I was reading a book recently which made an interesting argument which twenty-somethings, still worried about making their mark might want to think about. Equally, if you’re middle-aged and have a host of financial and health worries then this is for you too. The argument had three parts
1) Given how long we are likely to live, the average person has a productive life span of up to 80 years. In other words, even if you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve by the time you’re 40, the chances are you still have nearly 40 years to achieve all the great things you want. Even if you’re in your 50s, you can still be extremely successful. After all, Mr. Kroc, the man who founded the world’s most famous multi-national company, McDonald’s, did so in his 50s, and it’s not like he’s that special. He sold paper cups and milkshake makers for many years before setting up McDonald’s, and he did so while also suffering from a host of health problems too.
2) A study of successful people, including prodigies like Mozart, suggests that success is a slow-burning thing. Typically, it takes ten years of hard work to become what others call a “genius” or an “overnight success” In other words, if you want to succeed, start early; there is no shortcut to success. Mozart’s work was so good when he was in his twenties because he started at a very young age. The same rule about ten years of hard work applied to the guys that set up companies like Google. The only reason they achieved success so young was because they were doing computer programming and high-level maths as soon as they could walk, just like Mozart did with his violin. If you are a parent of a young child, and you want your kid to be successful, then help them find the thing they are passionate about and let them get on with it. By the time they are in their twenties, they will have probably achieved a great deal.
3) Success is a combination of persistence and an open and curious mind. After all, it’s doubtful Dan Brown would have recognised that he’d make a much better thriller writer than a songwriter if it weren’t for his willingness to make that mental leap from pursuing his songwriting ambitions to pursuing a career as a thriller writer. Of course, this is only an example – I’ll let you judge the merit of Dan Brown’s literary output for yourself. The point is persistence over many years combined with openness and curiosity leads to success.
So whatever your age, it’s never too late to be successful. The real question is whose success is it anyway? Is it your own idea of success or someone else’s?