5 Min ReadBusiness 17 April 2020
At first glance, the entrepreneurial landscape may seem crowded with young people who have barely completed puberty before kicking off their first big business venture. There's a stereotypical idea of what it means to be an entrepreneur, and it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're past the ideal age to start. But it's more than possible to generate a wildly successful business at any age, and as a woman entrepreneur who started her business at 42, I have a few tips for women eager to follow in my footsteps.
1. Take Inspiration From Success Stories
While we may read a great deal about the college-aged innovators who are developing the next big thing, the fact is that a great many first-time business founders are in their 40s and 50s. I started my business in my 40s and always felt that my years of professional and life experience were an asset in my entrepreneurial journey. To help inspire me, I've always been partial to seeking out the stories of real-life entrepreneurs in their mid to later years. And there are plenty to seek out. According to a study by the Kauffman Foundation that surveyed 652 US-born CEOs and heads of product development, "The average and median age of U.S.-born tech founders was 39 when they started their companies. Twice as many were older than 50 as were younger than 25." Interestingly, the founders of McDonald's, Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken were all over 50 when they started their businesses.
2. Silence Your Inner Critic
Self-doubt and self-criticism plague far too many women, and we're often the ones to invite these destructive thoughts right into our own heads and hearts. We may believe on a subconscious level that we're not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough. When I was in the early days of starting pH-D Feminine Health, I was bombarded with negative thoughts of self-doubt. They cropped up again and again, despite my natural tendency toward optimism. Building a business can be a frightening prospect, and fear feeds the inner critic. Learning to silence this negative voice starts with acknowledging it, and recognizing the voice when it happens. Give the voice a name, maybe even a personality. Differentiate that destructive voice as totally separate from the person you really are, and the person you want to be. Over time, you'll find that you take your inner critic less seriously and give it less power over your thoughts and decisions.
3. Adopt A Fearless Mantra
You may have a business idea but feel overwhelmed at where to begin. And you may wonder what will happen if things go wrong, or if the business fails entirely. The fact is, starting a business comes with a certain degree of risk. Some business concepts involve a great deal — as when you're borrowing money or establishing a brick and mortar shop — and some involve just the risk of time, effort, and emotional investment. Risk can't be avoided, but it can be approached with the right attitude. I found it was very helpful to have a simple mantra I could repeat to myself in times of worry, stress, or fear. I simply told myself that "everything is going to be okay." After all, I could always go back to another office job if my business failed — no harm done. Even a great loss of time, money, and resources can be managed and accepted. Life would move on, and it made me feel better to repeat to myself that no matter what I'd be okay. Consider adopting a mantra that brings you a sense of peace in times of turmoil.
4. Build From Known Strengths
One of the many benefits of accumulating decades of professional experience before starting up is that you know yourself very, very well — professionally and personally. You understand your professional and personal strengths, and those traits and characteristics can serve as a launching pad to make your business into the best version of itself. You may know that you work better individually or that you're particularly adept at securing new clients but not so skilled with managing the bookkeeping. This is the beauty of life experience — you are now an expert in you. And you can use that expertise to custom-fit your business to highlight your strengths, work around your weaknesses, and fit your individual preferences.
5. Speak Out About Your Journey
One of the greatest joys of my entrepreneurial journey has been inspiring and motivating other women to seek out their own dreams, learn from my experiences and take their own risks – professionally and personally. I love talking to people — especially young women — about the challenges and opportunities of starting up and of the business world in general. I've had amazing "lightbulb moment" conversations with younger colleagues and then watched them move forward with a greater sense of purpose and gumption on their own journeys. And I see this as an obligation of leadership and entrepreneurship — paving the way for our fellows and sharing the wisdom we've earned. The very best contribution you could make to the world, as an entrepreneur in your 40s, 50s, or beyond, is to speak out about your journey. Speak about your self-doubt, your failures, your triumphs, and your lessons learned. The more open and honest we are with each other about later-in-life entrepreneurship, the more we'll make the dream seem possible and achievable, and subsequently we'll see many more women taking the leap.
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It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.