After my post last week on starting a new business, CNCBC.com posted an article about millennial entrepreneurs bypassing the unemployment line by starting their own business. Personally, I don’t think this article was particularly newsworthy, even in today’s economy. Every generation has young entrepreneurs with businesses ranging from yogurt shops to Facebook. Often they’re driven by hobbies or a need for solutions to their particular problems.
Judging from this and similar articles, it seems like young people get a bit of extra credit for being entrepreneurial. My guess is what drives them is lack of fear for what happens if you fail and an abundance of energy. When you’re young and have few possessions other than loans for your car and college, you probably think to yourself “really, what do I have to lose?” As well, they probably don’t realize yet how much money, work and luck is required to become a big success.
Conversely, this is probably why older generations shy away from starting a business and instead relish regular steady paychecks. Those who have been around for a while have probably worked hard for what they have and justifiably fear losing it if their new endeavor doesn’t succeed. Perception of how your family, friends and colleagues will view you if you fail is also hampering. When I was around 30 and was offered a job to go to Japan and start the first Asian outpost of the company I worked for at the time, I had no clue of how hard (or how satisfying) it could be. Ask me to do that again today and I’d probably smirk and politely decline. Sometimes too much knowledge can get in our way.
But what I do admire about young people who want to start their own business is that they carry very little baggage about what should be and how things should happen. A fresh eye and a fresh start produce some really great results. There is an energy and drive to try new things that hasn’t been hampered by failure or years of corporate oppression.
When it comes to people middle age or older, perhaps it’s time to push past the fear and harness your experience and analytical abilities. Usually this age group has savings, connections and relevant experience to quickly jump start ideas into successful companies. And if you embrace change, remain flexible, and get past early disappointments, it can pay off handsomely.
The main challenge for older generations is perhaps deciding what to actually do as a business. Youth rightly believe that they have a long future ahead, their first business challenge will probably not be their last and that fun can be a driving factor. Older generations don’t see the same far horizon and want their focused efforts to not only pay off quickly, but perhaps also be their final mark in the world. But as many are forced to work well beyond typical retirement ages, the reality is that the horizon for everyone is further off. So no matter what age, a few false starts aren’t the end of the world.
The real key to success at any age is to do what you enjoy. That alone is perhaps the best reward and source of motivation. The feeling of success that comes from doing what you like is independent of income or recognition.