Empowerment, Innovation, Self Esteem

Self Employed Over 50 and Entrepreneur Over 50 Are Not The Same Thing

As more and more baby boomers retire, they are immediately starting their own business or coming out of a short leave retirement to launch their own ventures. According to the Labor Department baby boomers account for 54% of self-employed workers and entrepreneurs, up from 48.5% in 2000.

My wife and I were recently attending a panel discussion of six entrepreneurs (women and men) at a university near our home. Each had started at least one successful business. Three interviewers sat to the side, asking questions of the panelists.

The audience was people between 45 and 65. Many of them have been successfully employed their entire work lives but are now unemployed or underemployed and will never find comparable jobs or careers as employees again.

Yet they will need income streams and meaningful work for more years than they had expected.

This is from the potent combination of the economic earthquake, extended life spans, and remaining productive years. Self-employment will have to be part of the answer for many. Creative entrepreneurship will be the solution for some.

Audience members, heedless of the interviewers’ attempts to control the program, started lining up behind the floor microphone. The very first speaker from the floor stopped the show:

“How do I become one of you?”, the lady asked, “I’m a retired educator. I’m still pretty smart. I’m afraid of losing the little bit of capital I have. You all seem like highly educated, qualified people who know what you are doing. I’m surrounded by “Nay Sayers” but am ready to take a plunge anyway.”

The auditorium fell silent.

Finally one of the women on the panel leaned forward and said softly, “My dear, you may have mistaken us for people who are in control at all moments and who immediately know what to do when reality veers away from our plan.”

The truth is we’re all inventing it as we go. We all have expertise, passion, and great ideas. We’re seizing the moment as well as the opportunity. This isn’t like when you were a teacher and each day was bounded by a pre-determined lesson plan.

Being an entrepreneur is messy, wild, hard work. It’s full of passion and the unknown. We translate into an altered state of oscillation. You don’t have to be young to do this. It’s about as far from having a regular job as you can get.

We’ve left the era of knowing in advance and entered the era of inventing it 1 day and 1 year at a time. There is common sense and tenacity and commitment and belief in ourselves. It isn’t for everyone but it is for us for the foreseeable future. There are no guarantees and no map. If you want it you’ll have to invent it and then invent it some more. You’ll have to find the right people and build it together.

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