Let’s hear it for older en­trepreneurs

Don’t buy into the idea that kids own in­no­va­tion. Use age to your ad­van­tage

Inc. (USA) - - CONTENTS -

SOME­THING’S BEEN BOTH­ER­ING me more and more over the past cou­ple of years. It’s the no­tion that older en­trepreneurs don’t have the skills and tal­ent to com­pete with those in their 20s. It’s dis­ap­point­ing to me that the macrotech­nol­ogy shift to a mo­bile and so­cial me­dia land­scape has si­phoned the con­fi­dence from some great en­trepreneurs ex­posed to the think­ing that they’re “out­dated” or “not good enough.”

I want to tell you that there’s no set age for en­trepreneur­ship. I started my first “fran­chise” as a kid, run­ning five lemon­ade stands; by the time I was 13, I was sell­ing base­ball cards for thou­sands of dol­lars at New Jer­sey malls. Now, I’m 41 (not 21!), and I’m go­ing to keep build­ing busi­nesses for an­other 40 years no mat­ter what the 20-some­things are do­ing.

Whether you fall in the 40-to-60 or the 60-to-80 age range, those of you who think you’re not able to com­pete with the younger crowd are un­der­es­ti­mat­ing your­selves. You’re prob­a­bly too fo­cused on your fail­ure to grasp Snapchat in one day, or in­se­cure be­cause you didn’t grow up with com­put­ers, or frus­trated that you type slowly on your smart­phone.

It’s not the tech­nol­ogy that’s the prob­lem. Mil­len­ni­als are no dif­fer­ent from your gen­er­a­tion when it comes to be­ing af­fected by cul­tural shifts. In the 1940s, peo­ple had their heads in the news­pa­per and their ears to the ra­dio. By the 1960s, all eyes were glued to the TV. To­day, it’s the mo­bile de­vice that rules. Big shifts are a fact of life. Stop us­ing the cur­rent tech shift as an ex­cuse. Stop dwelling on the idea that you’re “old.” Take a hard look at your ad­van­tages. Re­al­ize that 20-some­thing en­trepreneurs don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence you do. They’re of­ten fresh out of school and naive, and they lack real-world savoir­faire. They likely haven’t faced much ad­ver­sity, and the econ­omy has been rel­a­tively be­nign to them. It’s been so easy, in fact, that the en­tre­pre­neur­ial life­style has be­come a fad hyped by in­flu­encers on so­cial plat­forms like YouTube and In­sta­gram. I be­lieve we are cur­rently liv­ing in the golden age of fake en­trepreneurs.

Get over the no­tion that Mil­len­ni­als have an edge be­cause they are young. Youth breeds con­fi­dence, but you have years of run­ning a busi­ness on your side. Use that to fuel your sense of self. If you are an ac­com­plished en­tre­pre­neur, there’s no way you’re go­ing to con­cede to some­body who’s 20 to 30 years younger. If you were a great en­tre­pre­neur at that age, there’s no rea­son why you can’t be a great en­tre­pre­neur now. Trust your abil­ity and your record of achieve­ment.

How do you do that? My best ad­vice to you is to fo­cus on the things you’re good at while re­spect­ing the evolv­ing de­mands of a dig­i­tal world. You need to have all the ego that comes from your ex­pe­ri­ence as well as the hu­mil­ity to un­der­stand that the play­ing field is dif­fer­ent now. Yes, we have en­tered a new era, and, yes, you do have to be fa­mil­iar with apps and de­vices. But hasn’t the abil­ity to see and cap­i­tal­ize on trends in a fast-chang­ing world al­ways been the chal­lenge of en­trepreneur­ship? If you are a truly great en­tre­pre­neur, the only thing stop­ping you from keep­ing up is your lack of con­fi­dence.

So pick up your phone and down­load Snapchat and any other app that feels ex­cit­ing to you. Play with Face­book’s and In­sta­gram’s live fea­tures. Please— don’t let this era pass you by. Be­ing a great en­tre­pre­neur, no mat­ter your age, is such a huge ad­van­tage right now; you’ll re­gret it if you don’t keep try­ing. En­trepreneur­ship is a mind­set, and the gen­er­a­tion gap you’re afraid of can ac­tu­ally work in your fa­vor.

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