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Business at the different stages of life...
Wow, great question!
We started Sowpub when I was a little over 30, and now I'm almost 50 (!)... I've learned a lot along the way on this awesome adventure!
Some of the best advice I ever got was from you... Which was to get sales experience. If someone was starting out, and didn't have sales experience yet, I'd give them the same advice! (All businesses need to make sales, no matter what the business is...)
I ended up getting a job cold-calling people out of a phone book (!) to sell them hugely discounted comedy tickets. The whole reason my employer did that was because, the whole night seems funnier if the comedy club is full (laughter is contagious). So they'd sell discounted comedy club tickets to make sure the venue was full every night. The only way to get the discounted tickets was if we called you at random. If you wanted to buy a ticket, and we didn't call you, you'd pay full price...
Anyway, it was a great experience! I ended up doing pretty well (compared to my colleagues)... They wanted to even make me a manager of the sales team. I turned it down (because I was there for the sales experience - if I was managing the sales team, I wouldn't be selling any more).
I've used the skills I developed so many times since then... Not only when selling, but even when just meeting people. I'm a lot more comfortable talking to strangers than I was before. I believe it's made a big difference in my life, and opened up many doors...!
I think it's good advice for any age, for those without that experience. Even a few months of sales experience can make a big difference...
As for different stages of life, as you said, Gordon, I think when you're younger, you have a bit more freedom to explore. As you get older, you may have a partner, who you also have to please. You may have kids, who you have to feed. All these things limit your choices, and you have to go for the money...
At a later stage in life, it's hard to decide what to do. Here's a method I developed, which might be helpful in deciding...
I ask myself, of each potential opportunity...
* What is the minimum amound of money I need to make? What is the likelihood that I'll make this minimum amount, doing this business?
* What is the amount I'm highly likely to make doing this? (Not if pie-in-the-sky miracles happen, but try to be more realistic.)
I think how you answer the first question will differ depending on your "stage" in life...
When you're younger, you might be happier "shooting for the moon" - making very little money at the start, living off of instant noodles, while you go for a long-shot startup...
If you're older, your answers might lead you to go for something more solid. Maybe a service business of some kind, where it's easier to get the work. (Consulting can be lucrative.)
After this, I'd start looking at - what is the demand for what you're planning to do? Is there a "toll position" you can get for what you're planning to do?
That's my (a bit lengthy) answer...