Sometimes, the expectation of conformity wears on us more than we think. Whether you realize it or not, society pressures you to "settle down" and have a "regular life" more and more with each passing year. This makes it difficult to take the leap necessary to start a new business, and it also becomes much harder to convince those around you to see you in a new light as you get older. That being said, anyone who is passionate about his industry, is willing to put in the time, and has a desire to add value to the lives of others already has the traits necessary to become a successful entrepreneur.
There's No Better Time to Start than NOW
The fact that I graduated from law school but never went into practice may sound like a failure, but it was, in fact, my saving grace.
Around the time I graduated, I met Chris, my future business partner. He had recently completed his law degree too, and we decided to go into business together. One of the things to which I attribute our success is this timing; because we had no established "careers" against which to measure our business progress, our full identities laid in our own business.
Had I practiced law and then decided to go into business, I believe my path would have been different. My career would have been solidified after a few years, and everyone would have seen me as "just" a lawyer -- a societal viewpoint that I'm sure I would have adopted after a few years, too. Leaving law to start a business would have seemed like a risky departure from the norm, both in the eyes of society and, as a result, myself.
Even if I had been able to make the leap after practicing law, I still would have run into another problem. An inherent aspect of starting a business is that you will fail at first: maybe in small ways, or maybe in one catastrophic nosedive. This, by no means, implies that the failure will be lasting, but it does take a degree of resiliency and determination to get past those roadblocks. If I had dealt with these issues after leaving law practice and a middle-class lifestyle, I would have viewed my early "failed attempts" as something of which to be ashamed, rather than something from which to learn. I believe this is the mindset that prevents many people, especially highly educated older people, from putting in the long periods of work to overcome the setbacks to building a successful business.
Do You Have What It Takes?
The key to starting a business is to actually not think of it as a business. If you find an industry you're passionate about and that want to add value to, you already have what it takes to start a business -- regardless of your age. For example, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google because they wanted to build the best search engine, not because they wanted to start a multinational corporation. That came later, once they became successful and investors latched on. When Mark Zuckerberg designed Facebook, he just wanted to create a platform where people could connect. While this is not the only mindset to building a successful business, I always advise people, especially young people, to build something great that will eventually become a successful business. Find what you're passionate about and pursue it on a small scale first.
What if You Fail?
Learn from it:
Money Isn't Everything
Many people make the mistake of thinking that you have to start a business with a "go big or go home" mentality. In today's information age, this is not the case. You don't need as much capital to launch a business as you used to, especially when it comes to online businesses. Use the internet or other relatively cheap methods of marketing and promotion, such as text messaging, cheap flyers, and social media to launch your business. Scale down your idea so you can start it using the abundance of tools available to us today, and investors will come later, once you've built up. Once you've shown that you have the potential to succeed, as well as real customers to back up your claim, it will become much easier for you to attract resources to take your business to the next level.
Meet Roadblocks Head-On
As I mentioned earlier, failure is an inherent part of starting a new business. You'll always face challenges and unforeseen circumstances, but if you have the passion and are willing to put in the time to learn how to overcome them, you'll succeed.
In starting my business, my first challenge was to get comfortable doing business online. The internet came along at the end of my college career, so I didn't grow up on it like many aspiring entrepreneurs today did. Fortunately, my business partner was 10 years younger and was able to open my eyes to the online world. I had to put in several thousand painful hours to figure out how it all worked, but it was worth it -- now it's second nature. That's the beautiful thing about online businesses: if your first contact with someone is virtual, it doesn't matter if you're 17 or 70. If you build a great platform that adds value to people's lives, they don't care how old you are.
While starting a business when you're older is harder, it can be done if you have an open mind, time, patience, and the determination to pursue your passion, regardless of what society thinks. You'll find plenty of opportunities to connect with like-minded people and, ultimately, build a long-term business online. If you're young and passionate about an industry but on the fence as to whether or not to go for it, go for it. Start small, stay motivated, and be confident that, in the end, your desire to add value will sustain your journey to success.