How to Embrace the Power of 12


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That sentence may not look like much. Indeed, if you’re anything like I was 20 days ago, it means nothing to you. And even if you’re already fluent in Morse code, the little greeting above doesn’t have much significance. But for me it’s tangible proof of the only resolution I made for 2012: I’m going to learn one new skill each month, and learning to communicate in dots and dashes was January’s. 

Twelve skills in twelve months doesn’t sound too intimidating. (Learn CPR? Check. Make a soufflé? Sure. Finally get my scooter license? Absolutely.) But if you’re the entrepreneurial kind, you can see the allure of adding a dozen dazzling new abilities to your arsenal by December. So… what can you learn in 30 days that you didn’t know before, and how will it make you an even brighter star?

Production. How good are your spreadsheet skills? Can you code a simple site or put together a basic video? Quick workshops on all things production-related are available online, often for free.

Publicity. Ever taken a course in public speaking? Know how to write a simple press release? A crash course in either might not make you a media master, but it’ll give you enough context to get your message out.

Physical. Can you dance? Fence? Kickbox? You can learn enough of any of them in 30 days to move with more confidence, and when you’re making the pitch of your life to the investor you need, your body language speaks volumes.

Play. How much do you know about improvisation (the acting kind, not just the willingness to make things up that’s at the heart of every entrepreneur)? If you need to sketch something on a someday-to-be-famous cocktail napkin, can you draw well enough to do it? Take a class, buy a book and give yourself the freedom to spend a month improving your creative skills.

Personal. Without you, your business is meaningless. So… have you always wanted to learn rock climbing? Would knowing how to make bread add joy to your life? When you write the umpteenth thank-you note to someone who made a great connection for you, would it be neat to do so in calligraphy (which I fully intend to learn in September)? Develop yourself, a month at a time, and have fun doing it.

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Stacy Ratner is the founder of Open Books, a nonprofit social venture that collects used books and sells them in its award-winning, rainbow-hued, “literary Wonka Wonderworld” River North store to support literacy programs for 4,000 students each year. Previously, she spent a decade as a for-profit serial entrepreneur and helped take 3 startup companies from idea through a combined total of $30 million in committed venture funding. On late nights and weekends, Stacy letterboxes, makes quilts, writes unpublishable novels (nine so far), and reads murder mysteries.

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