Life is our classroom

Timothy Harlin, TrustPoint Insurance

I learned what entrepreneurship is in business school, but accidentally. Looking back, the most powerful things I learned were outside of the classroom. An incredible experience with a great instructor helped me learn that.

When I graduated high school, I knew that I wanted to be one of three things

  1. A specialized surgeon that saved lives
  2. An Air Force pilot
  3. A business owner

I went with option three, and today I am CEO of TrustPoint Insurance. But when I was 18, I had no idea how to run a business!

I had a great childhood, but I didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. I didn’t have entrepreneurs in my network who I could look up to and ask questions like, “How do I start a business? How do I get into owning a business for myself? How do I grow something where we come together around a common goal and build something great?”

So for me, the next step was business school. And one instructor helped me learn a powerful lesson.

I had the privilege of taking the course Money and Banking in 2008 at Meinders School of Business. If you pay attention to the financial markets, you know that 2008 was a very challenging year for the financial markets and really the banking structure of the entire world.

I remember very clearly the first day when my professor walked in. Steve Agee was the instructor and is now the dean of the school.

He said, “I hope you didn’t buy the textbook yet, because that is already outdated.” He continued, “We’re going to be reading the Wall Street Journal. We’re going to be talking about what’s happening in the markets. We’re going to be studying the real-life classroom.”

And we did. That is one of the things that has changed my career for the better. I learned that it’s not about book knowledge or what degrees I have. It’s about looking at the world around me, learning what’s changing, and seeing the opportunities to provide a better change for those who would provide money for that change.

That’s really what entrepreneurship is. I would encourage you to remember that life is a classroom. It doesn’t matter what age you are. No matter where you are in your career or life, reopen your mind to seeing every experience, every day, every lunch, every person you meet, as an opportunity to learn.

Life is our classroom and we’re all in it together.

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