Intergenerational Inspiration Q&A with Elaine Pofeldt, author of the Million-Dollar, One-Person Business
1) Intergenerational (IG) relationships traditionally focus on people who are “skipped”, non-adjacent generations like grandparents and grandchildren. Have you had someone in your life from a skipped generation who greatly inspired you?
My mentor Byron Kennard, who is one of the founders of Earth Day and a wonderful writer, has inspired me. Now semi-retired, Byron no longer runs the Center for Small Business and the Environment, which he founded, but is an avid writer and is working on a book. He’s someone who has a knack for making things happen.
2) What is something you enjoyed doing with the person? What did you learn from him or her?
When I was thinking about writing a book, Byron insisted on making a weekly appointment to talk through my ideas on the phone and kept me on track with the writing. He’s a very insightful editor and also reminded me of the importance of consistently putting the words to paper. You can always edit later if you’ve gotten the writing started.
3) How has this relationship continued to impact you? Is there something you do or a motto you follow in your personal or professional life that came from that intergenerational connection?
I’ve been honored that Byron has asked me for feedback on his writing. He understands that knowledge can flow both ways between a mentor and mentee.
4) Is there someone in your life now from a younger generation in which you have a special reverse-mentoring relationship? What types of experiences do you share together?
My three daughters, who are ages 12–14 (two are twins) work in my business, helping me with things like website maintenance, social media and running events around my book, The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business. We all use technology differently, and I learn as much from them as they do from me. I hope to recruit my eight-year-old soon, too, someday.
5) Is there a book, movie or piece of art that has reminded you about the importance and power of intergenerational inspiration?
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss has been a tremendous influence for people of all ages whom I’ve interviewed in my reporting on entrepreneurship. It’s 10 years old and continues to come up as a source of inspiration for people of every generation, both older than Tim and younger. Some people have even sent me their notes from the book.
6) How do you promote intergenerational relationships in your family, business or community?
In my work as a freelance journalist, business writer and editor, I’m often on teams that include every generation that’s in the workplace, so without really having to “promote” these types of relationships, they seem to flow naturally from the situation. When I hold panel discussion events around my book — which focus on entrepreneurs who have gotten to $1M in annual revenue in businesses with no formal employees — I try to make them as inclusive as possible by inviting panelists who bring a diversity of life experiences. So far, panelists have ranged in age from their 20s to their late fifties, and I am always looking for new stories of entrepreneurs who have hit this revenue mark in solo businesses and partnerships, a key theme in my reporting. I was very pleased when the host of one of these events, the accounting software provider FreshBooks, opted to offer onsite babysitting, to make it easier for parents to come. It was really nice to have people of all ages under the same roof. In fact, my own children were there with my husband, helping out with the Facebook Live, and my father, a photographer, was there shooting photos with a friend from his photo club. That is typical when I moderate events in the New York City area, where I live. Life is a lot more fun if we don’t have to pretend our families don’t exist, and I hope this approach encourages other people to make their events intergenerational, too.
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