Want to Feel Younger? It’s Never Too Late to Try Licensing Your Ideas
Creativity is the key to aging well.
Entrepreneurship can seem like a young person's game. It requires a lot of stamina, there's no doubt about it. But recently it's dawned on me that continuing to be creative is exactly what's keeping me going as I get older. I'm not alone. At the International Home + Housewares trade show in Chicago last month, I was struck by a spry gentleman I met who was easily two decades older than the other inventors around him. As I watched him pitch his invention in front of his booth in the corner of the show dedicated to independent inventors, I had to know: What was he doing there? And why did he look so happy about it?
Isaac Waksul, now 68, retired from developing and producing large-scale corporate events for companies including Apple, American Express, Boeing, FedEx, Palm, IBM, and Disney a few years ago. Before that, he'd studied theater. "I kind of have a philosophy that every 10 years or so, you should really change your occupation," he told me. "You'll bring great experience with you. You'll start working with fresh energy." Today, he continues to do product development, albeit in a different way. Because when he retired, he didn't actually retire: He became a business coach. "I realized I've been innovative all my life," he explained. Inventing appealed to him. Now he has five patents on five products all related to the housewares industry, he said. And he feels younger than ever.
"It's all about excitement -- about having a reason to wake up at 6am in the morning and have something important to do. I remember watching my parents retire. I thought they got old very fast. That's not my motivation; it's my natural tendency to want to do more and more," he explained. "Now that I'm creating new things, and bringing them to market, I'm letting the world have some new products and new ideas -- well, it's making it even more exciting." I couldn't agree more. I feel the same way.
What does Waksul recommend? Remembering to ask why and why not. "Those are questions little children ask. As we grow older, we forget about them. Why is something done this way? Why not? Why isn't it done that way?" These questions give him direction and energy. "You just feel younger again," he said. We need to constantly be asking ourselves these questions, he thinks.
As I near retirement age, friends have started wondering, "Steve, when are you going to slow down?" Not anytime soon! I'm more fired up about my businesses than I ever have been. I'm invigorated. And being creative is at the heart of that. I love being surrounded by creative, entrepreneurial people.
As for Waksul, the show was a great success: He received interest from companies for all of his products. He fielded licensing interest from a company after attending the show for the first time last year, without a booth, but negotiations fell through. He's optimistic. If you're trying to bring entirely new concepts to market like he says he is, "Don't take no for an answer. Don't give up."
If product development inspires you, it's never too late to start bringing your ideas to market. Here are a few tips.
1. Connect with like-minded individuals. There are groups across the country these days. You'll be amazed: Age really does not matter. Peruse online forums. Search Meetup.com for events. Make the most of LinkedIn.
2. Read up. Staying current is imperative at any age. Subscribe to magazines like this one. The same goes for categories you'd like to invent for.
3. Attend a trade show. Maybe you're obsessed with golf. Maybe it's the pet industry that inspires you. Whatever it is: Get out there. At trade shows, the energy is palpable. Everyone's excited. You will be too.
4. Surround yourself with young people. Ask them what they're reading and what new technologies they're using. It's pretty easy to stay connected these days. Join Facebook. Don't shy away from the unfamiliar.
5. Move! Dance. Exercise. If you keep moving your body, your mind will follow.