How old founders can get excited about their work again

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Have you ever trained in any form of martial arts before? I have. Man, I loved that stuff! I could kick people in the face and get a pat on the back (unlike when I did it in school). But looking back at how I was mentally when I first started is fun to revisit from time to time.

I didn’t care if my belt was tied really weird and stuck out at odd angles. I didn’t care if my uniform was on sideways, inside out, or backwards. I just wanted to train as often as I could and as much as I could. I was so excited to just be in the Dojo; to see everyone hitting, kicking, sparring, yelling, etc. I loved it all! And that was why I ended up being so successful in the martial arts industry – it was my “everything is new, cool and doable” attitude. Today I call that point of view the White belt mentality.

In today’s competitive business environment, this is a crucial aspect to become as successful as possible; maintaining that fresh and new attitude to generate new ideas, concepts, relationships and methods that will ultimately lead to that success. Because doing the alternative will surely lead to failure!

It’s true. I sit with old business owners every week and so many run every aspect of their business the same way they started decades ago. They use the same advertising and marketing. The same old tired sale is approaching. The same clunky methods of collecting money from customers and sending money. And yet they never seem to understand why they are lagging far behind their competition every day because they feel like they’ve mastered their industry and can just “cruise” to success. Here are some simple steps to develop and maintain the White Belt mindset:

Related: Here’s How To Get Excited Again When You’re Bored With Your Business

1. Study your industry

Suppose you started your business 20 years ago: Have there been any changes? Correct! Just look at what has happened over the past two decades to the taxi industry, bookstores, newspapers, etc. To maintain a fresh White Belt mindset, you need to ask yourself what changes have happened and/or are now taking place in your industry. Are your practices, services and products up to date? Are you prepared for the change or is your competition ahead of you?

Often, just looking at your own industry for change can give you a fresh new perspective, which is necessary to get the right mindset. Think of the people who founded Lyft and Uber; they had the White Belt mentality. At first they were laughed at and told it wasn’t possible, but because they had this mentality, they focused on what was possible.

You might not want to flip your industry like Uber does, but here are some easy steps to stay on top of the changes in your industry:

  • Subscribe to a trade magazine (or two)

  • Join an industry networking group (or two)

  • Listen to industry podcasts (a lot)

  • See what new technology is available

  • See what your local competition charges and/or changes

  • See what your local competition has to offer and do it yourself, only better.

2. Hire new blood

Far too often I see small business owners surrounding themselves with like-minded employees. They look the same, talk the same, same generation, same interests, same political affiliation, etc. And if you have the same people in the same positions doing the same things year after year, nothing changes. In other words, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” It’s up to you, the business owner, to make that change.

Remember when you were in your twenties, and the old folks in their 40s, 50s, and 60s were “aged” and didn’t know anything about technology? Too often the older generation has the idea that the younger generation doesn’t know what they are doing and vice versa. Yes, that’s you now. Don’t be THAT business owner. Being the with the White Belt mindset that supports change and growth will yield better results. Here are a few steps you can take to kick-start the workforce transition:

  • Let go of employees who don’t add value to the bottom line

  • Let go of employees who have a negative attitude towards change

  • Provide employees who understand new technology

  • Bring in employees who have energy and enthusiasm

  • Bring in employees who have new ideas on how to make money

  • Bring in your competition’s employees to kick your ass

Related: 6 Ways to Attract Diverse Early Career Talent

3. Kick-start your creative juices

Do you read books or study new subjects? I do, every chance I get. I’m either reading a new book or listening to it in my Audible app while driving. However, when I say this to people, I find myself alone (except for my wife – she reads a lot more than me). According to a 2018 study conducted by the Labor Statistics Bureau, people in the US aged 15-44 spend 10 minutes or less per day reading. And according to a PEW Research Center questionnaire conducted in January-February 2021, 23% of adults in the US had not read a book in whole or in part in the previous year. That’s a lot of people who choose to be educated and informed through social media and TV.

So become a student again. Be curious and learn what’s new in your industry and outside of your industry. What new products are there to sell to add to your bottom line? What new methods of creating products and services are there for you to use? What new software programs are there? Do you still sell products the same way you did 20+ years ago? People have changed and you need to change your approach. So learn new things, be creative and see what you can accomplish with this new energy – this new White Belt mindset. Here are a few ideas for becoming a student again and developing creativity:

  • Take a new personal sales course

  • Read a new book every month (sales, leadership, business, etc.)

  • Join a new network group

  • Take classes or a course at a local college

  • Delegate new program/product development to employees with new ideas

  • Sell ​​your business and find a new industry to get excited about

Related: 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life and Having a Positive Mindset

Pro tip: Making the effort to get that White Belt mentality back into your daily routine is easier said than done. Honestly, depending on where you are, it might not be realistic for you. If you’ve been burned out for several years and hate what you’re doing, then you may need a new company in a new industry. Maybe you need some kind of new challenge to get a fresh look at things. I say this because I was there, with a burnout, before I entered financial services. But I came out of my burnout and found my way back into a White Belt mentality.


Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.