As a wise man once said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Fast forward to 2014 and apply his thought to today’s explosion of entrepreneurialism—especially in the high-tech space—and you have to agree with him.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you have the right mindset you can be as successful as you want to be.
It all depends, of course, how you define “success.” I’ve always argued that success in life’s journey is much more than the acquisition of wealth and power or rising to the top of a huge business empire. But let’s start with that as a measure of success and look at some early achievers.
Bill Gates was just 18 when he launched his first business venture with Paul Allen. Steve Jobs was 20 when he started work on Apple. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at the age of 19. David Karp was 16 when he started Tumblr. And, I was only 16 when I started my first successful internet advertising business.
Of course, there’s a perception that all high-tech ventures are started by youngsters. And while there have indeed been many young people whose innovative and fast growth businesses have hit the headlines research actually shows that companies forged by older people are usually more successful. A study by the Kauffman Foundation revealed that the average age of U.S.-born tech founders when they formed their business was 39. Twice as many were 50-plus as opposed to the number under the age of 25.
At the other end of the age spectrum one of the best-known late bloomer stories is that of Colonel Sanders. After a lifelong struggle and numerous jobs he was 65 when he launched the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Ray Kroc was in his early fifties when he masterminded the development of the McDonalds burger business. Henry Ford was 45 when he introduced the Model T and 60 when he created the world’s first auto assembly line. Soichiro Honda was 42 when he created the Honda Motor Company. Sam Walton did not start Walmart until he was 44. Entrepreneurial success is ageless.
The right age to become a successful entrepreneur is whatever age you choose. No matter your age it can work to your advantage. It’s never too early or too late. When you’re young you have the fresh-eyed optimism of youth and the energy and enthusiasm to invest the long hours that are often necessary. You believe in your invincibility.
More mature entrepreneurs have the benefit of experiences—failures as well as successes. They still have innovative ideas and enthusiasm and also have a track record that makes investors and partners feel more comfortable. They have learned how to deal with experts and professionals in various fields and in other countries.
Whatever your age you need courage and confidence. You need to be passionate. You need to be willing to take on new challenges and overcome adversity. You need to push the envelope. You have to do something that is meaningful. You have to want with all your heart to make a difference in the world.
To me, the measure of true success at any age comes from having an honorable purpose or mission; doing something that brings personal inner joy and inner peace; something that serves and makes an enduring contribution to one’s local and greater community. Success comes from full and active participation in life’s journey and not being a spectator. You create your own happiness. You take charge of your own wellbeing and acquire the success that satisfies you, regardless of your age.
Your God-given mission on earth isn’t over until your final breath. Enjoy and appreciate every new day. Never stop learning and sharing with others what you have learned throughout your days. Keep an inquiring mind. Stay active. Stay involved. There will always be something new to interest and motivate you. Keeping dreaming big dreams. And hustle hard.
“Fear is your worst enemy. Risk is you best friend.”