In Praise of the Entrepreneur

A few days ago, I read an article online about several bright young millennials who were feted for their entrepreneurial spirit, and rightly so for they had done well. I picked up the assumption on the part of the author that she thought that Gen Ys or the Millennials as they are also known, are a go-getter breed of entrepreneur, the likes of which have not been seen before.

Lemonade Stand

There were several reasons flagged for this by those who were interviewed within the article:

  • Millennials are not afraid to question authority;
  • They are flexible and entrepreneurial;
  • They harness new technology in the interest of getting things done easily and efficiently; and
  • They are hungry for success and have the confidence to go out on their own.

It was even said that ‘this special generation benefits from knowing how things were done before mobiles, the cloud and Google.’  (I snorted so hard my tea nearly came out my nose when I read that claim. Most millennials have never known a life without a mobile phone, or Google.) It was also noted on the negative side that Gen Ys can be impatient and too focussed on technology over face-to-face interaction.

It made me review my own businesses start-ups, the first of which was when I was 18.  It was an abysmal failure as I had no idea about marketing, location, pricing, or any of those essential details.  I had learnt a bit by the time that little enterprise folded.  My next businesses were in my twenties and they were more successful.  One, I now realise in hindsight would have probably set me up for life if I had developed it further and hadn’t sold out too soon.  I lacked formal business and financial training however and learnt on the job, often by making mistakes.  I so wish that I’d had a good mentor during those times but I was a female trespassing in traditional male spheres and the welcome mat wasn’t exactly thrown out.

The point is however, that although I am now a baby boomer, in my earlier years when I didn’t have mortgages, and a child to support and educate, I was able to act on my bright ideas.  I never saw them as taking risks, but more rising to the challenge and having a go.  I suspect that this has always been the case, and the Millennials of today are merely following in the footsteps of generations who have gone before.  With the benefit of internet-based technologies though, they are able to harness information and learnings that were not so easily accessible before.  They can contact other people online who are engaged in similar activities and set up mutually supportive networks.  They can even use crowd-funding to finance new ventures.

I have never stopped having the ideas, and have a file full of incipient business plans for the next great scheme that might just be challenging, and a bit of a winner.  An online bookshop did well for a decade, before more cashed up competition prompted its slow demise.   I also didn’t know what I didn’t know about internet marketing. Once more, I’ve learnt a lot.

Now that said child is off my hands and I have a little more financial flexibility, I can again consider the options for casting aside the corporate 9-5 and pursue some of my dreams again. I suspect that I’m not alone and that there are a few more budding seniorpreneurs working on their business start-ups.

What about it all you Gen Xs and Baby Boomers?  Has that entrepreneurial spirit spluttered and died, or are you biding your time for when you can give it a go again?  Are business start-ups the province of the young?

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  How many times were you asked that as a child?  If you were anything like me, you really had no idea of what the options were, let alone what you wanted to do, beyond be successful and happy in your choice.  I had no idea when I would be ‘grown up’ and with the passage of time, that milestone seemed to keep moving into the distance ahead of me, much the same as a mirage.

Journey

I was also flummoxed by too many ideas.  I toyed with being an actor, a journalist, a psychologist, working in advertising, and perhaps being a social worker.  I definitely knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher, or a nurse (conventional female choices at that time) and although interested in sciences, this was not a field in which I excelled academically.  Actually, my academic achievements were not terribly high in any area by the time that I finished high school and I had totally lost confidence in myself and my abilities, as had done my parents.

There are a range of career advisers available today that didn’t exist at that time.  However, the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES for those who remember) did have an adviser for school leavers and my mother sent me off to undertake their testing and interview process.  From memory, I don’t think that I was handed a career in a box, or given any real practical suggestions.  What stunned me though was the interviewer saying that “I don’t know why you are thinking of social work.  Your results indicate that you don’t like people.”

I was both astonished and demoralised by this assertion and although I thought that she must be wrong, was pushed off balance.  What followed was a period of drifting in and out of courses that I took because I didn’t know what else to do, dropping out, travelling a bit, odd jobs here and there and finally falling into the property industry.  Along the way, I have acquired a few degrees and qualifications, worked in real estate sales, had my own agency, sold and built houses, have been a research analyst and a property adviser for various corporations and government departments.  It just sort of happened.  There have also been some business start-ups in that time, and a lot of lessons learnt.

All along though, I said to myself, I wonder what I will be when I grow up?  I’m a few decades along from when I first posed this question, and I’m still not totally sure when the grown up thing happens, but I have learnt a few things along the way.  Besides acquiring a range of business skills and experiences, (how I wish I’d had those business smarts when younger) I also know that being older doesn’t mean that decisions are any easier.  I also know that circumstances change at any age, whether by choice or factors outside of your control, and know that decisions on what to do next can still be over-whelming.

Friends and family all have different opinions and usually none of their suggestions really light your fire.  It can be easier not to consult them and just to agonise on the options on your own.  At least then you only have your own conflicted voice to listen to and not half a dozen others.

Some of my own experiences in this area Decisionshave led me to pursue training in coaching, focussing on those key transitional times in our lives. It complements work that I have exploring with Life Choices – how to make the decisions that are right for us. I wish that I’d had help like this earlier in life. Stay tuned for further detail that I would love to share with you on my journey of decision-making discovery.

A key area of interest is helping people to make decisions at transitional times in their lives.  It might be having to change career direction or having to re-invent yourself or it may be at other major transitional changes.  The biggies are birth, marriage, children, , divorce, death but there are other variations that are just as important when we are grappling with our decisions.

I’m also really interested in learning how others manage their decision making processes.  If you have time, leave a response and share it with us all.

 

Unsubscribing my LIfe

This is it.  I am reclaiming my life.  By default, I am subscribed to so many lists.  There are supermarkets, wine companies, coupon companies, dress shops, and other retailers.  Some I may have subscribed to and my contact details have probably been purchased by other entities..

Then there are the self-help motivators, business advisers, health and wellness gurus, lifestyle advisers – whatever.  They are the most dangerous.  I tend to scan them just in case there is a pearl of wisdom hidden within the scrolled page, something that is going to make a miraculous difference to my life and that of course takes time.

You know what?  There rarely is.  What these emails are delivering under the guise of valuable content is mostly common sense, general knowledge and sometimes totally whacky.  There’s a lot of woo-woo content that slides through the in-box as well.  It has got to the point where this content is clogging up my screen to the extent where processing, scanning and deleting them is seriously compromising my time to do important things for myself – like write my next novel or work on my new business plan.

Increasingly, business communications are being delivered via email, but I sometimes overlook important information because it is buried in the general detritus. If I don’t pay an invoice on time, that is a problem.  If I miss an appointment, that is also a problem.  I know that applying rules to the in-box can divert identified emails to specific folders but to do that you have to know in advance that it is coming.

Progressively, I am hitting the un-subscribe button.  Restaurant offers – gone; camping gear – gone; travel deals – gone; happiness skills – gone; media skills – gone; the next great business seminar – gone.  It’s too soon to see the effect but I am so looking forward to an in-box that is relevant and dealt with quickly so that I can get on with my life.

I’m reclaiming.  What about you?

Fabulous Friday

With the beginning of this financial year (July 2014) I have dropped back from five to four days in my paid job.  Friday was my day of choice to spend at home, but if there is something crucial that comes up at work, I have indicated that I am prepared to vary the day off.

My colleagues have assumed that this is the first step towards retirement as I am the oldest by far in my section and indeed one of the oldest women in the company.  Work it seems is the domain of the 40-year old.  They are right in that I am desperate to ‘retire’ from this soulless and patronising environment.  I hadn’t appreciated when I was 35-40 that this was as good as it got.  At that age I was at my peak as far as workplace relevance goes and since then the opportunities that have been open to me have decreased, with the general assumption that a younger person will be sharper, more edgy, more hungry, and more deserving.  I suspect it is a little different for men of a similar age – they have a longer use-by date but even they report after a while that they start to be sidelined as well.

This is in fact the first step towards the rest of my life, which is going to be more satisfying, more challenging and more rewarding.  I am working towards self-employment and so am doing some study, am honing my writing skills and repertoire, am using the time for lots of research and am planning future travels.  The diminished income is a bit of a fright but I have done my sums and I know that I can manage.  It also makes the week much more tolerable as well and by Thursday I am positively delighted, knowing that the next day will be all mine.

Today -yay it’s Friday – is part work and part pleasure.  To start with I am setting up a separate blog for my author identity.  I have recently published a novel under the pseudonym of Emily Hussey (more of that in another post) and have been most remiss in not establishing the relevant blog.  Looking around my office, there is a bit of filing and sorting that needs to be done as well.

Then will come the haircut in a new salon that I am trialling and late afternoon I will join a group of friends for afternoon tea that will incorporate champers and chocolate and a discussion on my novel.  This will be at the home of a 95 year old who is a wonderful woman.  She has such a questing mind and is so supportive or my writing and all endeavours really.  If you can get her talking about her life, she has had some fascinating experiences as well, and looking at the paintings and items around her home gives some indication of the journey that she has travelled.  We all appreciate the pleasures of these rare afternoons, very conscious that with Lorna’s age and declining health, there will not be so many of them.

Afternoon tea - plus a few strawberries and chocolate

Afternoon tea – plus a few strawberries and chocolate

When I think of my day, why would I be doing anything else?  What do you do with your Fridays?

Random Compliments

Late today, I was walking down North Tce in the city, after enduring a whole day in a team planning session;  the sort of day in which you examine team values and make pledges about future behaviour and how as a united team, you are going on to bigger and greater successes.  I loathe these events and rarely fully participate with all the group hug activities, etc.   It is a day to be endured.  Consequently, I was relieved that the tedium was over and to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine but was still mulling over the events and processes of the day.  A woman passed me, turned briefly and said,

“I like your outfit!”

before spearing off  in a different direction and crossing the street.   I was really chuffed.  I wasn’t wearing anything special; it is an outfit that I have worn to work many times, but I was delighted all the same.  I called out a ‘Thank you’ and smiled to myself.  It quite lifted my mood and the frustrations of the day.  What a nice thing she did.

Last weekend, I was at the Central Market, doing the weekly shopping – buying  500gm of turkey mince to be exact.   As he casually weighed out my order, the man behind the counter looked over and said,

“I like your hair”.

I was astonished in a nice way.  There was nothing particularly special about my hair that morning; I hadn’t just washed it or come from the hairdresser’s.  It was just my ordinary hair.  I was not expecting a compliment and it gave me a lovely emotional lift.  I smiled and thanked him, and probably had a spring in my step as I continued with my shopping.

Then there was another occasion.  Not long ago, I was walking through the city, and at a set of traffic lights, a man turned to look at me and said,

“That’s a really lovely broach that you’re wearing.”  I have to agree that it was.  Vintage and antique jewellery is one of my passions and this was a lovely American piece, probably from the thirties.  My black jacket was a great foil for the delicate colouring.  I was impressed that this man noticed it and made the comment.

Since today’s interaction, I have been turning over the issue of random and spontaneous compliments.  Are they better when they come from strangers who have no vested interest in your reaction or is it better to receive them from nearest and dearest?  Those random comments have the benefit of being totally unexpected and also convey greater sincerity.  It seems that they do anyway.

Sometimes I give random compliments as well.  I may see someone wearing something that I admire or doing something that impresses me and I will tell them so.  I have not expected to be on the receiving end however and I like it.  It is such an affirmative action, far more so than my team building session of the day.

Do you give random compliments and have you ever received unexpected  compliments yourself?  How did it happen? I would be fascinated to hear.  Did receiving a compliment make you feel like passing it on to others?

Stupidity

I have had a  week to contemplate this.  A week in which I have howled when trying to dress myself and whimpered when rolling over in bed.  If I can’t get my son to pull me out of a chair, I have to take a couple of breaths before I tackle it for myself.

As for getting into and out of the car – do you have any idea what that twisting motion can do it you?  I rode to work on a scooter for a couple of days, as sitting upright as though riding a kitchen chair was preferable to the slouched position in the car – once you had actually levered yourself into it.

Wearing trousers is a problem, and even threading feet into knickers is a challenge.  I just throw food at the cats now – I can’t bend over to nicely dollop food in the bowls.  They seem to cope.

It’s frustrating when I thought that I was going to do so much this weekend.  Finish the weeding for a start and perhaps plant some tomatoes.  I can crawl around on my knees, but how will I get up afterwards?  I had to drive up to the Barossa Valley today to conduct a wedding ceremony.  At least I do that standing up but unwinding myself after an hour travelling in the car was not a pretty sight.  Didn’t feel good either.

Putting the lawnmower into the boot of my car was probably not the smartest thing, but trying to lift it on my own with a convoluted lift and twist action defied not smart.  It feels as though my sacroiliac joint will never be the same again.  Yeah I know.  Stupidity.

Blog Spam

Aren’t you sick of it?  Isn’t it just so infuriating? Every time that I upload a new post to my blog, the ‘likes’ start to flow into my in-box.  The message from Word Press says:

     Fred liked your post. 

     He thought the post was pretty awesome.

     You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!  

That’s nice, I think to myself.  Somebody likes my post.  I should return the favour and look at theirs.  Perhaps we’ll have something in common.

We don’t, and that’s not surprising because when I look at my blog stats, I can see that none of those likes have actually read my blog.  All the spammer has done is gone fishing to gain my response so that I will increase the visitation levels on their blog.

And that’s not all.  Their blog is likely part of an on-line multi-level marketing scheme, focussed on making money from signing bloggers up for a fee to learn more about money-making ventures via affiliate relationships, and through signing up others to the scheme.  Information is provided by hyper linked videos which show cool-looking dudes in their early twenties who spruik the perfect money-making ventures, if only you will sign up.

I have no objections to anyone making money from blogging, from affiliate associations, advertising, or any other means.  What I do object to is being spammed with the empty likes and trying to entice me to read the spammer’s blog without the courtesy of having read mine.  It makes me feel used and I don’t like it.

Am I alone here?  Have others felt the same way about these spam bloggers and their likes?

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

Walking with my shoes, talking with my heart

It really is time for a parting or the ways.  There is little sole left between us anymore, but I still hold on to the memories.  We are moulded together, you and I and have that comfortable relationship that doesn’t evolve over night.

It is approaching ten years since my mother died.  Breast Cancer.  We knew it was aggressive; we knew what the outcome would be but there was still the shocked disbelief when it happened so quickly.  I found myself wandering around wearing the purple floppy hat that she used to wear while hanging out the washing in the summer sun, clinging to that vestige of contact with her.  I even used to ring her mobile to listen to her stating her name, clearly and precisely.  I was never sure whether to talk to her during those calls or not.  Would she get my message?  I was desperate for those connections not to disappear.

The clean-up of clothes and possessions was one of those tasks to be endured.  Lots of stuff went to the local charity shop, and other bits and pieces were claimed by family members.  Other things, we simply didn’t know what to do with – too good to throw away but perhaps too old, too out of style or just simply not needed.  A conundrum that is no doubt being addressed by so many right at this moment.

It was during one of these sessions that I encountered you.  You were not really my type, with me favouring options that were more open and less restrained, but probably still seeking that connection with mother I gave you a try.  Oh how comfortable.  To my surprise, the fit was good.  I rocked backwards and forwards, testing the cushioning and support  and after a few tentative steps, we walked out together.  It was the beginning of a dependent relationship and I soon fell in love with a pair of black Rockport walking shoes.

***

Mother had done the hard work for me, with her feet moulding the soft leather and creating a comfortable cocoon across the toes.  The back was softened too, so that it embraced and shielded rather than abraded my heel.  I was so delighted that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Walking in my mother’s shoes’.  I liked the support that they gave me and the ability to walk and walk and walk. I guess that is why they were called walkers. 

I wore them to work and on field trips – even times when I should have been wearing a steel-capped variety.  Regular polishing maintained the soft leather and I took pride in their gleaming presentation.  I am not sure how long mother wore those shoes, but as the years of my custodianship passed, the soles took a battering and in time began to separate from the uppers.  I flopped and flapped around for a while, walking with a strange strut because of it but finally presented them for inspection at the shoe repair booth.  There was a lot of umming and ahhing, but eventually I was told that they could be re-soled.

This involved slicing off the old sole and gluing a replacement in place.  It worked – for a while and then either left or right would become loose again and I would carefully reglue.  The gaps between gluing became shorter and shorter resulting in more flipping and flapping.  In the end I had to accept that the re-soling had not been a success.  They were retired to the shoe rack in my cupboard.  I was not ready to let them go, even if they were not wearable any more.

It has got me thinking about shoes and the connotations that we bestow upon them.  I have tarty shoes and practical shoes; dancing shoes and running shoes; working shoes and playing shoes.  Each pair creates a mood and ambiance with which I have a co-dependant relationship.  I both create it and assume it on wearing the shoes.  They don’t quite have a life of their own like the red shoes of Hans Christian Anderson but they each have a personality none-the-less.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a clean-out.  It is part of the de-clutter program that I wrote about here.  You smiled at me gummily from the rack, with your soles clearly separating around the toes.  I knew that I had to act quickly before you talked me out of my resolve.  I felt such a traitor and kept my eyes averted from your lolling tongue.  I hope you understand but it was time.  I had to do it.   The lid slapped down with finality, not just on you but yet another link with my mother.

Summing up a life

“How long had you known him?”  That is sometimes a question that I am asked after I have delivered a eulogy.  In most cases I have not had the pleasure of meeting the deceased.  What I have done is listened carefully to his nearest and dearest as they relate to me their memories and experiences.  They laugh and they cry and relate the various anecdotes – and I listen.  Bit by bit, the picture grows.  What was his background?  Did he have a sense of humour?  What was his philosophy on life?  In this way, I interpret the essence of the man in eulogy form.  This is part of my role as a funeral celebrant.

Sometimes I do know the dearly departed, and that is why I have been asked to officiate at the ceremony.  Those eulogies are all the more poignant as I draw on my own memories, reflecting both my experiences and those of friends and relatives.  Doing a life justice is a bitter-sweet experience, but one that is so satisfying when you know you have done it well.

There are challenges of course.  How do you write a eulogy for a child who has been snatched so young?  What about the loner about whom nobody knew very much?  Sadly there are those difficult characters, who have left a raft of bitterness and bad memories behind.  There is a story behind each of those people and the challenge is in discovering it and delivering a eulogy that meets the needs of those in attendance.

These are some of the scenarios that we will discuss in our coming workshop – how to listen, what to ask, how to divine, how to write and lastly how to deliver a eulogy that leaves the mourners feeling that they have both learnt something new, and been reminded of what they knew and loved about the deceased.  They will listen, they will laugh, they will cry and they will remember.

At some point, you may be called upon to write or contribute to a eulogy. Often this will be with very little notice and in a time of much emotion and distress. This is a time to call on interview techniques, interpersonal and writing skills.

On Sunday 21st July, I am delivering a workshop on writing eulogies at the SA Writer’s Centre.  Details are available from the Centre.   In this workshop, you will learn the techniques to deliver a eulogy that will inform, delight, transfix and celebrate. You will engagingly encapsulate the lifespan of a person with your words and capture the essence of the deceased.