Entrepreneurship is as old as time. Its rules of engagement are as culturally embedded as Monday Night Football. For late-comers to entrepreneurship, our municipalities sponsor public entrepreneurship centers, our universities sponsor executive MBAs, and mini-MBAs or “boot camps” proliferate both as private enterprise and through grass-root outreach.
The Working Knowledge Initiative approaches entrepreneurship under a very different mindset: that the assets and capabilities of productive work-lives represent a storehouse of entrepreneurial potential; but that the mid-life professional is reluctant to begin the entrepreneurial journey. As a hiring manager recently told me, “given a 35 year old and a 45 year old with the same skill-set, well… let’s just say the younger guy still has that ‘fire in his belly’.”
The hiring manager’s stereotype applies to conventional entrepreneurial programs as well: its attendees begin with fire in their bellies, motivated by their desire to transform dreams to realities. Whether experientially rich or poor, their passion is a powerful engine — motoring over adversity and pushing forward toward success.
Mid-life entrepreneurship is an entirely different situation. The excitement remains— though the physical belly-fire has morphed to a more cognitive kind of wisdom. Both success and loss over the life course ( with familial responsibilities added, as well as diminishing retirement savings….) both temper impulsivity and add their measures of anxiety.
Mid-life entrepreneurship must begin in solid refusals: NO, THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. NO, I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE SKILLS AND PRACTICES OF NEW BUSINESS FORMATION. NO, I ONLY KNOW MY OWN FIELD. NO, I SHALL WAIT FOR A SUITABLE POSITION TO OPEN UP—EVEN IF I MUST HIDE MY FORMER JOB RESPONSIBILITES AND SALARY LEVEL TO OBTAIN IT.
Mid-life entrepreneurship begins in fear. This is the entry-point of reluctant entrepreneurship.
The Working Knowledge Initiative addresses the psychological situation of the reluctant entrepreneur while building entrepreneurial resiliency through recognitions that work-experience has provided the fundamental building blocks of entrepreneurial success.
Our mindfulness —of the reluctance of the reluctant entrepreneur—and on the needs necessary to bridge the gap between anxiety and successful revenue streams— is the Working Knowledge Initiative’s difference.
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