More than four years ago, when I started my first company and with it, my entrepreneurial journey, I used to go to extreme measures to avoid talking about my age with my clients. I only actually met my first few clients in person after their project had been finished, and until that point, everything was done over email and on the phone.
At that time, I was only 14, and to the extent of my knowledge, 14 year-olds weren’t all that common in the world of tech, business, marketing or basically anywhere outside of school and a bunch of extracurricular activities.
Over time, I gained more confidence in my age, in my knowledge and in my ability to provide people with a quality service, but it was a process. One that brought forth a major change in perspective. It was this new found perspective that helped me leverage what I once saw as my greatest weakness and turn it into the driving force behind my strength.
In order to turn the tables I had to recognize three key advantages that young entrepreneurs have over others:
The Ability to Fail
Because I’m young, I can afford to fail. Older fellows, on the other hand, have many responsibilities that they can’t get away from and that too often force them to take the most conventional and safe path. That same path tends to hold them back from creating amazing things. In my case, those serious obligations are not part of the equation. I have so many more years to try again that even if whatever I am doing doesn’t work out I will be fine and even gain valuable experience while I’m at it.
Willingness to help
An important component to succeeding in any field is having good mentors, guides and role models. Once I’m older, I may be seen by any potential mentor as competition. But now, while I’m young, I find that most people either underestimate me or at least don’t feel threatened by me and are more than happy to help. More importantly, now, while I’m young, I have the freedom and time to invest in learning and growing. That willingness to help and possibility to learn is something that I try to take advantage of to the fullest because it is an opportunity that won’t always be around to the same extent.
An Unstoppable Curiosity
Everyone knows that children are uniquely curious, and it is this same curiosity that causes me to ask “why not?” about anything from social norms, to solving complicated problems, to learning new subjects. There’s a reason why one of the most widely accepted and revered teaching methods is the Socratic method, according to which you can stimulate critical thinking and draw out ideas and underlying presumptions by means of asking and answering questions. It’s because questioning is the key to learning. While I may sometimes seem naive for questioning what most “grown-ups” have already accepted, it is precisely this “why not?” approach that allows me to be innovative and creative.
To be clear, in a world full of people asking what the heck I’m doing here, it’s definitely not always easy. I have and will continue to face many challenges, but it’s my unique approach that allows me to use them to my advantage.
That is why perspective is so critical here. The right approach doesn’t just change the way I see the game, but also the way I play the game.
Being young makes me a better entrepreneur because it allows me to be adventurous, bold and disruptive, while knowing that even if things don’t work out, I have succeeded purely because of the experience I gained.
By understanding that, I have managed to rig the game and turn the tables.
Now, you can do the same.