Top 10 Late Bloomers: Why Age Does Not Matter When It Comes to Success

I often hear people say, “Oh, it’s too late for me to change anything.”, or “I always wanted to do this, but I’m too old for it now.” Ironically I hear statements like this from people, who are only 40 or 50 years old! I listen to these sad claims and think, “What are you talking about?! It’s never too late. Not even if you are 90!”

Where does this belief come from? Why do we think that only those who start early have enough time to create anything worthwhile? Who says that if we have not made it by now, it is never going to happen?

I felt the full power of this demotivating belief about two years ago, when I decided to pursue a passion of mine and learn how to play piano. Every time I voiced my decision, I heard the same reply, “Aren’t you too old to learn how to play? If you want to play well, you should start when you are a child.” I was 27 years old and most piano teachers turned me down for the same reason – they only took children under 12 years of age.

It was strange for me to hear how many people actually believe that there is an ‘expiry date’ on our abilities, talents or dreams. Of course, if you start early you have more time to practice. But the time that you spend doing something is not the only important factor when it comes to success.

In most fields, age really does not matter. In fact, it can become one of the most valuable assets you have, as experience often counts more than unschooled talent.

As to my story… I finally found a piano teacher, who believed that you can learn to play at any age and, now, when my friends come over they always ask me to play something for them. It is true that there is still a lot for me to learn and that I probably will not become a world famous piano virtuoso, but, honestly, who cares? I am playing well enough to impress my friends and my family and, more importantly, I enjoy it tremendously!

It is a shame that so many people give up after a certain age, when there is so much still out there just waiting to be discovered!

Here is a list of Top 10 late bloomers, who demonstrated with their accomplishments that one CAN be successful and hit it big at any age:

1. Stan Lee

Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, was 43 when he began drawing his legendary superheroes and his partner Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four. Now Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic figures, appearing in movies, comics, cartoons, coloring books, games, toys, and collectibles.

2. Harlan Sanders

Harlan Sanders, the Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, was 66 when he began to promote his style of cooking and created an empire. It is worth mentioning that as a young man, he worked in a variety of jobs that had nothing to do with cooking – working first as a farmer, then as a steamboat pilot, and later as an insurance salesman.

3. Julia Child

Julia Child changed the way Americans approached food, introducing French cooking to the masses. If you have seen the movie “Julie and Julia” you know that Julia Child did not even learn to cook until she was 40, and she launched her first masterpiece cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking when she was nearly 50.

4. Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli, although he has loved music all of his life, did not start singing opera seriously until the age of 34. Some ‘experts’ told him it was too late to begin.

5. Oscar Swahn

Oscar Swahn proved that even in sports age does not matter as much as desire to succeed. He won a gold medal during 1912 Olympics, becoming the best shooter in the world. He was 64 years old. He went on to compete in two more Olympics, winning silver at the 1920 Olympics. At age 72, he was not only the oldest Olympian ever, but also the oldest medalist.

6. Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson Moses was a happy, long-time embroiderer until arthritis made it too painful and difficult. In 1935, at the age of 75, she first took up a paint brush. Her paintings were discovered in a drugstore window by a prominent collector in 1938, and a New York gallery show led to world-wide fame.

7. Elizabeth Jolley

Elizabeth Jolley had her first novel published at the age of 56. In one year alone she received 39 rejection letters but finally had 15 novels and four short story collections published with great success. She has become one of Australia’s most acclaimed authors.

8. Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown is known as the voice of women’s liberation and a role model for working-class women. But before she became famous and an influential editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, she worked as an advertising copywriter. Her big break did not come until she was 40, when she published her book Sex and the Single Girl. Helen Gurley Brown remained in her job at Cosmopolitan until 1997, when she was seventy-five.

9. Corazon  Aquino

Corazon or “Cory” Aquino, a pious, soft-spoken housewife was in her fifties when she became the leader of the popular movement that overthrew Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy to the islands. She became the first Female President of the Philippines.

10. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas – was a freelance writer, who published her short stories in popular magazines. She wrote her most influential work The Everglades: River of Grass when she was 57 years old. At the age of 78 she started her long fight to protect the Everglades, which she continued until she was 100.

So if you have not made your big break though, do not worry – there is still plenty of time. However, it does not mean that you should postpone your dreams and goals any longer!

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  • http://twitter.com/EvitaOchel Evita Ochel

    Hi Arina

    Awesome list and awesome message. I too hear from people, even various family members, how it is too late to find love, or get healthy or start a new career or this or that, and I think REALLY?

    Why would we limit ourselves in such a way? Why would we sell ourselves so short? Everyday is a chance to do what we love and are called to do. A calendar based number should not dictate how we live out our lives. Sadly for too many it does, thus it is so good of you to share this message to awaken more to the idea that it is truly never too late!

    I would also add Louise Hay to this list, the founder of the famous Hay House Publishing company, which I think she started in her 50′s!

    • Arina

      Thank you, Evita, for taking time to write this comment. I love your thought that “Everyday is a chance to do what we love and are called to do”! It should be on the desktop of any person, no matter how young or old he/she is!

      Louise Hay surely deserves to be among the brightest ‘late bloomers” of our century. If not for her many inspirational books by Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer might not have been published.

  • John Emery

    Arina, Thank you – What a great reminder – and yes its a common belief – a short while ago – at the end of a telephone convrsation I wished the caller a happy day – and the instant reply was "don't be so silly – I'm far too old to be happy!" – more saddening to me was the realisation that he meant it.

  • Ja Siaboc

    great article Arina, thanks much…I will share it with my friends too!

  • Chad Meis

    It is usually in their 40s & 50s that people either reach true success or realize what needs to be done in order to reach true success. I have my own saying, "If you're alive, you are NOT too old". Thank you, Arina.

  • Beatrice Omil

    awesome!

  • Maria

    What a terrific post! Right now my husband and I are learning the art of online marketing after long professional careers. Circumstances have forced us to grow. You can either cave in to adversity or see it as that challenge that just might catapult you into something wonderful. Besides changing directions leaves little room for self-pity!

  • Hari Menon

    Great note!

  • Quietman

    Thanks for this list. I would also like to add Susan Boyle to the list who succeeded in becoming a world famous singer last year at the age of 47. This gives me some hope to achieve my goals (I am 47 too now).

    • Arina

      Great Suggestion, Quietman! I actually cried when I first saw her performance on Britain Got Talent.

    • Male Executive

      oh yes !!! amazing voice

  • Belinda Harman

    I’m 50 years old and I decided to leave my job as a dental nurse which I hated and went to Uni to do a film making course Its going really well and I recently had one of my short films chosen to be screened at the Bafta / Bfi supported national film festival I’m so glad I took the risk to do something I love, Its never too late.

    • Arina

      Thank you for sharing Belinda! Congratulations on your first film! Is it on youtube?

  • Truth seeker

    thanks for the thoughts, but I was a bit disappointed that with a bit of research your list doesn’t really add up, Stan Lee worked in comic books since he was 19, he dreamed of writing well before that, And he had risen through the ranks with many previuous successes before his breakthrough “naturalistic’ style comics in the early 1960′s. It was more the pinicale than the start.

    Julia child began cooking seriously at 35, after a successful career as a writer, and is really most famous for her cook books… still writing.

    Harlen Sanders, cooked for his family from age 6, started his chicken resturaunt when he was 40.

    Maybe age does matter when it comes to sucess

    • Vigocha

      Yep. Oft played trick to massage facts and provide a version that people wish to hear.

      The movie “The Beautiful Mind” on the life of John Nash, takes the cake, the oscar, the grammy, the nobel prize and what not in the Art of Doctoring Facts to suit the public taste.

    • Arina

      Thank you for your contribution, Truth seeker. Your comment has reminded me that every story has two sides. Although, after reading your thoughts I still came to the same conclusion – age does not matter when it comes to success.

      The fact that Harlen Sanders cooked for his family when he was 6 and that he ran a service station at the age 40 was not what had made him successful (you probably know that his business failed some years later). We know Colonel Sanders’ name because at the age of 65, he had the courage to take $105 from his first Social Security check and start over, looking for potential franchisees, who would believe in his idea of a “pressure frying”.

      Second, even if Julia Child started to cook seriously at 35, instead of 40, it was still much later than most people would assume she had to start to make it big.

      My point is, it is never too late to try yourself at something new or follow your passion, whether you do it at 35, 40, 65 or 90.

      I believe that we all have two choices when we read lists like the one above: to get inspiration from other people’s successful stories or to find “excuses” (like family connections, natural talents, luck, etc..) and explain to ourselves why WE can not do the same.

      What are your thoughts?

      Have you ever done something or achieved something, when other people told you it was too late for you to start?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Giovanni-Rain/100003714793919 Giovanni Rain

    Julia Child surely got better with age, thats for sure.

  • operaspider

    thank you so much for this. I’m 26 and have wanted to be an opera singer since I was 11, and I have been in several choirs and been privately trained, however my training has been so nonconsecutive since the late teens (and I’ve gone through so many personal distractions that have lead me astray from my goals as a performer) that I was actually embarrassed to go into private training again, afraid my voice would not ever be what it could have been if I’d not had so many partying years and stayed away from serious vocal studying for so long. I was especially nervous because the voice teacher I’ve signed up with is a professional opera singer and has landed some of my coveted roles in major operas. But my new voice teacher after just 1 lesson said my years of training are still very apparent, and that I have a gift. I’m sticking with it this time. I’m worried because my biggest dream is to play Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera”, which is not only a vocally demanding role but also usually requires one to be a ballerina (I’m not one), and I am afraid that I’m physically too old to ever train my body to do En Pointe dancing, but we’ll see. Either way, my need to express my gratitude for this article is because you listed the fact about Andrea Bocelli- I had no idea that he didn’t sing opera until he was 34! He’s incredible. That completely lifted my mood (and my motivation.) I also once had a voice teacher who told me that he knew a woman who began her professional opera career at 65, and a roommate who told me his cousin began hers age 33. It’s awesome to know I still have a chance. Thank you!

  • Zso

    Hey, I liked your article, but I hoped you’d find at least one pianist td late…
    I don’t know of any sadly (apart from myslef, and I’m not famous, however graduated as a pianis), but I would have taken you up as a student ;)

    • Zso

      *Who started late