By G. A. FINCH
I serve on an advisory board of a small company and the president of this company asked me to attend her inauguration as a member of the second cohort class for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses in Chicago. This is an initiative driven by Goldman Sachs and its local partner, City Colleges of Chicago, to generate economic growth and job creation through small businesses by facilitating their access to business education, financial capital, and business support services.
Age Is Just A Number
As I watched the recently graduated first cohort members speak about their exceptional experiences in the program and the second cohort members speak about their dreams, aspirations, and ambitions, I was struck by the ages of these eager beaver entrepreneurs. Yes there were a few twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, but a large number of them were middle and advanced middle age. Some had been in business for 35 years and some even had MBAs.
What did this plurality of older entrepreneurs show me? It shows me that enthusiasm, energy, motivation, and achievement cannot be limited by age. It reminds me that when you stop growing and learning, then you are in decline. You are done. Asian and African cultures put a premium on age and wisdom. In the U.S., we have become defined and intimidated by a youth-obsessed culture.
The fact is that you do not really hit your stride until middle age in terms of competence, confidence and knowledge. Middle age and older are the stages in life when you begin to reap the dividends of your experience and skill sets. Most importantly, though, is to continue to broaden your experience and expand your skill sets. You must always be in a learning mode.
My mother exemplifies the learning mindset in that she went back to college in her late fifties and she is always intellectually and socially curious. I also saw this energetic mindset when I recently attended the dedication of a courthouse in honor of retired federal Judge George Leighton, who practiced law until he was 98, and will turn 100 in October of this year. Judge Leighton still plays chess every day.
Maturity As An Asset
There is so much human capital in older executives, entrepreneurs and professionals that can and needs to be continuously exploited. Our nation cannot afford not to use this older human capital to leverage and grow our economy. I am comforted to see that older hands are helping to drive the entrepreneurial spirit in our small businesses. I will be as delighted to see when more older, experienced hands remain in the executive and professional suites using their talents to push our economy forward. I am glad my own law firm embraces and practices utilizing older talent – that philosophy has helped our firm thrive.
No matter how old we are, as long as we can do it, we should be in “the hunt” for business and professional development, success and achievement.