Growing up in Africa, there was a common saying that might have had a profound and damaging impact on people.
The statement “A Fool at 40” often used as a label of a period in one’s life where success or prospect of success is measured, beyond which there is no realistic chance of success if you have not already made it.
This cannot be farther away from the truth.
In fact, in all those years, while this defeatist notion was pervasive, examples of people that set out later in life and made a success of it are abound, call them late bloomers.
Thanks to the Internet and social media that has brought the world closer together, these success stories have been told before, there are literarily a lot of them, and they span every corner of professions, from business, sports, art and media.
There are so many factors that can delay someone’s ability to attain their height earlier in life, some within our control but unknown to us and some are just outside of our control.
Before we list names of late bloomers, let us quickly look at some of those factors
Without a doubt, one of the key roles of parents is to guide their children so they can be a success.
Overbearing parent, however, stretches this role to the point of causing sometimes irreparable damage to a child.
While overbearing parents are in every race, it is particularly problematic in African culture where every child has only one of three career options to choose from: Doctor, Lawyer and Engineer.
Of course, not everyone will be a doctor, lawyer and engineer, but somehow, people who end up with something else are almost viewed as being a failure.
As a result, instead of pursuing or discovering their life goals, they engage in distractive endeavours like acquiring additional degrees to compensate for what they perceived to be an inadequacy in their academic achievement!
LOCATION or GEOGRAPHY:
Discovering or developing one’s talent requires an enabling environment, it goes without saying that you may have the best talent, it may unfortunately not bloom early or at all if you are located in an environment that does not allow you to thrive.
Perhaps, Bill Gate and Mark Zuckerberg, if geographically located in another part of the world, we would not have Microsoft and Facebook today, in the same measure, it is almost certain that there are people of similar ideas in other parts of the world, whose ideas never came to life mainly because of where they are.
The story of big companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter etc has it that they started very small, Steve Jobs starting in his parent’s garage and Mark Zuckerberg in his school dormitory, with no money, just the idea and the belief, yes, these are true, however, the idea and believe only took them so far, they needed money to make a success of their respective projects, this came in form of family support at the initial stages and then investments from others later on.
So, no matter the idea, skill or talent, someone needs to give you a leg up, but never mind, this can come in different shape, lack of money should stop no one, it may contribute to blooming late, but it should not be an absolute dream killer.
Ok, there is nothing that zaps energy from people more than staying in the wrong job!
We spend most of our time at work, more than the time we spend at home and with family.
If this job is a wrong job for you, not only will it drain the life out of you, it can cause a delay in pursuing your actual dream, at the same time put the fear of failure in your mind.
It is also very possible to be successful in a wrong job, just that you would have probably achieved a lot more and be happier with a deep sense of accomplishment if you were in the right one.
Below are 4 people that defied age and previous experience of failure, they might have been helped by one factor or the other, but they emerge to change our world.
Harland Sanders: The KFC founder
Perhaps, the list of late bloomers cannot be completed without talking about Colonel Sanders.
Harland Sanders worked as a railroad labourer, managed companies that offered ferry services and acetylene lamps and run a motel.
It was at the motel where his fried chicken became popular, at the age of 62, in 1952, his recipe gave birth to global franchise giant know as KFC today.
Nick Woodman – Entrepreneur, founder of GoPro
One of the youngest Forbes listed billionaires at 38. Although he founded GoPro which has a phenomenal success, however, he started relatively late going by the average starting age of Silicon Valley geeks, and he has also failed in other two entrepreneurship ventures.
Following the failures of his two previous ventures, he moved back in with his parents from where he had the inspiration to build a prototype and wrote a patent for it.
Speaking of that journey, Woodman wrote;
“as an entrepreneur, it’s this dark forest you’re going through and, you know, there’s scary things in there and you just plow ahead and you come out the other side, and all your friends are there and everybody’s cheering having a great time because you’re achieving your goals. It feels really good.”
VERA WANG: Fashion Designer
Vera started her own fashion brand at the age of 40, even though she has had relative success in her previous professional endeavours.
She was a professional figure skater and narrowly missed a spot in the US skating team to the Olympics.
Worked as a senior fashion editor for Vogue magazine for 15 years, a position she attained within a year of joining Vogue at the age of 23.
She left Vogue magazine to join Ralph Lauren, designing accessories for the brand.
This kick-started her own brand at 40 years of age, today, she is the celebrity designer of note for weddings and award ceremonies.
Wang’s evening wear has been worn by stars at many red carpet events, including Viola Davis at the 2012 Academy Awards, and Sofia Vergara at the 65th Emmy Awards.
She was honoured with the Council of Fashion Designers of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Vera Wang epitomises my point about having success in your job but in fact, it is still a wrong job. She changed profession three times to discover her real talent. She could have remained a journalist at one of world biggest magazines, she could have stayed with Ralph Lauren as an employee or perhaps just retire from Skating and become a commentator!
J.K. Rowling – Writer
Worked at Amnesty International in London, before an English teaching Job in Portugal, followed by a separation from husband, joblessness and a period moving in with the sister.
She went through the life experience you can describe as having your back to the wall.
She went on to write a story so magical that it gathered millions of children under its spell, somehow convincing them to read a series of 500-page long books.
In her own words, at a TED talk address
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me,”
“Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
That big idea was “Harry Potter”, the rest is a story today.
So, perhaps, you still think you cannot pursue a new career, or start all over again, due to circumstances (there will always be that one valid reason you cannot), think again, 60 is the new 40, and 40 is the new 20!