Keeping creative in later life

I was asked recently what advice I would give to entrepreneurs who want to remain active, creative and productive in their later years.

Richard Branson

As a young boy, one of my heroes was Peter Pan, and whenever anyone asks who my favourite fictional character is, he always springs to mind. Who wouldn’t want to be like Peter? He had a great gang, lots of adventures and a remarkable ability when it came to flying. But above all, Peter never got any older. While yours truly has no intentions of slowing down any time soon, none of us are getting any younger!

However, there is absolutely no reason why an advancing age means you need to slow down when it comes to business (or almost anything else!). In fact, with the right mindset, older entrepreneurs (and others) can use their age to their advantage in both business and wider life.

A lot of young people are not getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting a start in business. So we have launched initiatives like Virgin StartUp in the UK and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, while these organisations may be perceived as appealing more to younger people, it is true that some senior entrepreneurs could do with a helping hand too.

Many people do not find their true calling until later in life. It may be that you have been in a steady job for several years, but now feel the urge to start up on your own. You may have lost your job in this tough economic climate, or you may simply have come up with a brilliant idea. My advice is to go for it! A lot of the skills entrepreneurs require are learned through experience, and real-life, on-the-job expertise. In this respect, senior entrepreneurs can have the edge.

For those entrepreneurs who have been running their own businesses for years, and are concerned about remaining creative in their pre-retirement or retirement years, simply look around you for inspiration. They say you can’t teach old dog new tricks, but good entrepreneurs can always find innovative ideas, fresh strategies and different angles. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t learn something new and fascinating.

While young entrepreneurs can learn from their elders, likewise more senior businesspersons can seek inspiration and energy from their younger counterparts. The spirit of youth is infectious. Surround yourself with like-minded people from all generations and great ideas are more likely to flow. Equally, remember to draw upon the knowledge of your peers. You may find they have been in similar situations in the past, which you are now facing for the first time.

Another thing to bear in mind as the years advance is the benefits of physical fitness. Keeping the body healthy really does help you keep the brain active and agile. A little bit every day is all that’s needed. I try and start my day with a game of tennis and walk wherever possible (it’s often quicker than sitting in traffic). I also love cycling – it’s great to be able to get out and see something new. I find exercise and adventure reinvigorates my mind and keeps me inspired. 

Richard Branson playing tennis

Motivation is another main worry for older entrepreneurs. If you’ve done it all before, what is the point in doing it all again? I’d reject this argument outright. There is always another challenge. If you can’t find the right one, step back, look at the situation in a different light, and a new idea may present itself. Make sure you are doing something you really care passionately about, and you will want to keep doing it. Making a difference and trying to do good in the world will get you out of bed in the morning.  

Senior entrepreneurs can have the best of both worlds. Call upon your wealth of experience, but harness the contagious enthusiasm of youth too. Combine them both and you could be on to a winner.

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