Starting Up in Your 40s.

Starting Up in Your 40s

The Pitfall to Avoid When You are Founding a Startup in Your 40s.

Turning 40 is a major milestone for most of us; both in our personal and also our professional lives. For those who had crossed the mark, you would likely to have achieved some of the more essential goals in life. Some of the are;
You are married or has been in long term relationship to know that relationship built on physical attractions will be difficult to stand the test of time.
You value trust above all else. You guard it like a jealous spouse and give it with the utmost care of an infant.
You are a parent. Raising children is one of the highlights of life itself and it is a life-long commitment.
Professionally, you would have about 15 to 20 years of work experience under your belt. You are also likely to be seen as a Subject Matter Expert in your field of choice.

It is also during this transitional period, you would be questioning your values and the difference that you would want to make as a citizen of the world. Your questions would subsequently lead to what can you change in your career to achieve that goal; of making a difference.

Why 40 Is The Turning Point?

Donald Super, a renowned career psychologist, advocated and emphasized the development of “self-concept” in one’s career development. Self-concept in layman term would be “understanding of oneself”. Do you know the real you?
It’s Super’s belief that people seek career satisfaction through work roles in which they can express themselves and further implement and develop their self-concept. (Careers.Gov.Nz , 2019)

Therefore, career development is a life long process which is developed in tandem with one’s life experiences. And at the age 40, Super would expect you to be experiencing Stage 3 of his “ 5 Life & Career Development Stages Theory” (You can read more about the theory here). Essentially Stage 3 is named as Establishment and is purported to be from the age of 35 to 44 years old. At the age of 40, you would be deemed to be in the late adulthood of the Establishment stage; you would want to do what you had always wanted to do.
In most cases, most of us who are turning 40 will choose startup as an option but sadly, without being prescient to the pitfall that is ahead. Writing from experience as an entrepreneur and an angel investor, this writer hopes to enlighten the brave hearts who are about to plunge into the stormy world of startup.

The Pitfall: Ignoring Your Emotions

What many wouldn’t realize is, when you drop the title of the Fortune 500 behind your name, you will be not be accorded the same treatment as before. This has nothing to do with your abilities, your values or your experiences but is just how the world of work functions today. More recognition is given to the Fortune 500, which you had work for, rather than the work that you do in the Fortune 500.
This struck a lot of corporate high performers when they venture out on their own. Their emails or phone calls would no longer command the priority they used to enjoy and old clients or vendors will cast doubtful eyes on their fledgling startup. Undoubtedly, their emotional well-being will suffer and subsequently their self-confidence as well.

Secondly, do not underestimate, the perks that you have been enjoying while you are with the Fortune 500. The business class travels, the five or six stars hotel accommodation and the VIP treatment that you have enjoyed when you were with the Fortune 500 must not be discounted. Ask yourself if that is something that you can’t do away with? If yes, then it would be better to smother the startup fire while it is still a kindle. This writer has seen many startup founders who were always reminiscing the good old days and would fall into frustration when they can’t replicate similar experiences with their startup.

Last but not least, the emotional well being of your family; especially that of your spouse. Often when this writer was asked to speak on entrepreneurship and startups in universities; a frequently asked question would be,” What is the single one most critical advice you can give us to take away?” This writer has been and will continue to provide the same answer, which is, “please ask your partner or your spouse for permission first.” Permission here would be for their approval to put them through the emotional roller coaster ride and for them to continue to support you, emotionally when the tough times come. If you don’t remember anything of the above, do remember this one last pitfall, as your success and your ability to pick yourself up when the first startup fails, depends entirely on it.


Yong and Lee. 2019. Department of Startup: Why Every Fortune 500 Should Have One. Business Expert Press. New York
Careers New Zealand. 2019. “Donald Super Developmental self-concept.” available at
Ivan Yong is an organizational psychologist, engineer, author, and startup angel investor. He is also the Founding Vice President of Solidarity (Social Projects) for the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, Asia, a member of the Hong Kong Society of Economists and a published author with the book titled, “Department of Startup: Why Every Fortune 500 Needs One” by BEP New York. Last but not least, he is a big fan of history and a polyglot, fluent in 5 languages.