Don’t let age stop you

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I’ve been reading Bank on it by Anne Boden, the founder of Starling Bank, an online-only bank. 

When I read books like this I reflect on what I’m learning from the book by writing about them. So, over the next couple of days, I will be sharing my lessons from Anne with you. I hope you will bear with me.

So, what’s this thing about not letting age stop you?

To be precise, if you have a dream, vision or a goal don’t let your age stop you from giving it a go.

I will back up my point with a statement from Anne:

“Oh, and there was one other, crucial elephant in the room: I was a fifty-four-year-old woman. In a sector dominated by younger men, a female entrepreneur in fintech is a rarity. In the UK, just 1 per cent of venture capital funding goes to all-female-founded teams and that figure remains stubbornly stagnant year after year. In Switzerland, which has been named the ‘most equal country in Europe’, companies led by women still only get just over 22 per cent of available funds. Hardly surprisingly, many women self-select out of the IT sector because of its astonishing lack of gender diversity.”

Ignoring the bit about women and diversity which is very important and should be talked about but is not my focus in this write-up, let’s talk about a 54-year-old woman. One with experience from the traditional banking industry trying to start a fintech start-up which would typically be seen as more appropriate for younger men with tech backgrounds. 

Most people in Anne’s position would not even think about the idea. But Anne did. Not only did she think about the idea. She pursued it, suffered a lot along the way, and in the end launched Starling Bank. This made her a pioneer in the fintech and banking industry for starting one of the first online-only banks.

Now, there are a couple of online-only banks around but when Anne started, there were none in the UK. She had no template to follow and had to build everything from the ground up.

That says a lot about the type of person Anne is but it also is an encouragement to all of us. Whether you are old or young (whatever that is) don’t let age stop you from trying out that dream and don’t let anyone use your age to discriminate against you. 

Sometimes the best way to prove people wrong is to go on and do what they said you can’t do. Just ask Anne. Actually, you may not be able to ask her. Just Google Starling Bank. That’s all the proof you need that age should not stop you.

Business Insights From Play Nice But Win by Michael Dell #2

TO GROW BE CURIOUS

Play Nice But WinMichael’s first computer was the Apple II. It had cost a fortune at $1298 which he paid for out of his savings. When the computer was delivered by UPS, his dad drove him to pick it up at a local warehouse where it was held up.

When Michael got home with the computer, he did something almost unbelievable considering it’s steep price. He took it to his bedroom, unboxed it and then took the computer about. Not surprisingly, his parents were furious.

Michael’s rationale for doing that? How could you understand the computer if you didn’t take it apart? By taking the computer apart Michael got to understand it’s open architecture and other things you could do with the computer such as reprograming it.

This obviously wasn’t the first time Michael was taking things apart and it would not be the last. That process of taking things apart and seeking to understand what they could do helped him develop a deeper understanding of how computers work and what you could do with them. Hence, he was able to start a very profitable business at a young age taking IBM computers apart, customising them to make them more efficient and selling them. This of course was the foundation of Dell as a business.

Michael’s strategy at that time was to customise existing computers and sell them directly to people and it became the foundational strategy for which Dell Computers became known by selling directly to consumers instead of selling through retail stores.

Michael’s curiosity helped him to learn things that others could not learn and build products that were highly profitable.

PERSONAL LESSONS

  • Curiosity is a key learning behaviour. It will cause you to ask questions, try different things and sometimes take risks with the aim of further developing your understanding of the way things work. By being curious you are guaranteed to keep moving forward because you will keep learning. Lack of curiosity will keep you stuck and stagnant.
  • No matter how old you are, don’t lose your curiosity. Keep asking, keeping taking things apart and keep learning.
  • Use your curiosity to understand things better so you can build new products and better services. If you see things the same way all the time, you will keep on producing the same things. But if you seek to see things differently, you will produce different things.