This is a guest post from Tim Clark, who writes about money and meaning at Soul Shelter, which just turned one year old!

An entrepreneur I met years ago recently sold his company for a large sum — he wound up with some $14 million after taxes.

I learned this when we crossed paths a couple of months ago and renewed our acquaintance. After hearing about my approach to teaching, he asked me to deliver a personal, one-on-one, remote version of the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course I teach in two local graduate business programs.

Why would someone worth $14 million enroll in a beginner’s entrepreneurship course? Though my new student’s entrepreneurial achievements outshine my own, I was only mildly surprised when he asked me to teach him. Here are just three reasons he might have asked for my help:

  1. Entrepreneurs value education in all forms. Most successful entrepreneurs have some college experience, and even the most street-smart, self-made, academic-deriding School of Hard Knocks types recognize that everyone can learn from formal study. My student is discovering, as I did, powerful principles that articulate what entrepreneurs sense in their guts — and that such articulation is highly useful. My pupil also confirms the commonsense observation that successful people study continuously, whether formally or on their own.
  2. The industrious become wealthy, and the wealthy remain industrious. Industrious people tend to become wealthy, and they remain industrious after they become wealthy. You don’t find many pool-loungers among self-made millionaires. My student never has to work another day in his life, but he’s decided to achieve mastery in a new field: entrepreneurship. He’s already working on several new ventures, some of which may be non-profit.
  3. Respect and humility. Successful people respect and learn from others’ accomplishments, big and small: they don’t hold themselves above or aloof. They’re usually modest about their own successes, too, and recognize that even the accomplished have much to learn.

Interview a dozen or so successful company founders, and you’ll recognize these same traits.

Now my student and I are in our seventh week of “classes.” He is, of course, an outstanding pupil, and like all teachers, I learn more from the student than he does from me.

Why would someone worth $14 million enroll in a beginner’s class in entrepreneurship? For exactly the same reasons he’s now worth $14 million. And because he recognizes that in the larger scheme of things, we’re all beginners still.

J.D.’s note: I am a huge advocate of continuing education. From my experience, it’s the people who strive to improve themselves who are best able to achieve their dreams. I make my living as a writer, but I continue to take writing courses because I know there’s more to learn.

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