Have you noticed that even more than success, our society worships achievements made at an early age? Whether it’s the almost daily media updates on Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus (positive or not) or the preponderance of “30 under 30” lists for wealth or business influence, the message seems to be success is best when achieved early on.
But while there’s much to admire about people reaching big goals at a young age, considering that we’re living longer than ever, you have to wonder what the rush is all about. And when you consider that among bold-faced young names, the seemingly well adjusted Mark Zuckerberg is vastly outnumbered by the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Chris Brown, Amanda Bynes et al, holding off on success doesn’t seem such a bad idea.
If you need proof that reaching your prime at a more mature age is possible, consider Grandma Moses, the acclaimed American folk artist who started painting in her 70s, or Alice Munro, the Canadian author who won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature at age 82. The most inspiring late-blooming example for MindBodyGreen, however, may be Ida Herbert, another Canadian, who at 97 holds the Guinness World Record for oldest yoga teacher. She didn’t start teaching until she was in her 70s. As for me, while I excelled in school, it took me a while to find my career groove and it wasn’t until my early 30s that I secured a senior position in my field.
So if you haven’t yet hit your stride, fret not. Here are four reasons it’s good to peak later in life:
1. It’s easier to stay focused.
While I knew deep down that being an editor and writer was my calling, I spent much of my 20s wondering about and trying out other career options. But when I finally committed to journalism, within a half year I landed a great job as a magazine managing editor. The satisfaction I felt in that role compared to previous jobs made it easy to be very focused on work. Within a year and a half I was promoted to editor. In contrast, a former colleague spent her 20s going after her first love, musical theater. But when stage fright made performing more pain than pleasure, she decided to pursue her other passion, writing. She’s been working successfully in magazines for several years now and says entering a publishing program at age 29 was the smartest thing she ever did.
2. Life experience helps job performance.
My husband was educated in Catholic schools and taught by nuns and priests. He’s told me repeatedly that his favorite teachers were ones who’d found their calling later on, citing one priest in particular who was a former marine. Did these latecomers have more natural teaching talent than those who’d discovered their vocations earlier? Perhaps, but more likely their experiences in the “real” world gave them more to draw on to both guide and relate to their students.
3. You enjoy the prize more.
When success is long awaited, it tastes all the sweeter when it arrives. In other words, gratitude, the emotion that spiritual leaders tell us is essential to living a fully conscious life, often becomes part of the late bloomer’s makeup. Sharon Olds, a 71-year-old American poet who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Poetry has said “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.” And actor Robert Duvall, who landed his first film role at 31, as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, has said “I always thought of myself as a later bloomer, so I like some of my work more later than earlier.”
4. You may develop other passions and talents you never knew you had.
During a career transition years ago, I started working out regularly for the first time. What began as a desire to get fit became, unexpectedly, a passion. I have to smile when I think that the girl who dreaded phys ed class is now a woman who’s in the gym or a yoga studio six days a week. My dad, for his part, while athletic as a kid, didn’t discover running until middle age. But he quickly made up for lost time, running his first marathon at age 51 and finishing it in an impressive three hours and 31 minutes.
Is there anything you’ve wanted to pursue but haven’t because you think it’s too late, whether it be a new career, tennis, the tango or painting? Why not check it out? Who knows, you may be this generation’s Grandma (or Grandpa) Moses.
If you haven’t yet realized your dreams, or if they were a long time in coming, I’d love to hear from you.