Last week I attended Pioneer Nation, an inspiring and exhilarating hands-on gathering of new economy entrepreneurs. Imagine three or four hundred of the brightest and most eager up-and-coming solopreneurs, all perked up on Portland micro-roast coffee and donuts, ready to download their next big idea. With this much brilliance and passion all in one room, the energy in the big hall at PNCA in Portland was off the charts.
Knowing a bit about Pioneer Nation’s mastermind, Chris Guillebeau, founder of the World Domination Summit (WDS) and author of $100 Startup and the The Art of Nonconformity, I harbored high expectations going in. Perusing the all-star line-up of keynote speakers and workshop leaders, I also anticipated that most of the attendees, like Guillebeau himself, would be millennials, in other words, young enough to be my kids. I was concerned about how I would fit in.
So one of my biggest surprises at Pioneer Nation was the age-diversity of the participants. I met grandmothers, and kids who barely looked like high school grads (maybe they were in high school), and everyone in between. Each person I approached glowed with such fire and passion that it was often hard to tell their age at all. There we were, a handful of hundred souls, all just focused on service, creative freedom and right livelihood. It was a huge relief that age or generation seemed not to matter at all!
A day after Pioneer Nation, while still high from the experience, I met up with a longstanding friend who’s just moved to Portland. Despite having a degree from an Ivy League school and the smarts to match, Courtney has never had a job. Rather she has followed her avocations while supporting her husband’s business and raising her children, her way. Nearly finished being a full-time mom, Courtney is now ready to embark on her own career. She has a great idea and the time and resources to devote to pursuing it. But still she has doubts. I asked Courtney what she thought her biggest obstacles were. She immediately identified a negative mind-set that bothers many of us who embark on a new path after the ripe old age of, say, 38: “It’s too late. I’ve missed the boat. I’m behind. I’m out of it.”
In a wonderful New Yorker article titled “Late Bloomers; why do we equate genius with precocity?” Malcolm Gladwell argues: “The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.”
Yeah. It turns out that some people peak early because they are conceptual. They have clear ideas of what they want to create and they just follow the steps of creation. Boom. Some of us, on the other hand, proceed experimentally. We have to take our time.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes also talks about late bloomers in her wonderful audiobook, The Dangerous Old Woman Series, where she devotes a complete chapter to the subject. She compares the the different creative cycles to the plant world. While daffodils push through the ground in the early days of spring, sunflowers don’t bloom until late summer. Either way, we’re all perfectly in-tune with nature.
So for any of you who have ever felt you’ve missed the boat, to those who are concerned that it’s too late or that you’re too old to start writing that blog or book, or designing the widget you are over-the-moon passionate about, I’d like to offer a few thoughts:
Life is Impermanent. We don’t know how long we’ve got. Far from being a depressing thought, we can use this idea to help us focus every day on what most fires our passion.
“Everything is figure-out-able,” as Marie Forleo often says. So maybe I’m not going to learn HTML or Mandarin in this life time, but there are so many amazing resources out there! From Google to Lynda.com to those geeky consultants who live to show us how to do what we want to do in 4 easy steps on YouTube, resources abound. So figure it out and have fun doing it!
Learning and growing keeps you young. You don’t have to believe me. There is scads of research to prove that keeping busy is the way to go if you value longevity and vitality.
So remember that you’re not alone. Many of us are pushing the creative envelope and cashing in years of life experience to pursue a long-cherished idea or dream. Reach out and find support in the tribe of late blooming entrepreneurs. You’ll find us next year at Pioneer Nation, rubbing elbows with the wunderkind.