The persistence of late bloomers is seldom celebrated, and these fine folks are often overshadowed by more precocious contemporaries.
Some people mistakenly believe that if they haven’t found their gift by 25 or 35, then perhaps they’re doomed to a life of mediocrity. But a casual glance through history shows us otherwise.
Late bloomers achieve great things — Pulitzer Prizes, best-selling books — that change the course of history. All because they kept trying.
Which makes me wonder: How many late-bloomer success stories do we miss out on because people gave up?
Dare I say most people are late bloomers. Achieving great things early in life is a rarity. But success in the 30s, 40s and beyond is no less great. Perhaps even more admirable when considering the gumption required for carrying on.
Here are a few inspiring tales of late bloomers who didn’t give up.
1. Julia Child
This master of French cooking and subject of the movie Julie and Julia didn’t learn how to cook professionally until her late 30s. Born to a privileged family, Child attended college in hopes of being a writer.
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Early efforts at scoring a byline in prestigious publications like The New Yorker were unsuccessful, and Child eventually found work writing ad copy for a furniture store. Her playful personality — Child was known as a jokester during college — apparently backfired because the company later fired her for “gross insubordination” according to Biography.com.
In 1948, Child and her husband moved to France, where she learned to cook from the masters. That lead to her publishing a book — which was rejected at least once — and appearing on successful television segments to promote it. Her career took off from there.
Child wrote a book, My Life in France, that details how she found her calling. Moral of the story: You don’t have to start young to be a success.
2. Robert Frost
This famous poet, winner of four Pulitzer Prizes, didn’t become well known until he was 40. At 20 years of age, his first poem was published in a New York City-based literary journal.
Over the next few decades, Frost continued to write but faced many life obstacles. Two of his children died, and he and his wife Elinor faced many unsuccessful attempts as they tried to make an income from their farm in New Hampshire.
Eventually, he moved to England on a hunch that publishers there would be more receptive to him. He was right. At 38-years-old, Frost found a publisher for his first book, reports Biography.com.
His most famous poem, The Road Not Taken, catalogues Frosts indecision and difficulty deciding a direction for his career. Moral of the story: When in doubt, keep moving forward.
3. Paul Cezanne
A famous artist, Cezanne was born to a wealthy family and was fortunate enough to enjoy a large inheritance. However, that wealth had strings, and for a time Cezanne attended law school at the urging of his father, who didn’t approve of the artistic path.
Cezanne continued his art studies even during law school and eventually convinced his father to attend school in Paris. Those plans stopped short, however, when the school rejected Cezanne’s application.
The artist’s early work bears little resemblance to his later work, according to Biography.com. Although it had passion and depth, the paintings were largely ridiculed by his contemporaries. Still, Cezanne endured. At one point, he took a 20-year break from public exhibits because of the poor reception he received.
In Cezanne’s 50s, the tides began to turn when several prominent artists, including Monet, urged an art dealer to show his work. Public appreciation grew, but even today, the last three decades of Cezanne’s life — essentially his 40s through 60s — are recognized as his best years. Biography.com says:
“Working slowly and patiently, [Cezanne] transformed the restless power of his earlier years into the structuring of a pictorial language that would go on to impact nearly every radical phase of 20th century art.”
Moral of the story: Sometimes the best work comes after years of fine-tuning skills and working at your craft.
Are you a late bloomer? How do you stay motivated? Share your tips in the comments below!
Image by Christine Majul via Flickr