If you think about the word “entrepreneur,” what image springs to mind? Maybe you thought of the actor who played Marc Zuckerberg in the film, “The Social Network”. Or, perhaps you imagined Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or another young technology genius, who started a technology empire from his or her basement. You probably didn’t think of a retired 57-year old tax consultant from St. Louis. If so, your instinct was way off.
A lot of women in their 60s would love to make a little extra money on the side, preferably doing something they love. Unfortunately jobs for seniors are hard to come by these days.
Besides, after decades trying to climb the corporate ladder, many of us are reluctant to start something too serious. At the same time, we would like to earn some “fun money” for travel, gifts and little luxuries. The question is – where should we start?
When I asked the 44,000 members of the Sixty and Me community what was preventing them from starting a business, by far the most common response was “I don’t have a business idea.” As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, the first step to take when starting a business is to examine your own strengths. But, what next?
Most people think that successful businesses start with an idea. They don’t. Successful businesses start with a person. More specifically, they begin when a person recognizes his or her unique talents and sets out to improve the lives of others.
If this seems obvious, think about the number of people who never start a business because they “can’t think of an idea” or “don’t know where to start.” Many of these people could become successful freelancers, small business owners or entrepreneurs, if they examined themselves before looking for ideas.
What if I told you that there was a simple way to boost your energy, generate business ideas faster, keep your brain healthy, increase your confidence and reduce your stress? Would you be interested? No, I’m not talking about a new $1000 motivation course or nutritional supplement. I’m talking about exercise.
Of course, it’s no secret that exercise can have a positive impact on your productivity at any age, so, why talk about it here? Because, while younger entrepreneurs may experience “significant” benefits from exercise, older entrepreneurs describe the effects of regular exercise as “life-changing” and “profound.”
Does the way we think about words like “retirement” and “bingo” change our behavior? Could aging stereotypes even have an impact on how many of us decide to start a business after 50?
According to a 1996 study by John Bargh, and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there is reason to believe that they do. As a result, it is more important than ever for us to redefine retirement and provide positive examples for each other of what we can accomplish in our 50s, 60s and beyond.
When I started Sixty and Me, I had a vision. I wanted to help women over 60 to live independent, healthy and happy lives. After spending most of my life in corporate communications, I was confident that I could find the words to inspire my audience. But, as I looked at what it would take to really get the business off the ground, I saw some big gaps.
People like simple explanations to difficult problems. We know that relationships are complicated but we like to believe that “love conquers all.” We understand that starting a business requires passion, discipline, value creation and luck, but, it’s so much more pleasant to believe that if you “do what you love the money will follow.”
The problem is that half-truths are often more destructive than lies. They wrap our desires in a warm blanket of believability and prevent us from making rational choices. Nowhere is this truer than in the myth of the successful hobby-business.
When I told my friends and family that I was quitting my marketing job at a well-respected global company to start Sixty and Me, I was greeted with confused looks. After all, at age 64, I was supposed to be “winding down” and preparing for retirement.
Like the thousands of older entrepreneurs that start a business in their 50s, 60s or beyond, I didn’t see it that way. With 20 to 30 years ahead of me, I wanted to fill my remaining years with new adventures and valuable work. Now, with Sixty and Me growing and changing lives, I’m glad I did. At the same time, my experience raises some important questions.
Since starting Sixty and Me, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with 100’s of talented, passionate older people. Many members of the community have the skills and experience to supplement their income in retirement – either as freelancers or business owners. So, I often wonder, why is it that so few men and women of my generation set out to supplement their income as they approach, or enter, retirement?
The conclusion that I have come to is that most people allow their own mental blocks to prevent them from having the lifestyle that they want.