can use them to stay informed about their competition. Read your competitors' Twitter feeds and check their Facebook pages regularly. Find out what's working and what's not working for them, and don't be afraid to steal their good ideas. More: 4 Things You Need to Be Doing on Social Media -- Now

Change your diet to boost your memory.

Our memory often seems to decline as we get older, but proper nutrition can improve cognitive function -- including memory -- at any age. "A sharp memory depends on your total number of brain cells, the smooth flow of communication between the cells and the health of cells," says Joy Bauer, author of Food Cures. Fish, blueberries and walnuts are all beneficial; the omega-3 fatty acids in some fish maintain the health of brain cells, while the anthocyanins in blueberries prevent the breakdown of these cells. More: Sharpen Your Memory With Brain-Healthy Foods

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