Every day, Americans wake up to frightening headlines from all across the globe. Warring factions of terrorist groups, especially in the Middle East and Africa, show no signs of desiring peace, and the threat of nuclear attack is ever present. Undoubtedly, America's military will have some long-term role to play in these conflicts, even if we limit the number of our troops on the ground. This, in turn, means there will be a steady stream of veterans returning from active duty for the foreseeable future. In fact, over a million men and women will be returning to civilian life in the next few years, and there is much we can do to honor, empower and support them.
One way is to guide their civilian transition toward entrepreneurial careers. Military training instills valuable attitudes and team building skills that can be directly applied to starting and sustaining a successful business. Next week (November 2-6), the National Veterans Small Business Week, sponsored by the Small Business Administration, will host over 50 events around the country to assist veterans who want to pursue entrepreneurship. This "Boots to Business" initiative will help these young men and women to strategically define their business concepts and introduce the many mentors and resources available to them through the SBA. It will also be a time when more people talk about entrepreneurship--a national conversation that should last well beyond this time frame, and here's why:
Entrepreneurship brings more resolve to our economy and to individuals.
I firmly believe that economic problems are a root cause for the world's upheaval and that good jobs are the solution. Job creation, of course, means more entrepreneurs will be needed, and I think the American economy can be a source of inspiration and validation for the rest of the world.
Entrepreneurship promotes peace.
Let's face it, there are few terrorist attacks that emanate from countries where people have good jobs and are well educated. Most observers would agree that the greater the number of successful entrepreneurs, the greater the economic security for everyone concerned. In a TED talk earlier this year, Somali native and human rights advocate Mohamed A. Ali spoke about "The Link Between Unemployment and Terrorism" and how entrepreneurship promotes peace. In addition to providing an alternative to terrorism, more entrepreneurs creating improved goods and services will certainly reduce the need for foreign aid as countries become more self sufficient and less affected by business cycles.
Entrepreneurship opportunities abound.
Since the end of World War II, the global marketplace has undergone dramatic changes, and I believe there are now more opportunities for entrepreneurs in this new century than ever before. At age 92, I know this firsthand because I have personally witnessed these changes while operating more than a dozen successful businesses around the globe in ever-changing conditions throughout the decades, all the while maintaining sustainable success. (And Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines also seem to think that my advice is worth featuring).
I wrote my last book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur," as a crash course in business. At the same time it also recounts my life as a veteran turned international entrepreneur. After flying 27 combat missions over Japan, I came home determined to be my own boss and start my own business. The book reveals the successes and setbacks, the disappointments and the many joys of being an entrepreneur. I think veteran entrepreneurs, aka "vetrepreneurs," and fellow Americans alike can relate to my journey. Mine is truly an American Dream story since I started with nothing. My goal now is to help the next generation start new businesses that will create better products and services and generate new jobs and wealth.
Entrepreneurship education should be affordable and accessible to all.
A great percentage of Americans have to go through a number of changes in order to achieve the results they are looking for--that much is clear. And it starts with how we advise people to educate themselves. I am convinced you do not need four years of college and an MBA degree to be successful or start a prosperous business (and I'm certainly not alone). I am a reflection of how hard work and perseverance, critical thinking skills and a dedication to learning, self-motivation, discipline, an ability to take on risk, manage stress and build a team around me are the real attributes needed. These attributes can be taught, but they should only be taught by those with hands-on experience. The road to success is constantly changing, and those who have charted a path to prosperity are better equipped to advise. Resolving real problems requires both experience and creative thinking. Many companies and businesses have collapsed in this new economy, and those that succeed need to maintain a laser focus and be ready to make changes on the fly, take initiative, and calculate risk. This is where military training gives veterans a big advantage.
These days, a good deal of instruction occurs online and on demand 24/7. Course work is now accessible on all devices both big and small to fit the schedules and accommodations of individuals trying to advance their professional development. I have written several columns here on the Huffington Post addressing these very ideas. More than ever, well-known schools are making greater numbers of their courses available online, but even more importantly, the market continues to create and support more flexible ways of teaching with digital learning platforms using methods and modalities harnessing available technology. With this in mind even at my advanced age, I have continued to create accessible and valuable materials to share what I've learned from my career for the next generation.
The American Dream through entrepreneurship is still alive and well.
My life is a testament to the idea that anyone can take steps toward bettering themselves financially in this country, as there are countless resources, either free or low-cost, ready for the taking. I started my life on the streets of New York with a population whose desire was to assimilate into the American lifestyle. My grandparents were attracted by the stories of money in the streets. They quickly found out that there was no money in the streets, but they did find something just as important: unlimited opportunities for those with great ideas and a willingness to work hard. I am an all-American opportunist, and that is backed by the fact that I have been able to found, acquire, and operate a number of companies around the world that have been successful. The key has been to respond to the opportunities of today with today's methods.
I'm pleased to announce that I have joined forces with an organization that not only supports veterans with their outstanding "1 for 1 HandUp" program providing free entrepreneurship training to veterans, active duty and even military spouses, they understand and are creating today's effective and desired learning methods for this generation and the next. My articles in the Huffington Post attracted the attention of Thrive15, an educational learning resource that is now teaching entrepreneurship online and on demand, by mentors who have proven track records as business professionals. I have for many years maintained that the most effective instruction a newbie can get is from someone who has been there, done that and achieved long-term success.
Helping aspiring entrepreneurs helps us all.
Looking towards new and accessible learning materials will give more people their best shot with not only a more affordable and accommodating means of educating themselves, but it will also place a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ahead, rather than a pile of student debt. There is one other dazzling side effect to revising our educational methods and supporting all entrepreneurs.
In our search for peace, the truth is that people who achieve in the global marketplace and trade with each other do not fight. Economic development helps us all, and entrepreneurs are our army toward peace and prosperity. Let us do all we can to help our returning veterans and give them a second opportunity to serve their country.
Jack Nadel is a 92-year-old Hall of Fame Entrepreneur, decorated veteran of World War II, and author of the award-winning book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur: Featuring 50 of My Best Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business" - winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for BEST in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment - part of the inspiring and low-cost e-book and streaming video set for entrepreneurs, available on demand (www.JackNadel.com). He is the founder and chairman emeritus of Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Jack is also a Thrive15.com featured mentor with more than 16 courses derived from his remarkable entrepreneurial insights.