CBS's 60 Minutes recently aired a wonderful story about people over the age of 90 who are still very active, called "Living To 90 And Beyond." I absolutely loved the piece because it showed how older people can enjoy energetic and productive lifestyles despite their advanced age. Since I am 90 years old, I feel particularly blessed that I am still able to help succeeding generations have a better life through entrepreneurship. After seven decades in the global marketplace, I continue to wheel and deal, and I can think of no better goal than to mentor people of all ages who are ready to work hard and take the risk of pursuing their own dreams.
Society should definitely not underestimate the role seniors currently play in our economy. Last February, testimony at a Senate Special Committee on Aging indicated there are currently 34 million senior entrepreneurs, and this is a number that will continue to grow. A year from now, people aged 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the total U.S. population, and for many of these folks, entrepreneurship will be a vital way to provide income and sustain a meaningful life. As one observer has said, "Potential never ages."
I'd like to share two examples of senior entrepreneurs I recently encountered who are enjoying great careers in their 90s. Dave Lambert came out of retirement to start David's Delicious Chocolates for people like himself who have special dietary needs. He is a self-described "chocoholic" who needs a sugarless alternative to regular chocolate due to his diabetes. His product line has since expanded to include chocolates free of gluten, dairy, various nuts, egg, and soy. As Dave explains on his website, he has had an eventful life. "At age 19, I was flying a C-47 in Europe during WWII flying gasoline to Patton's tanks and flying Holocaust survivors from concentration camps back to civilized countries." He then spent the next 37 years in "mundane jobs" followed by many years in volunteer activities including transporting medical supplies to Cuba and serving four tours in the Israeli army. Obviously, Dave has too much valuable experience and energy to quit working just because he's a nonagenarian.
A second example is the amazingly productive career of Barbara Beskind, a 90-year-old working in the Silicon Valley, "where people over the age of 30 are considered over the hill and out of fresh ideas," according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Barbara served in the Army during World War II as an occupational therapist. She designed braces and other equipment for wounded soldiers and retired as a major in 1966. Since then, she has continued to design and patent new equipment. She now works part time for IDEO, a very innovative company and consults on medical-technology projects. As the WSJ article goes on to explain, Barbara is "currently working on a walker that she says will improve patients' posture thanks to a joint she added at hip-level... And --just like every other designer in the Valley--she has earlier-stage projects that she is not yet ready to talk about."
From a personal standpoint, my good fortune was to be born in the United States with all the opportunities that are available in this great country. I was the second generation of immigrants from Eastern Europe. My father was a part-time waiter and my mother worked in a garment factory. I was raised on the streets of New York and learned to survive in a tough neighborhood. At age 13, I started to work as a delivery boy and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a buck private on my 19th birthday. Three years later I was discharged as a captain after flying 27 hazardous missions in the Pacific. Surviving in an arena where there was a casualty rate of 75% gave me the opportunity to assess my life goals and the courage to pursue them without fear.
When I returned to civilian life, I knew I wanted to be in business for myself and was ready to take whatever risks were necessary. The Army taught me discipline, and my experience as a kid gave me street smarts. As I look back on the last 68 years, I can reflect on a great life with much excitement, enjoyment, and all the trappings of success.
My great passion today is to pass on what I have learned. In all, I founded a dozen companies including Jack Nadel International, which I started 61 years ago in a tiny office and which is now the gold standard for sales promotion and marketing products with 25 offices around the world. After retiring at the age of 70, I wrote seven books, hosted a local television show, and lectured on entrepreneurship at a university and a community college.
Today, leading economists indicate that we are experiencing a dangerous moment: the middle class is shrinking while the wealth of the super rich and the number of very poor grow larger. Our democracy needs a strong middle class to survive. In my opinion, the best way to make this happen is to support new entrepreneurs who will produce more goods and services, create new jobs and pay higher wages.
At 90, my eyesight has diminished and my hands shake, but my memory is sharp. After all these years of being in business, I recognize universal truths that don't change even as technology advances. A year ago, I decided to write a book that would be a crash course on how to succeed in business today, called The Evolution of an Entrepreneur featuring my 50 favorite tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business. In it I describe the Nadel Method, which can prevent the majority of business failures in the first couple of years of a new venture's operation. I am gratified that the book has won several awards since it's launch and is now being used as course material for several community college entrepreneurship classes and business groups. After getting much positive feedback, I have added a video on "How to Succeed in Business" as a supplement to the crash course for entrepreneurs. I've made both the ebook and video available as a set for immediate download and streaming at a cost less than a visit to Starbucks.
Over my nearly 70 years as an entrepreneur, I have sometimes been described as a visionary, but this is really a misnomer. The truth is that I am a tremendous opportunist. I sincerely believe every item of bad news has a flipside, or, as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Every change that happens creates a chance for somebody to succeed, and this simple insight can make all the difference. The United States needs great entrepreneurs of all ages, and great entrepreneurs need the United States and all the dynamic opportunities our country provides.
Jack Nadel is the author of the award-winning book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur: Featuring 50 of My Best Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business" - winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for BEST in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment - part of the popular Ultimate Crash Course for Entrepreneurs set, available on-demand online (www.JackNadel.com). He is the founder and chairman emeritus of Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Jack, founder of more than a dozen companies worldwide, is also the author of other books, including, "There's No Business Like Your Bu$iness, How to Succeed in Business Without Lying, Cheating or Stealing," "Cracking the Global Market," and "My Enemy, My Friend."