Pic by Jon Tyson

A different kind of startups: a lifetime in preparation

“If I don’t do it now, then when?”

My friends seem worried that I quit my job to start my own business. “Are you crazy?” — they asked — “Why leave the security and comfort of a well-paid senior role at one of the largest marketing firms in Chicago?”

“Why not?”

Don’t wait for the right moment to show up. Create the right moment instead. That has always been my life’s motto.

But I have other reason too. I just turned fifty. If I don’t do it now, then when?

Why Fifty Is the New Black

Nobel physics laureates have made their discoveries, at age 50 (on average) according to this study. It also shows that the peak of their creativity is getting higher every year.

I’m not, by any means, trying to surf the Nobel laureates wave. I simply want to make a point: let’s challenge the entrepreneur stereotype.

Normally, we associate entrepreneurship with youth. That’s because we are more familiar with one side of the creativity spectrum: challenging conventions out of not having the proper expertise. Young people see things with fresh eyes. And ask: “what if?”

Expertise hinders innovation. Once we’ve learned how things work, we stop asking questions.

Doing the same thing over and over is not real experience but just repetition.

When we get past our own expertise, our perspective changes. Learning new things and a rich life experience, increases our ability to combine different elements.

People at age 50 and older, start connecting things that seemed, apparently, unconnected.

I could NOT have started my new company at an earlier age.

I wasn’t prepared to deal with change as I am now. It took me decades of running businesses and experimentation to create the connections. To be ready to help others deal with change.

Entrepreneurs Train To Succeed

“Before you (…) make your next career transition, take your time building the skills you’ll need to do that job well.” — Jeff Goins

Consciously or not, I’ve been preparing my whole life for this new venture. I worked in marketing strategy for many years. I built a reputation, I was good at it and enjoyed doing it too.

But, at some point, I realized it was becoming too easy for me. And I’ve always been comfort-averse.

We are all presented with opportunities to live our dreams. But just a few of us choose to follow them.

Fifteen years ago, I quit my job to start a digital shop. My boss at that time didn’t believe in the potential of digital marketing. So I decided to create my own company. It went well. I actually sold my shop to a global holding group. Afterward, they moved me from Argentina to New York to start a marketing agency from scratch. Then came LA and Chicago.

Experiencing new cities and new cultures stretched my mind and curiosity even more. Once we cross the line, we stop worrying about lines. We fall in love with exploring the world that reveals in front of us.

I kept challenging myself, learning Design Thinking, self-organization, agile, etc. I dove deeper into innovation and the startup community, advising entrepreneurs in Chicago. I learned a lot by leading and transforming several organizational cultures. From the way work is organized, to challenging titles and hierarchies. From rethinking space design experiences, to connecting personal and professional passions at the workplace.

At some point, I became an advisor for many leaders on their personal development journey too.

Inspiring and coaching others to stretch beyond their comfort zone turned into a passion. But I got there thanks to my previous skills and experience. It took me over twenty years to land at the intersection of personal development, innovation and change leadership.

It’s like I’ve been preparing my whole life to become an entrepreneur.

The Impact I Want to Create

“Never in the history of humanity has change happened this fast before. And it will never be this slow again.” — Graeme Wood

Change brings out the best in us when we adapt rather than resist it.

Adaptability has become a competitive advantage. Both in our professional and personal life.

Unfortunately, change can be threatening to many people. Our relationship with transformation is very complex. Most people admire changemakers, yet they have a hard time changing themselves.

Same happens to organizations. They acknowledge change is an imperative. Yet they don’t prepare their teams to become more adaptive.

I’ve conducted several change workshops, interacting with very smart and very senior professionals. And there’s always a recurring theme: organizations don’t provide them with a safe space.

That’s hard for me to swallow.

Psychological safety is key for building a strong team. Yet, instead of feeling safe to experiment and take risks at work, people are asked to leave their souls at home.

I want to change that.

Change Leadership with a Purpose

“Stretch Your Mind, Stretch Your World.” — Liberationist

Unexpected events are always affecting our lives. When a new leader takes charge. Or we experience a family loss. Or when a successful team loses its mojo and starts repeating itself.

And how do we react? We resist change. And that causes suffering.

Change hurts. But it hurts less if you are prepared to deal with it.

That’s the purpose of my new venture. To help people, teams and organizations become change-fit.

Before practicing any competitive sports, we stretch our muscles and warm up. Not just to avoid injuries, but also to make sure we can play at our highest potential. The same is true when confronting change. Our mindsets and behaviors need to stretch. We need to warm up to be at our best.

I made the connections and saw an opportunity. To launch a change leadership school to help people prepare, adapt and thrive in change.

By providing training, coaching and counseling we can bridge the gap between academia and consulting:

  • To prepare teams to outsmart us, not to depend on us (like traditional consultants do).
  • To prioritize real-life projects and experimentation, even over rigid dogma (like many schools do).

Our model is called “Stretch for Change”. Because when you stretch your mind, you stretch the world around you.

You Have Nothing to Lose is a Stupid Advice

The best decisions you make are the ones when you have skin in the game. It’s easy to take risks when you are just getting started. The notion of not having “anything to lose” is foolish.

As the saying goes: “No pain, no gain.”

If you are not willing to take risks or make sacrifices in life it is because you are not truly committed to your goal. Sorry.

Stretching for Change Starts at Home

“Opportunities are external. Limitations lie within you” — things I say to myself

People fear change. I’m not saying I don’t. Quitting my job wasn’t an easy decision. I don’t want to present a heroified version of myself. I am scared as hell.

But my biggest fear is getting stuck, not living to my full potential.

Here are some strategies I put in place to deal with my own fear of change.

I’m fully committed to making it happen. Those who know me well are clear of my drive. I never want to be half-pregnant. When I jump, I do it with conviction. I finish what I start.

I prepared in advance. I spent every free moment at night or during the weekends to prototype and experiment with what my offering would be like. I did a lot of research to strengthen my model. I wrote a book that captures my change leadership approach. Basically, I invested hundreds of personal hours to this project, even before I launched it.

I eliminated the pressure to earn money quickly. I wanted to avoid making wrong decisions like working with a client or project that are not the right fit. Last year, I sold my house and moved to a smaller one. I also cut dramatically my costs and lifestyle. In order to jump, you have to crouch first.

Good to know that my kid has my back 🙂

I’m sharing the journey with my family. My wife has been a tremendous supporter and inspiration. As she has always been every time I took a leap. I shared with my kids what I was about to do but, most importantly, the why behind it. Instead of providing your kids with money for their education, provide them with something more important: to inspire them to be authentic, to pursue their dreams.

I don’t expect the journey to be linear. I’ve been lost many times before. And was scared too. But I kept trying. I’m ready to hit the wall again. Success is all about showing up and bouncing back. Success happens to the resilient. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, to trust myself. When I look back, everything has fallen in the right place.

I regained the value of freedom. We live in a free world yet we are constantly being held hostage by material things or corporate rules. I want to feel free to do –with my team- our best work possible. No corporate policies dictating what we can or can’t tell a client. No quarterly earnings pressure to sell more that we can actually deliver.

“I’m Italian. We measure things in generations, not quarters.” — Giacomo Guilizzoni

I’m 50, but I still have a learner’s mindset. I’m driven by two questions: “What if?” and “What can I do better?”

That’s the liberating part of my new career move.

That’s why I named my change leadership school, Liberationist. To unleash people’s true potential. So that they thrive in change.

I don’t know you. But I’m convinced that 50 is the perfect age to become an entrepreneur. Now more than ever.

Before You Go

If you are interested to learn more about our Change Leadership School, go here: http://liberationist.org or follow our Medium publication: Stretch for Change for thoughts on Leadership, Innovation and Culture Transformation.

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