Some people believe that entrepreneurship is mostly a young person's game. But there are both stories and science to suggest that's nonsense. Not only do plenty of examples exist of people starting super successful companies well into their 40s and 50s, but research also shows that while our approach to creativity might shift as we get older, we don't get less innovative overall. 

What about the argument that people simply aren't as sharp mentally once they reach middle age? Is it true our minds slow down as the years pass? A massive new study looking at data on more than a million people offers good news to those that worry their brains might not be up to the same challenges after they start sprouting their first gray hairs. 

Your brain stays sharp longer than you think. 

Most of us have observed in our own lives that the pace of our thinking isn't quite the same when we're 40 as when we're 20. Decisions that would have once been made in a moment now require more deliberation. We puzzle and ponder more. Does that mean our brains are slower than they used to be? 

Nope, suggests the new study out of the Heidelberg University in Germany that was recently published in Nature Human Behaviour. For the study researchers asked more than one million participants ages 10 to 80 to complete online tasks that measured the speed of various aspects of decision making, as well as the overall time it took to reach a conclusion. 

Previous research with similar tasks suggested people's minds get slower with age, but that's not what this extremely large study showed. 

Using machine learning to analyze the data they found that those deeper into adulthood did take longer to reach decisions on average, but not because their brains were slower at recognizing or processing relevant information. Older folks took more time to decide because they were less willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed (they were also a bit slower at physically pushing buttons to record their answers). In short, as we climb toward our 60s we grow more cautious (and creakier), but our brains remain as fast as ever. 

"Our finding is encouraging, as our results show that average levels in mental speed in contexts demanding fast and forced decisions do not decline until relatively late in the lifespan," Mischa von Krause, the study's first author, commented

Thinking differently, not more slowly

Whether or not a willingness to be reckless about consequences and play fast and loose with accuracy is a good trait for entrepreneurship is a matter of opinion. Real-life examples like the unintended consequences of Facebook's original "move fast and break things" motto on our society and democracy certainly suggests the gung-ho youthful approach has some serious downsides.

But whatever your model of ideal entrepreneurial character, one thing now seems pretty certain. The way we think about problems changes with experience. But the speed at which we think about them doesn't tend to slow down until we reach our 60s. So don't let worries about mental sharpness keep you from pursuing your dreams, be they entrepreneurial or otherwise.