Step Seven of the ten-step Maturepreneurial series How to Start a Business After 40 is to find a mentor, whether that be a person or a group of people from whom you can learn and benefit.
Find a Mentor
As with so many other once-easy-to-understand concepts, the modern idea of a mentor has expanded enormously from what it used to be. Of course, mentors are still those individuals found particularly in business and educational environments who lead you, guide you, and support you through predictable phases of development.
Under the traditional model, your mentor could be a boss, a teacher, a coach, a relative, a volunteer, or any of a number of people who have already traveled the path you’re now on. Such people can:
- Prepare you for what’s to come
- Help you navigate the obstacles you encounter
- Challenge you to see things differently
- Support and encourage you by believing in you and nurturing your potential
- Provide a sense of perspective and proportion to your otherwise limited, subjective point of view
These are benefits that all mentors provide. But traditionally, these people were already known to you through the normal course of your activities or your networks and you met with them in person to benefit from their wisdom and experience.
We are no longer restricted to this model.
The Modern Major Mentor
Under the modern model, your mentor could still be in any of the above roles, but serve you in a virtual capacity. They could mentor you for free or you could pay them for their services but you don’t have to meet in person.
Among the Maturepreneurial podcast guests who offer paid mentor/coaching services are Mary Lunnen, Maggie Huffman, Lisa Vogt, Nicole Holland, Joel Boggess, Dinesh Kandanchatha, Jason Treu, Alf Herigstad, Darieth Chisolm, Chuck Gumbert, Tony Woodall, Bob Nolley, and Jon Butt.
You could easily reach out and engage with any of them online.
Given the ease of sharing ideas and the proliferation of coaches and their philosophies these days, it is entirely possible, if not highly likely, that the person you choose for your mentor may never actually be personally known to you. Or you to her. And with the explosion of podcasting, it is easier than ever to access the wisdom and content of virtually any expert on the planet.
To some extent, this has always been possible through reading books. Napoleon Hill has served as a model and mentor to thousands of people since he published his book Think and Grow Rich in 1937. Dale Carnegie was another early and hugely popular mentor with his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Some of today’s most revered mentors include Michael Gerber, author of the e-myth book series; Tim Ferriss with his 4-Hour book series, blog and podcast; and Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas, both successful, influential, and highly visible podcasters.
Maturepreneurial podcast guests who have written books to share their wisdom and their processes include Tom Schwab, Maggie Huffman, Bill Belew, Joel Boggess, Alf Herigstad, Darieth Chisolm, Chuck Gumbert, and Tony Woodall.
The list of such thought-leader authors is long and continues to grow. You could follow and learn from them without ever meeting them. You can pick and choose among them. You can follow them for a time and then move on. And if you are, in fact, looking for a personal relationship, it is relatively easy today to establish personal contact with any of these leaders.
The Mastermind Group
Yet another category of ever-expanding mentorship is the mastermind group. Here the definition and application of mentorship are looser than they are with individual mentors. You yourself could effectively serve as mentor to people in the group who are not as far along with their businesses as you are. Give and take within mastermind relationships is more fluid than the one-way leadership or instruction that flows from mentor to mentee in the traditional model. It’s more a circle of peers than a role model and protégé.
In some ways, groups are easier to engage with because your participation is on-demand; you engage when and how it is convenient for you. Facebook groups have been on the rise for some time, fulfilling this function of entrepreneurial support. Since they meet virtually, your participation is not constrained by time or location. The content is always available. You access it and contribute to it as your time allows. For maturepreneurs still tied to traditional employment, this can be a huge boon.
But master mind groups also meet in person, online, and via conference calls, keeping in touch and maintaining accountability with the help of extended communications, like email.
There are also groups and communities you can pay to join that really help move you and your business forward. Two communities our podcast and food blog benefit from are Podcaster’s Paradise and Foodblogger Pro. We have also benefited from various online courses and communities, such as Internet Business Mastery, that helped us figure out and set up the Dishes Delish food blog, improve photography and editing skills, learn about WordPress, and overcome other challenges.
Mentors Closer to Home
Johannah Barton and Michaela Jedinak both mention their husbands as de-facto mentors whose professional advice and guidance benefited them and their businesses. Joel Boggess has said that his wife has played a key role in his success. Alf Herigstad credits his father and family for helping him. Henry Lopez has a business partner.
The point is that you don’t have to figure out your way alone. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. We all need help. We all could benefit from broader perspective. We all need encouragement to look ahead and to keep on going.
Wherever you choose to find your support, do engage. It will lighten your load to share it with others. It will also increase your chances of success when you engage with those who know more than you about what you’re trying to accomplish and can help to hold you accountable for your commitments.
All photos sourced from Unsplash.com.
Step Six of the ten-step Maturepreneurial series How to Start a Business After 40 is about creating, choosing, or discovering the plan and platform you will use to engage with the ideal customer you identified in Step Five.
Pick your platform(s)! Ready? Set? Go! [See photo credits below]
Wow! Did I learn a lot writing this post. Probably better to say I realized a lot. Not that I expect my observations to come as a surprise to anyone who’s been alive for the past ten years. But looking at them all together, as in the collage of photos above, startled me and gave me a greater appreciation for what an amazing (in some ways) and daunting (in other ways) time we live in for commerce.
Let’s start with the exercise that brought me to the collage and its much more elaborate counterpart, currently floating around in my head.
In organizing my ideas for this post, I decided to go back through all of Elaine’s podcast guests and write down all of the different platforms they are using to reach their customers. Now, customers itself is a tricky classification, because not all engagement is transactional and commercial. I mean, not all of your interactions and most likely few of your interactions with your audience will generate revenue, particularly in the beginning.
Today, social capital is valued even above money. Trustability, reputation, and ethos are becoming for many of us the currency of sustainable relationships, whether or not they generate revenue, not least because such relationships are far more and far more often fulfilling, given their Terms & Conditions.
So let’s agree to use the word customer to mean engagement target even though paying customers may be 1) only a small subset of your engagement targets and/or 2) a brief category of interaction in the lifetime relationship with a single target. In other words, if you sell a widget, one individual can only be a customer for the brief moment when they buy that widget. The rest of the time they engage with you (follow you, tweet you, comment, recommend you, or consume your content, purchased or otherwise), they’re something else. But I’m still going to refer to them as customers.
All the pretty platforms
So, when I started looking at the current list of Elaine’s podcast guests to identify their various platforms, whoa! That’s when I saw how much commerce has blown up. Here are some of the classifications I recognized.
You’ve got your old-fashioned brick and mortar business. And, by the way, I’m going to use the word business to mean activities that generate revenue. Under the heading of brick and mortar businesses, we find product businesses (Michaela Jedinak’s dress studio, Henry Lopez’s ice cream parlor) and service businesses (Dr. Joe Tatta’s (formerly) physical therapy facilities, Phil Houser’s realty office, Henry Lopez’s car wash).
Under the heading of virtual businesses, we find product businesses (Jon Butt’s fire extinguishers, Connie Inukai’s Tip ’n Split®) and service businesses (Bill Belew’s writing, Chuck Gumbert’s corporate turnarounds, Christy Haussler’s podcast outsourcing).
In fact, looking at all of our guests so far, the vast majority fall under this latter category of virtual service businesses. Into this category I would put everyone who is selling coaching, consulting, and virtual products, such as courses, memberships, and interactive media.
Further complicating that category are the physical products that either promote or enhance a service offering in some way. The most obvious example of this would be books. Our authors include Jason Treu, Joel Boggess, Alf Herigstad, Chuck Gumbert, Dr. Joe Tatta and Maggie Huffman.
So far, so good. Even though there is complexity and multiplicity among the offerings, by and large they fit under the old-school categories of brick and mortar or virtual businesses that generate revenue through the sale of products and services.
There’s some new kids in town
Less easily recognized are the newest platforms. I’m still trying to wrap my head around them. The Dishes Delish food blog and this podcast site are two of them. Ultimately, they’re meant to generate passive income. Here is how that happens: if the sites become popular enough as measured by monthly visitors, the micro-value of their visits and clicks will aggregate to meaningful revenue, primarily via advertisements on site pages.
Voilà! Passive income.
That is the plan for many business owners online. Another potential source of income under the “blog” and “podcast” business models include affiliations with commercial entities (vendors of software, products, and services) via hyperlinks to their offerings. Traffic that originates from your site and results in a sale to those vendors brings you a fractional percentage of each sale. (Here you can see why massive scale is necessary to generate a meaningful quantity of income.)
Other income sources might be any number of associated or spin-off offerings that these businesses generate, such as books, video courses, or other products or services that align with the business’s basic purpose or focus.
This new business model seems to be – at its core – about online marketing. It’s about promoting content, expertise, or thought-leadership that leads, often indirectly, to income. So all of our guests who are podcasters would fall under this category: Jon Butt, Bob Nolley, Alan Misner, Tony Woodall, Kevin Craine, Bruce Langford, Alf Herigstad, Henry Lopez, Nicole Holland, Lisa Vogt, Mickie Zada, Douglas Burdett, Paul Johnson, and Dr. Joe Tatta.
But then we come to folks like Lyn Slater and Lise Metzger. Yes, they have websites and blogs, which clearly fall under online marketing. But they also seem to fall under what we might call concept marketing because what they’re offering is more about ideas than about products or services.
In Lyn’s case, her photographs provide a unconventional and beneficial perspective on aging for women. Does that make her platform photography? Social media? Her Instagram account is a significant part of her public face. Recently, Lyn was signed by the Elite Modeling Agency. One assumes this will lead to income from assignments, but the exposure will also elevate her other platforms and the business of those platforms seems to be Lyn Slater herself, aka the Accidental Icon. She’s selling a powerful symbol of cultural engagement throughout the aging process; a very modern role model to women and to men. Online marketing does not seem to be a complete and accurate classification for this business.
Lise Metzger started in photography. She had a very successful brick and mortar service business until the 2008 recession. The recession and its fallout diminished the business and she had to go online. She still generates income from her photography, which is her primary business. But her Grounded Women project is altogether different.
Lise’s Grounded Women photographs promote women in farming and not only by depicting a resurgence in micro-farming led by women. The images and stories she brings online from these women are also very much in service of sustainable, healthy, organic food production.
This feels like marketing in service of mission, not money. Does that make Lise’s business different from online marketing? Should there be a new category for Lise and Lyn? Their businesses don’t feel like online marketing. They feel like hybrids of marketing and mission; marketing as awareness that raises consciousness. Can that benefit be reduced to measurement in dollars?
Your plan, your platform, your business
I haven’t talked so much about business plans. Johannah Barton’s and Chuck Gumbert’s episodes are both good sources of more information and context for creating and using plans. You don’t need an MBA to understand or duplicate what they did. Kevin Craine, on the other hand, did receive his MBA and also talks about business planning and strategy in his episode. His insights are also useful and easily implemented.
The choices of platform are many. Looking around at all the players and the many ways in which they’re operating, the stakes can be low. You can experiment. You can start small. You can change course. The advantages and benefits, on the other hand, promise to be great. If we can figure out the best way for our businesses to engage with customers first, generate income second, and then stay the course to profitability, we’ll be golden.
It would also seem that, for many small businesses, the creation of a platform is an iterative discovery process. This is a consistent theme among Maturepreneurial guests. Lyn Slater explicitly states, “I did not have a plan.”
So while you may ultimately need a platform to promote and further your business with your customers, unless you are starting an online marketing business such as a blog or a podcast that require websites, it may be better for you to start with an offering and a customer and build up the structures of your business through time as you need them and as they best serve you.
You wouldn’t be alone if you took this approach.
All photos sourced from Unsplash.com.
Collage photo credits:
Open Laptop photo
Coffee shop photo
The long haul will feel shorter and more enjoyable if we take time to celebrate the small victories we achieve along the road to fulfilling big dreams.
One Small Step for a Man or Woman
By the time you’re 40, chances are you’ve heard many times some form of the expression: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This ancient saying points to the truth that you cannot complete or achieve something you do not start, which I don’t think anyone would dispute.
Less obvious perhaps is the sense of proportion this saying conveys between the journey as a whole and the journey as a sum of its parts. Each part, or step, has value. Each step is worth taking for its own sake and yes, actually marks progress.
For the dreamers among us especially, those who tend to apply an all-or-nothing standard of success to our achievements, a regular, maybe even frequent, evaluation of the little picture, of our individual steps, can make all the difference to whether we feel as though we’re winning or we’re losing; succeeding or failing.
But when we’re caught up in those extremes, moderation can feel a lot more intimidating than losing or failing. Losing or failing can be about the dream or the goal. But moderating our expectations and rewiring our internal engagement criteria can feel like overwhelming adjustments that are beyond our capacity.
One antidote I have found to this dilemma is to celebrate small things; those incremental measures of progress that pop up all along the way.
My Uncle, the Godfather
On March 23, 2017, my uncle and godfather Leo Hinkley turned 91 years old. That Saturday, his family celebrated his birthday with a raucous, lively pizza party. We sang Happy Birthday every time anyone new entered the room and at the drop of a hat after that, once everyone had arrived.
Uncle Leo is a model and an inspiration, not only as a man and a survivor, but as a guest of honor. He shamelessly revels in the spotlight without ego or pretension. After he’d opened his many cards and presents, my cousin, Michael, remarked, “You made out pretty well this year, Daddy.”
My uncle nonchalantly replied, “Yes. I made out very well for someone who doesn’t need anything.”
The Hinkleys have always been great celebrators. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals – every milestone you can think of and some you can’t are marked on the calendar, parties planned, invitations sent out, presents bought and wrapped and the ritual of celebration performed with great gusto, plenty of food and drink, and a lot of laughter.
Elaine and I are so fortunate to have been a part of so many of the Hinkley family celebrations over the years; celebrations that have lifted my spirits and opened my eyes to the small, mundane victories we all achieve but that I, for one, usually discount or overlook because they aren’t as big and as flashy as my lofty dreams.
It seems the Universe might be trying to drive this point home to me by delivering good news to both Maturepreneurial and Dishes Delish during March.
- Elaine’s interview with Lyn Slater, the Accidental Icon, posted on March 15 has enjoyed the greatest number of page views and downloads we’ve seen so far.
- Our subscription list continues to grow and we’re seeing new visitors to the site and greater consumption of our content all the time.
- With Dr. Joe Tata’s interview this past Wednesday, Elaine posted her 27th Maturepreneurial episode.
- Elaine was recently contacted by a service that connects its members with podcast hosts looking for guests. A partnership with this service could lead to more interviews and wider exposure with less work for Elaine.
- Dishes Delish was featured in the Foodie Tribe March 17 newsletter, with a link back to the Foodie Tribe blog and Elaine’s Brazen Bourbon Meatball appetizer recipe.
- Elaine’s been invited by a popular food blogger to contribute some of her personal cooking tips to a post he’s writing on kitchen hacks.
Recognition by one’s peers in one’s own lifetime is always a gratifying occasion! Or, as we like to say at home: “Yay!!”
Let the Little Things Count
In and of themselves, these developments are probably not ones we would have identified as short term goals. But once attained, even serendipitously, why not act as if they were? Why not celebrate them for the signs of progress that they are and for the encouragement they offer to keep on heading in what’s looking like the right direction?
One of our podcast guests who states this most eloquently is Nicky Roche. I love this quote from her episode:
We don’t launch a global, corporate company when we launch our own business. We actually launch our own dream. And we launch it small. And it grows and it builds. And as it grows and it builds, so do we.
Another of our guests, Henry Lopez, touches upon this theme when he says,
We set these arbitrary numbered goals, and those are important, of course. We can’t just go through life saying, ”Ah, if I get it done today, it’s okay!” No, we have to have some goals. But… we lose perspective of what it is that we’re doing. We have to stop and say, “You know what? Isn’t it great that I have this opportunity? That I get to do this?” Stopping for a moment and appreciating that is important.
One of my pet affirmations, sourced from Abraham-Hicks, goes like this: Today, no matter where I am going, what I am doing or who I am with, my dominant intention is to see that which I am wanting to see; to look for things that make me feel good.
Feeling good is an act of will and far easier to achieve when you celebrate all of your milestones, great and small, as often as they arise.
Stop waiting on the big wins. Celebrate the small things. Enjoy the journey now.
Photos sourced from Unsplash.com.
Create an avatar of your ideal customer is Step Five of the ten-step series How to Start a Business After 40. There is great advantage in knowing who your customer is before you start your business. It focuses your offering and it informs your sales and marketing activities.
Getting to Know You
In his most recent book, Beyond the E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about the early days of starting his business The Michael Thomas Companies. He and his commissioned sales people went door to door to every small business in the city where they lived and posed to every owner the same series of questions that essentially asked, “Who are you?”
From these interviews, Gerber learned more about his customers – small business owners – than “anyone else on the planet.” He knew their problems, their frustrations, their weaknesses, and what and how they thought.
That was in 1977 when face to face interactions were commonplace.
Today, there are many other ways to learn about your customers. Some of them are still face to face, such as focus groups. One of the more popular methods, though, is to create an avatar, which is essentially a profile that coalesces all of your customer’s characteristics, preferences, and needs into a multi-dimensional but virtual person.
In her Maturepreneurial podcast episode, Johannah Barton, founder and principal of Confetti Design, passionately relates the process she took herself through in order to identify her customer.
“I wanted to define exactly who this person was that I wanted to work with, even down to the values that they stood for. So, I went into a lot of detail around their personality, where they lived, what they did, what was important to them, what their fears were around this kind of service I was wanting to offer, what problems they had, and how that service delivery could be absolutely perfect for them.
You can do really amazing things that make people stop. I wanted to hone in on that kind of experience for my customer. So, understanding what their pain points were and how I could make that experience really fantastic was an important part of this process.”
Michaela Jedinak’s approach was less formal and more organic, but just as effective. As a young professional working her way up to more senior roles, Michaela recognized “there was hardly such a thing as good clothing for senior business women.” After years of working in and around fashion, Michaela identified her ideal customer to be the business woman who was senior in her role, more mature in age, or (frequently) both.
When Michaela founded her fashion house she did so with a very specific woman in mind. At that time, there was not a lot of clothing available for the serious professional woman that would accommodate the demands of her particular lifestyle. Such women needed clothing they could wear to the office that could also be appropriate as evening wear for events that took place after hours but required no less professionalism.
Michaela’s customer, focused on career, did not have the time or, often, the inclination to spend a lot of time shopping for clothing and caring for it. She needed clothes that would give her confidence without requiring a lot of attention. Senior business women, frequently leaders, also needed clothing that would accommodate and enable them to highlight their unique and special body strengths.
Know Your Customer, Know Your Business
For Michael Gerber, the door-to-door interviews he and his staff conducted provided the foundation of his business offering. From the insights he gleaned, Gerber the solutions his customers were seeking without even knowing it.
For Johannah, there were different benefits.
“It started out that I was going to be selling websites and branding services to women in business but as I progressed through I realized that actually, 95% of all household purchasing decisions are made by women. So really, I wasn’t just wanting to target women as a customer. I wanted to target anybody that wanted to sell more to women. Because they were being underappreciated. They weren’t being shown that they were understood in a marketing experience”
In addition, Johannah’s customer avatar, she says, gave her confidence and “gave me real, proper actions to take. So, when I went to my marketing, I knew where to go to find my customer because I’d defined that person so well. When I put any marketing or social media posts or anything that I did in terms of putting myself out there and saying, ‘Hello, here I am. Here’s what I can do for you,’ I knew exactly the tone and the language and where to position myself because I’d done all that original work.”
In Michaela’s case, “A woman who is in a senior position, she spends a lot of time to become an expert. So it’s important that you’re expert as well about yourself.”
Today, Michaela offers 90 different dresses in over 400 different fabrics. Michaela’s business, Joy of Clothes, is one of the leading personal style websites and it she has cultivated a loyal worldwide following.
From these few examples, as well as many others, the lesson is clear: in order to be successful, you need to know who your customer is, you need to know what matters to her or him, and you need to provide solutions to their problems, sometimes when they don’t even know they have one or they themselves couldn’t tell you what the problem is with any accuracy.
Photos sourced from Unsplash.com.
It has taken me roughly 15 years to read this book. I don’t think I waited long enough.
Ballantine Books paperback edition cover, circa 1983.
Napoleon Hill is the Abraham-Hicks precursor
I’ve been following Abraham-Hicks – Jerry Hicks, his wife Esther Hicks, and Abraham, the non-physical teachers Esther channels – since they were introduced to me by a dear friend circa 2001. I love their teachings, disseminated through books, videos, CDs, tapes, and workshops and centered around the Law of Attraction. They have enriched my inner and outer lives in too many ways to count. But mostly, they have brought me enormous relief from the internal pressure to conform that I grew up under, internalized, suffered from, and inflicted upon others for most of my adult life. The softening of that great negative cannot be underestimated or over appreciated!
I first heard of Napoleon Hill and his book, Think and Grow Rich, from Jerry Hicks. Now that I’ve finally read it, this makes perfect sense. The book could essentially be characterized as a prototype of Abraham-Hicks teachings, which emerged in the 1990s and continue to this day. Dear Jerry Hicks has passed on, but Esther Hicks is still on the road, channeling Abraham for their loyal followers.
It is probably unfair to compare Hill’s teachings to those of Abraham-Hicks. Think and Grow Rich was published 80 years ago this year. This gives Abraham at least 50 years of progress and hindsight over Hill; even more if you factor in the 40 years Hill said it took him to research the book. But for anyone familiar with Abraham-Hicks, the comparison is inevitable. Both parties use some of the identical language and they do so in treating the same subject: how to manifest thoughts into physical form.
Blueprint for success
In this regard, Think and Grow Rich is a tremendous practical resource. It provides a rich, detailed process for manifesting dreams and ideas into reality. Hill takes his reader through 13 steps-as-chapters he believes are necessary in order to be successful. The steps are easy to understand and easy to follow.
That is not to say, however, that they are easy to implement. Hill points this out many times. Reading about and wishing for things are very different from actually doing the work of creating them, whether or not that work is physical. He explains that distinction in many ways and places in the book. So, while he gives you the tools and lots of them, he makes it very clear that you must systematically and intentionally put them to use yourself in order to benefit from them.
Think and Grow Rich also seems to be remarkably ahead of its time. The esoteric topics that it treats – among them: thoughts as things, human desire, faith, autosuggestion, the human subconscious, imagination, the power of sexual energy, and the sixth sense – have become much more mainstream today with the rise of spirituality and spiritual teachers like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson and Byron Katie, to name just a few.
In fact, the very proliferation of such teachers is an indicator of how far we have come since 1937 in our willingness to entertain such alternative perspectives on physical reality.
Yet, if we really study and believe these esoteric teachings, then we must acknowledge that they have been around for thousands of years. They are not new, especially among philosophers, poets, and prophets. But they are newly presented today by authentic thinkers and leaders who infuse them with fresh relevance to modern life and modern sensibilities.
Think and Grow Rich is therefore a worthwhile read, particularly for people who have either not yet been exposed to these esoteric teachings or who have may have developed some level of skepticism toward them. The way Hill lays out his arguments and the way he presents his material and the tools to put them into practice is engaging, compelling, and solidly grounded in very specific and, in some cases, extremely famous stories of human success.
For people who are already on board with many of today’s esoteric teachings, however, I would advise caution in reading this book. Here are two reasons why.
Reason one: One or two emperors have no clothes
Some of the examples Hill holds forth as evidence to prove the truth and the value of his insights are deeply problematic. For instance, he relates the stories of both U.S. Steel and Coca-Cola as shining examples of one person’s having a dream that becomes successful because it benefits millions of people.
And, by the way, you should know that benefitting millions of people is a prerequisite to the accumulation of any kind of riches: material, spiritual, experiential or otherwise.
Perhaps the men who founded and brought to success U.S. Steel did truly believe, practice, and live the principles that Hill shares in his book. Perhaps it was only later generations of leaders who lacked right knowledge, belief, and intention. But someone somewhere along the line clearly failed to maintain U.S. Steel’s purported value to humanity. So much so that its demise, as well as the demise of its entire industry, must be viewed as a striking indictment of the company leaders’ methods, intentions or both.
As for Coca-Cola and other consumer products companies like it, they are a scourge upon human health at a scale never before achieved in history. All the jobs and wealth ever created and enjoyed by the sale of Coca-Cola have been completely undone by this product’s negative effect upon human life. I would love to have a conversation today with Napoleon Hill about the value he attributes to these entities as weighed against the enormous damage they have done with the passage of time.
Pink and grown rich.
Reason two: The premise (money) taints the process (creation)
I would argue that it is a characteristic of our culture that all of its members long to be rich. That longing is built into our psyches as a function of our training and conditioning under capitalism.
But longing for money and passionately pursuing its accumulation are two entirely different propositions. It is not until toward the end of the book that Hill explains the book’s title or his primary focus. There he finally acknowledges that the principles and the process the book describe can and should be applied to manifesting anything a person desires. He says that he focused the book primarily upon the accumulation of riches because the fear of poverty is one of humankind’s greatest obstacles to fulfilling its potential. He therefore deemed that the book would have maximum impact and benefit if it addressed that specific need.
This is a fair enough point extremely well made and taken.
The problem is that not everyone can get excited about accumulating wealth. Hill acknowledges this challenge many times when discussing how to nurture and intensify one’s desire for something. He says all desires must become burning obsessions in order to be fully realized. To his credit, he also gives the reader numerous techniques for reaching that intensity.
But for those of us whose lifestyle choices are not heavily influenced or driven by material wealth, not only can we not get excited about money, but we are left feeling alienated from Hill’s process because we can’t relate to its purpose. I do not say this in judgment of materialism. I say it because I think Hill’s focus on money diminishes the power and relatability of his message. They are diminished even further by Hill’s choices of U.S. Steel and Coca-Cola as representative case studies of wealth creation. Those companies did not ultimately benefit humankind, if they ever did; that is, if the short term (means) cannot ever be fully divorced from and made to justify the circumstances and outcomes of the long term (ends). Today, their success feels like hollow fraud.
Okay. One more reason. Or two.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Think and Grow Rich has other deep flaws. To me, the book’s whole purpose and focus is upended when you come to the discussion of the master mind group. You can’t profess to empower individuals and then restrict or betray their expectations by claiming that they will never succeed alone. I don’t deny the truth of the latter. But my belief in that truth leads me to violently rebel against the premise of the former.
Hill is hardly the only esoteric teacher guilty of this misrepresentation. I see it all the time and it is the biggest reason I stopped following Abraham-Hicks. You cannot give someone with one hand what you’re taking away with the other and expect them to believe, trust or follow your advice. The entire approach to human success has got to be completely revamped if you’re going to predicate success of long reach and lasting value upon a master mind group and outcomes that benefit millions of people.
A flaw related to the above is the book’s title. Hill makes the point over and over and rather severely that you cannot accomplish anything by merely thinking about it. You must infuse your thoughts with the energy of emotion, or, as he likes to say, your desires must become burning obsessions in order to manifest. Given this requirement, a more apt title for the book would be Feel and Grow Rich. Or Think, Feel and Grow Rich. And, acknowledging the critical importance of the master mind group, Think, Feel and Grow Rich with a Group of People. Obviously, these do not make good book titles. My point, however, is that coining a title that misrepresents your own premises and arguments serves neither you, as the author, nor your readers.
Upshot: I recommend the book
Think and Grow Rich is undoubtedly a landmark book. It is thoroughly researched, extremely well organized and very clearly written. In fact, there is far, far more to the book than I have indicated in this review, which addresses only a small portion of its contents. It is the culmination of one man’s lifetime of searching, questioning, and experimenting with concepts and subjects that many educated men of his time would not have touched with a ten foot pole.
It could never be argued that Napoleon Hill is not a master of his subject who writes with great authority. Just be aware that, perhaps inevitably after 80 years, the book is dated in its tone, its perspective, and in some of its examples, which have failed to stand the test of time.
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, New York, Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing Group, 1983, 233 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-21492-3. Copyright ©1937 by Napoleon Hill.
I decided to combine Steps Three and Four of the ten-step series How to Start a Business After 40 because, unless you’re seeking a business to purchase, as an entrepreneur, your search for a new business to launch will be biased and filtered by the knowledge of what you’re good at. In other words, your search for a need will be directed and tempered by the expectation of whether or not you can fulfill it.
Is There Only One Right Way?
One thing I’ve come to appreciate in reviewing our podcast episodes and writing this blog series on Maturepreneurial’s ten steps to starting a business after 40 is how diverse people’s approaches to founding and running their businesses are. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am. My temperament is a hybrid of relationship-driven and results-driven but I’m results-driven enough to expect that some methods must be more reliable or fool-proof than others and that, as a new entrepreneur, one’s success is dependent upon learning what that method is and then “working it” until it yields its touted results.
This, of course, makes me the perfect mark for peddlers of every kind of approach available for sales, marketing, communications, and business development. If you ever go online I’m sure you’ve noticed how many there are. So much so that I’ve said before and I’ll say again how lucky I am that Elaine blazed a trail I could follow. All I’ve had to do is show up and shore up her vision and her business decisions and now I, too, have a couple of businesses to which I can contribute my unique talents and skills. In many ways, Elaine makes life a lot simpler than I do; I who have a tendency to over think, over analyze, and over compensate when it comes to making professional decisions and taking subsequent action.
My expectation that some methods are the “true” methods also makes me susceptible to the Imposter Syndrome. It encourages thoughts such as, “What do I know? What gives me the right to think I can succeed by my own method and not someone else’s; someone’s whose already been tested and proven? How can I expect to succeed without being an expert?!” and others.
If you listen to Michael E. Gerber and read his book, The E Myth Revisited, you will believe that truly, there is only one method and it is Michael E. Gerber’s. And while I have enormous respect for and faith in Gerber’s experience and methods, when I listen to the Maturepreneural podcast guests, I hear people succeeding in many different ways.
Below are a few examples.
Michaela Jedinak, Joy of Clothes
Michaela Jedinak started working in the fashion industry without a formal education or formal training in fashion. She worked her way up through the ranks and, having lived and/or worked in Germany, Prague, the U.S., Milan and London, she developed a keen fashion sense and esthetic. Her travels and experiences also gave her the perfect vantage point from which to observe the trends. Particularly as she advanced in her own career, she noticed that senior business women were a neglected segment. Most fashion catered to the young, which Michaela found ironic since, for one thing, young people have less discretionary money to spend on their clothes.
As well, stores were full of clothing that most women would wear almost anywhere except to the office; clothing for travel, for holiday, for parties, for evening, etc. But for senior business women, both in rank and in age, the stakes for making an impression are high. There is tremendous value in feeling confident in the clothing that you’re wearing and in being able to conduct business as professionally as possible; i.e., without attending to how your clothing looks or how it feels on your body when the cut or the fit is problematic, as often happens.
Michaela says, “When you dress for work, it’s all about wearing clothing that, it’s professional, it’s appropriate, it’s comfortable, it’s building to your body strengths. It’s a very important matter.”
In Michaela’s case, she was already doing something she loved and was good at. From that place, she recognized an unmet need for good clothing for senior women business leaders and she set out to fill that need. Her way of filling it was very much her own because she decided to pursue a made-to-order business model that would cater more successfully to the individual woman’s body shape and body strengths, both of which Michaela recognizes and highly values. Her fashions are not made to measure, which would have been too great a burden to deliver profitably. Rather, she designs dresses almost as templates that flatter particular body types and she manufactures them in an abundance of sizes, colors, and fabrics from which her buyers then choose based upon their preferences and their objectives. She also provides advice and guidance on finding and wearing appropriate clothing.
Michaela identified a need during the course of many years of work in her industry and from her personal experience, so that by the time she was ready to go out on her own, her skills, her interests, and her passion aligned with the need she wanted to fill. Today she has a successful fashion house, online store, and her website, michaelajedinak.com, to fulfill her entrepreneurial endeavors.
Bruce Langford, Mindfulness Mode Podcast
Bruce Langford pursued his passion in school. He loved and studied music. When he graduated from college he taught music in elementary school. His focus began to shift though when, as a teacher, Bruce felt the bureaucracy of education starting to overcome his enthusiasm for teaching. He also began to observe students being bullied and the negative effects it was having on them. One boy in particular, who was targeting for having a mild speech impediment, became the impetus for Bruce to launch a new venture. He began to design and create events to present at school assemblies that made students more aware of bullying behaviors and their consequences.
Like Michaela, Bruce’s natural inclination and previous professional pursuits, exposed him to an environment in which an unmet need presented itself. Also like Michaela, Bruce recognized – not a business opportunity at first – but a need he could fulfill in accordance with his values and his skills sets. Bruce became Benny DL the DJ, host of fictional ATFM radio, who broadcasted anti-bullying messages and songs from his “radio program,” and then, during program breaks, held interactive sessions with his assembly audience of students to reinforce his messages, to answer questions, and to engage the students. Bruce used his musical background to compose and perform his own music, but successfully cultivating his acting abilities was a revelation.
Students loved Bruce’s entertaining and uplifting events and responded very enthusiastically to his anti-bullying messages. Bruce customized his shows, sometimes four in one day, based on grade level, with different messages for kindergarteners to third graders; fourth, fifth, and sixth graders; and seventh and eighth graders. Over the course of several years, some students enjoyed the benefit of seeing Benny DL’s programs evolve with them through the grades, which had a powerful influence on their perspectives.
Bruce Langford offers an excellent example of a business evolving and changing over time. I urge you to listen to his episode if you haven’t because his journey is so multidimensional. Bruce went from being a full time music teacher, to being a part time teacher and a part time event creator and producer, to being a full time event creator, performer and videographer, to becoming a blogger, a national bullying expert, and today Bruce is a podcaster.
His story is an amazing study in how one man and his businesses have adapted and evolved over a period of years in response to the synergy between changing environments, changing markets, and his own internal development.
Chuck Gumbert, The Turnaround Specialist
Chuck Gumbert’s assessment of his market opportunity was also an evolution. In his case, the recognition came to him as a result of positioning himself for what he expected would be his next phase of employment. After having been laid off at 55, too young to retire and still carrying significant financial obligations, Chuck updated his resume and began to interview. Not happy with his results or progress, Chuck decided to create a presentation that would better showcase his accomplishments and value.
But it wasn’t until he decided that his presentation would look good on a website and set out to create one that it finally struck him: what he had – all of the turnaround and business experience – was really the foundation for a business. The Tomcat Group was born when Chuck said to himself, “It really makes sense to go out and help other business leaders, other business owners to take their performance from where it is to where it could be.”
Chuck started his career after college in the Navy where, as he says, “They were kind enough to give me the keys to an F-14.” When he got out, he went into business and eventually, through working with different companies, he worked his way up to a senior sales position. When he switched to operations at that company, Chuck began to develop a taste for how to fix troubled businesses. He also learned a great deal about the leadership necessary to effect lasting change. He performed many turnarounds for a number of companies in the aviation industry until he was laid off in 2008.
In Chuck’s case, the Tomcat Group became the natural extension of his previous working experiences. In the process of repositioning himself after being laid off, he recognized the opportunity to pursue business on his own terms.
The Road to Find Out
What we can learn from many of the Maturepreneurial podcast episodes is that finding the intersection between what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and a product or service you could provide to fill a need you recognize in your market, in adjacent markets, or in performance categories where you can apply your skill sets more broadly, is not an exact science. Yes, there are those who set out to create something from scratch with a vision and a plan or who purchase a turnkey business they feel confident they can run. For them, the process seems simpler and more straightforward.
For many people, though, the path to their own business evolves organically and incrementally out of the work they do and the expertise they develop in their professional careers, whether or not those careers are grounded in the foundation of their educations. They don’t necessarily start out wanting to be entrepreneurs, but after years of employment, when the opportunity presents itself, they seize and make the most of it.
There is no one way, no right way, and some might argue, no sure way to success. I personally find this encouraging because it leaves so much room for each of us to achieve our goals on our own terms, not by fulfilling someone else’s.
But whatever the “way” is for each of us, to paraphrase the immortal Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam, “We’re on the road to find out.”
Photos sourced from Unsplash.com.