50 Years on Earth, 25 Years in Business, 5 Lessons Learned

Today is my 50th birthday.  Please don’t make a fuss over telling me Happy Birthday. This month marks another milestone that’s even more significant than fifty trips around the Sun.  This month marks the completion of 25 years in business.  

In July of 1994 I turned in my resignation letter to Cooper Industries. Remember 1994?  The Internet wasn’t really a thing yet. People still used land lines. (If you’re under 20, you’ll need to Google “land line.”)  Bill Clinton was in his first term as president. That was good for me because when I resigned from corporate it was to comedically portray him.  

I’m (gladly) completely out of political comedy these days. There’ve been several Reinventions and reiterations to pull this self -employment thing off for two and a half decades. I’ve enjoyed success and endured plenty of failures. 

Here are 5 things I’ve learned that you can apply to your own life and business.  Call it my 50th birthday present to YOU! 

  1. Longevity: Short term success is hard, making it last is even harder. After a couple years of struggling and learning the ropes, my act took off. I assumed pulling off the next “act” — whatever business endeavor that was going to be — would be a piece of cake. It wasn’t. Making success last is a function of fortitude and constant adaptation. Any business that sticks around for decades is worthy of respect.

  2. Work is Work:  I’ve been a farmer, factory worker, bartender, landscaper, and sales rep, but the hardest work has been keeping my enterprise afloat for 25 years.  The lesson here: We all earn a living somehow.  Other people’s jobs may not look difficult from your perspective but there’s likely more to it than you understand.  

  3. Edge: Having an edge is good, but being hard edged works against you. I’m hot tempered (less now than I once was) and a scrappy go- getter.  While these traits push me forward, they’ve also held me back.  People don’t always respond well to hard edges and guess what: all businesses deal with people.  

  4. Don’t stop learning, improving, or attempting new endeavors:  Success comes from getting smarter, getting better, and stepping outside your comfort zone. I’ll do things differently the next 25 years but I won’t stop improving, learning, or experimenting. Neither should you. Because stagnation is slow death! 

  5. Make It Count (Life that is):  Because of my little business, other businesses I patronize can exist.  Beyond the flow of money are the audiences.  In 25 years I’ve written books to enrich others. I’ve delivered presentations that may have changed a few lives and businesses.  At the very least, my presentations made another boring meeting memorable. While I haven’t cured cancer, in my own small way I’ve made it count.  Please do the same! 

Damian Mason speaks at meetings throughout North America on the two subjects he knows best: Business and Agriculture. He’s the host and producer of the Do Business Better podcast and The Business of Agriculture podcast.  Damian’s latest book, Do Business Better released this spring.  

Angie Carel