It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that career success strikes either early or not at all. The media loves stories about wunderkinds who make their mark (and their fortune) when they’re barely old enough to rent a car. But your career doesn’t stop when you turn 30, or 40, or 50. If you’ve been putting off following your dreams because you think it’s too late to change careers, take inspiration from these famous folks – none of whom were a household name until middle age.
(Photo Credit: LCBGlenn/Flickr)
1. Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you grew up with the Little House on the Prairie series occupying a place of honor on your bookshelf, you might be surprised to discover the real-life Half Pint didn’t publish her first novel until she was 65 years old. Prior to that, Wilder was a teacher, a housewife, and a farmer. It wasn’t until her daughter, journalist Rose Wilder Lane, suggested that she write about her childhood that Wilder started working on her first book. She’d eventually complete 12 fictionalized versions of her pioneer youth, before passing away at the age of 90.
2. Julia Child
Before collaborating on Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her late 40s, Julia Child worked in advertising (where she was once fired for “gross insubordination“) and as a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services, the pre-cursor to the current CIA. At the OSS, she met her husband, Paul Child, married, and transferred to Paris, where she took in interest in French cuisine and studied at the Cordon Bleu. The rest, as they say, is history. Child went on to revolutionize popular cooking, publishing multiple cookbooks and appearing on her own long-running TV show.
3. Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin sat on his theory of evolution for 20 years before finally publishing On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection when he was 50 years old, in part because he feared backlash from the church and society. Already famous for his account of the voyage of the Beagle, the field expedition that informed his writings, Darwin once described the process of writing On the Origin of the Species as “like confessing a murder” – so, slightly more stressful than the usual career change.
4. Ray Kroc
The founder of McDonald’s Corporation once said, “I was an overnight success all right, but 30 years is a long, long night.” Kroc was 52 by the time he took McDonald’s from one, well-run restaurant to a nationwide franchise. Prior to that, he had jobs as a piano player and mixer salesman.
5. Vera Wang
One thing becomes clear when you study the lives of people who made it big: it takes a lot failure to get to success. Beyond that, you can expect a lot of near-misses. Vera Wang, for example, was a talented figure skater who didn’t quite make the U.S. Olympic team and a well-regarded editor for Vogue who was passed over for the editor in chief spot, before frustration with the state of bridal wear led her to design her own gown … and eventually open Vera Wang Bridal House in her 40s, and go on to start her own line.
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