I like to kill two, three, four birds with one stone whenever I can. Produce and learn at the same time, consume and produce, learn and relax, connect with people and learn, learn/connect/relax/produce, etc. Every day I try to exercise and learn at the same time by listening to some smart audio while I walk, jog, or run. I like to do small projects with friends and acquaintances - it's a great way to connect with someone, get to know each other more, learn/knowledge exchange new skills, and maybe make some money in the process.
Mixing "walking around" into other time and paying attention goes a long way towards getting smarter. Sometimes when I want to think, I go walk or jog around a neighborhood I don't know. I figure if I pay attention, I can learn the layout of the neighborhood, what kind of people live there, what kind of businesses are there, what kind of businesses aren't there that could be.
I went for a three mile walk near Sheung Wan in Hong Kong yesterday. I walked through an area with lots of mechanics and other mech/craft shops. I kept walking, and as I climbed up some hills, I came suddenly into a really upscale neighborhood and the cars started looking nicer - I saw particularly quite a few BMW's. So I think - hmm, there's a lot of mechanics two miles away, but I'm not seeing a garage up here. I know in nice neighborhoods people will pay as much as a 2x premium to get their car serviced without driving far. (I made the mistake of going to "Bel Air Auto Care" once when I lived in Bel Air last year - yeah, 2x what it should have cost for some work). But that's a good deal for some people whose time is very precious to them, they'd rather get premium auto service fast than drive a couple miles to save a couple bucks.
So I start thinking, if I spoke Cantonese, was local to Hong Kong, and had money to invest, would it make sense to look for some space two miles up the hill in Sheung Wan in the nice neighborhood? I was impressed with the mechanics walking through - generally looked pretty skilled and hard working. In one shop there was a boy, maybe 8 years old, reading a book while his dad worked. So I think - these are smart, hard working people. If you could get a lease at the right price, you know there's already talented mechanics nearby you could hire with a pay increase. Could your auto shop make enough money to cover the lease and expenses? I think locking up a long term lease in Sheung Wan would be worth some money in and of itself, so if the business was slightly profitable you'd have a good thing going.
It was like a scavenger hunt trying to find good coffee when I was in Cambodia a few months ago. I thought to myself - hey, here's an opportunity to build a chain of cafes, starting in Siem Riep and Phnomh Penh. You could brand/gear it up like the coffee chains that tourists like - Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Coffee Bean, etc. If you went a step further and branded it the right way, you could also make it the kind of place that's an experience to go to, that would be a fun activity for even a relatively poor Cambodian family to aspire to go every so often. I was thinking I'd call it the "Western Coffee Company", and brand it like the Old West a little bit. Wooden saloon type vibe, little brick mixed in, Old West-inspired dress, and maybe live guitar or fiddle once a day or once a week. It could be an aspirational, entertainment place for local Khmer people while serving tourists heading to Angkor Wat and exploring Cambodia. And again, that land's only going to go up in value. Someone's going to build or expand a coffee chain into Cambodia and make a mint.
I'd do a heck of a lot more research if I was going to implement an idea like that, but just walking around and paying attention goes a long way towards figuring out opportunities and learning where things are. And I just mix it into my day - go for a walk, get some exercise, listen to a book on audio, and pay attention to my surroundings. Maybe do some errands or shopping at the same time too. No problem. Expand my mind, kill four birds with one stone.
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