Want To Be Like These Successful Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs? Practice Deliberate Learning

Devote some time to read, reflect, and learn from others

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BY Tanya Mariano - 11 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If you were asked to set aside three to five hours every Sunday for the next six months, how would you spend that time?

Netflix is perhaps top of mind for many. But if you devote it towards learning something, you could be building your next great start-up in half a year. Case in point: Kalibrr, the leading online jobs portal in the Philippines.

Says co-founder and CEO Paul Rivera, “I usually save Sundays for deep thinking, reading, and learning. Kalibrr is a product of two dozen Sunday sessions.”

Like Rivera, Rohan Pasari, founder of Singaporean edtech start-up Cialfo, and Nix Nolledo, co-founder and CEO of Philippine tech giant Xurpas, also have systems in place for deliberate learning practices. And it seems this is something many successful people – from Warren Buffet to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey – have in common. Here's how they do it.



Nolledo reads for an hour everyday, from 4:30-5:30 am, when everyone is asleep. He says, “I [also] try to use the gaps in my day – traffic for example – to catch up on what's happening around the world on my social media feeds and bookmarked articles.”

Pasari likes to read on weekends and during flights, and catches up on tech and industry news for about 30-40 minutes a day, usually during his work commute or before going to bed. He goes for books that “help me solve the challenges I am thinking most about or which I believe would be something to take care of in the next 12-18 months,” he says.

On weekdays, Rivera reads the news and non-fiction books in the morning and before turning in for the day. He adds, however, “What I try to avoid is to read too many articles – like this one! LOL – and just try to balance articles with longer form reading. I'm a big fan of long reads.”

Cultivate a habit of reading and build your own little library, if you haven't yet. Indeed, if there's one thing that history keeps telling us, it's that the most successful people in the world are also usually the most voracious readers.



It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of running a business, but it pays to pause and take a step back.

Says Pasari, “[I self-reflect and plan my day]. I do this while swimming in the mornings most days of the workweek. It may sound weird, but this is a great way for me to spend 30 mins off any distraction.”

Rivera does this long-term: at the beginning of the year, he sets out a series of goals that are related to family, health, career, finances, and society. “Each category has a set of goals/KPIs and I try to make them ambitious enough where I probably will only get to 70% of the goals by end of year (similar to google's OKR system). Once a month, usually on early Sunday mornings, I review and reflect on my progress towards the goals.”


Learn from mentors

Part of having a structured deliberate learning practice is adopting a learning mindset. That means seeing experiences, whether good or bad, as opportunities for learning. It also means being open to learn from others.

Pasari, for instance, values his advisors and mentors. “I try to surround myself with experts and industry peers. [C]onversations with them is great learning in itself because it’s more contextualized.”  

Reach out to people you admire and those who are already where you want to be. Books are a great source of knowledge, but receiving first-hand the kind of wisdom that comes with experience is priceless.