I enjoyed this piece by Rodney Brooks in USA Today exploring a number of Baby Boomer reinventions. He looks at people who decide to write and publish books, people who turn their talents to helping others (Benefactors), and people who start their own businesses (CEOwners).
Although writing a book is no easier than it ever was, getting one published certainly is. Technology has torn down the gates and made the former gatekeepers all but obsolete. What used to be called “vanity publishing” is now “self-publishing,” with none of the stigma that term used to carry and less cost. (Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, outlines everything you have to know to publish the book you’ve always wanted to write.) It all comes down to marketing, though. Most things do. Expect Baby Boomers to write and publish books by the millions. And why shouldn’t they?
Brooks makes room for Marc Freedman’s Encore careers pitch, which I’ve covered in earlier posts. That’s Encore careers with a capital “E” – people working in “socially beneficial” endeavors. He includes a fascinating example of a genuine social entrepreneur. Freedman predicts a tsunami of such middle-agers who strive to do well by doing good. The more the merrier.
In fact, according to an AARP Senior VP quoted in the article, about half of the 76 million Boomers over 50 are interested in having their own businesses, socially responsible or otherwise. That surge can’t be entirely related to the weak economy and pre-retirees’ need for more retirement income.
Lots of people just want a chance to be their own boss or to try for the entrepreneurial grand prize – a successful business with a big payday at the end. Still, a little caution is in order. “Following your passion” as they say (and it seems like someone says it about every ten minutes), isn’t always the best way to launch a business – or write a book, for that matter. There’s much more to it than that. We’re probably about to see the market flooded with mediocre books and struggling new businesses. But that’s not the point.
What’s important is this: you can’t win if you don’t play. And most Boomers have always seen themselves as players. For many it’s all about staying in the game.