Three Things Old Entrepreneurs Can Do For New Entrepreneurs in a Pandemic

Crises are all the same because they are all different


Eric Schultz

3 years ago | 3 min read

Crises are all the same because they are all different: Something has happened that has never happened before. It’s worse than anyone could anticipate. And there’s no obvious solution—and some people doubt there is any solution at all. We are doomed.

Those criteria define a garden variety crisis, of which the COVID-19 pandemic is a .

If you are a seasoned entrepreneur, perhaps one that is mentoring students in an incubator or influential in your local ecosystem, here are a few simple ideas for steps you can take to make things better.

Be Optimistic

This is not about putting on a happy face. It has nothing to do with “You think this is bad, you should hear about the time. . . .”

Being optimistic is about acknowledging that the crisis is real, that people are hurting, that solutions are elusive—but that we have been here before and overcome every crisis. Every single crisis. We just tend to forget history.

If you are in your 60s, it’s easy to remember the 2008 Great Recession, when the housing market imploded and almost took down the entire global economy. As a country, we have survived nearly 20 significant recessions, plus the Great Depression. The Panic of 1873 lasted five years. Unemployment reached 12% in the Panic of 1893 and 25% in 1933 during the Great Depression.

When I was learning how to drive in 1973, I sat in gas lines thinking we might not have cars at all. War in the Mideast. The OPEC oil embargo. A run on gold at Fort Knox. Five quarters of negative growth and unemployment of 9%. Something called stagflation. And nobody knew what to do or how it would end.

Then there was 9/11. Pearl Harbor and WWII for my parents. WWI for my grandparents. The nation nearly collapsed in the Civil War, nearly ended in the War of 1812.

When AIDS was at its peak in the 1970s and 1980s it was as fearful a pandemic as COVID is today. The Hong Kong Flu in 1968 killed a million people around the world. The year I was born, the Asian Flu was in the midst of killing 2 million. The 1918 Pandemic killed 50 million people

On this kind of a summer day not that long ago, your great-grandparents forbid your grandfather or grandmother from going to the pool because polio was so insidious and so destructive. The 1952 polio epidemic infected 58,000 people—mostly young—and disabled almost half while killing more people than died on 9/11.

And yet, we are still here.

Optimism comes from perspective. Perspective comes from history. For 250 years in America, history has taught optimism. It’s a lesson worth spreading.

Model Perseverance

The defining quality of a successful entrepreneur is supposed to be grit. Perseverance.

Nobody wants to be locked down. Nobody wants to wear masks or miss summer at the beach. But mercy, people--we live in a nation that is about to fail the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. And the price of failure is suffering and death.

If you are an entrepreneur who built your business on perseverance, it’s time now to model that trait., along with kindness and civility. What’s a good thing for entrepreneurial success happens to be a pretty good thing for life as well.

Seek Creation, Not Destruction

When Schumpeter provided entrepreneurs with the notion of “creative destruction,” he emphasized the “creative” part. An entrepreneur’s job in a capitalist society was about innovation that improved the standard of living and quality of life.

Sometime in the 1990s, the cart got way out in front of the horse. Destruction—in the form of disruption—became the guiding principle of entrepreneurship. Everyone wanted to move fast and break things. Blowing stuff up became the end game.

Look around. If you are a disrupter, your work is complete. The pandemic has done it for you. Nothing is as it was.

Now is a good time for older entrepreneurs to help return the creative emphasis to creative destruction. Do this by seeking, mentoring, and backing entrepreneurs innovating ways to build and strengthen community. To heal people. To heal the earth.

Optimism, perseverance, and creation; practice those things and, though I can’t say when or how it will happen, I’ll see you when the pandemic is behind us.

This article was originally published by Eric B. Schultz on medium.


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