Anything new starts with you

“One of the the first video lessons I made for teaching is: do you know yourself?”

Anita Leffel has taught entrepreneurship for years now. The teaching part has been with her since graduating college when Anita went to teach English as a Second Language in Israel. When she came back with her husband, they moved to Texas and started a family. She worked mainly as mid-level management at both nonprofits and for profit organizations. She made a jump into teaching at a university and while doing so realized that’s where she really wanted to be. So, she decided it was time to go back to school, and get her PhD.

While Anita was in school, her husband traveled frequently for work. As a result, not only did school take up space on Anita’s plate, so did single parenting and working full time. During this time, her and her husband worked through changing dynamics in their family as kids grew up, with the changing demands on them both professionally. Entrepreneurship hadn’t entered Anita’s world yet.

One day, she tells me, someone called her saying the University of Texas, San Antonio was looking for an entrepreneurship teacher. They didn’t have an entrepreneurship program, and they wanted the class to be theory. Anita, knowing her experience from business and her excitement for teaching figured she’d study the book and go for it.

Three weeks into teaching the class, she’d studied the readings, put the syllabus together, and walked into a class of bored students. She looked at them and said, “I don’t know about you, but I am so bored. Entrepreneurship is not theory. I have an idea. Let’s, as a class, start a business.” And they did.

While technically a class couldn’t make money, Anita knew the hands on experience was exactly what she wanted the class to be about. So, she formed the campus’ chapter of the Kauffman Foundation’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, and her course become the feeder for students who wanted to run the chapter’s business.

As she continued her time in academia, Anita moved into administrative roles before deciding she wanted to not just teach entrepreneurship but really live it. Today, she’s founded Silver Founders Academy where she shares her knowledge and network with other seniors wanting to start businesses.

Even with her familiarity, the entrepreneurship route is not without it’s challenges. She’s had to learn to be the student of her own teaching and to reach out to her former students and son working in a start-up along the way.

One practice she’s embraced is something she calls mindful walking. She pays attention as she goes out to walk, and “when I come back, it’s almost like I’ve taken a nap. I feel so refreshed.” These are the kinds of things she’s identified that are going to help her on this path.

Whether you’re looking to start a side business that can bring in a little extra cash, or just want to bring a greater level of fulfillment into your life, the first question Anita asks (do you know yourself?) is critical.

Your “self-talk, it’s got to all be good,” she tells me.

What’s your self-talk sound like? Find out what’s holding you back when you get your FREE guide “5 Ways to Initiate that First Step”

Kirsten Schowalter is the founder of Aging Courageously and the author of the memoir In My Own Skin.