Do you ever feel it’s too late for you? I know I do! I look at the success of people I know and think, “Will I ever find that?” I am 44. I work with clients in their 60’s and 70’s that are too disabled to enjoy life any more. Some of them barely have 20 years on me. It is too easy to feel like it's too late. Luckily I know lots of people who got started late in life. Many of my clients have had second acts, late life changes in career. Some of them met huge success with their late life change. I think the older you get the greater your chances of making it. Must be all that experience.
I look at people like Casey Neistat, who seemed to hit the ground running in his 20’s. Look at this young guy’s success. That’s never going to be me! But, maybe that’s ok. Maybe, for me, starting later is what will work. When I was in high school I hated sports. I used to get notes from my parents excusing me from PE. Now, I get up at 5:00am just to lift weights every morning. I run 35 miles a week. I have backpacked some of the most arduous trails in the world. I am training to swim in an open ocean race. I am a late bloomer when it comes to sports.
I loved watching the TV cook, Julia Child. Julia did not know how to cook until she was in her mid thirties. Really! She had just moved to France with her husband. She didn’t speak French and was at a loss over what to do with herself. She had tried writing but realized it wasn’t for her. It wasn’t until she enrolled in the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school that she discovered her passion in cooking. She was 36. But even then it took hard work. After 10 years, she published her now famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She was 51 when she started filming her PBS show, “The French Chef.” I learned to love cooking from watching her show. Her books sit on my cooking bookshelf.
Ray Kroc spent 17 long years as a paper cup salesman. Then he spent another 17 years selling a machine that could make 5 milkshakes at once. This machine, called The Multimixer, was meant to service large drug store soda fountains. But Ray realized that small hamburger restaurants might also be interested in the invention. The idea appealed to Maurice and Richard McDonald, who owned a few hamburger joints in California and Arizona. They bought 10 machines from Kroc, who went to visit the restaurants himself. Ray was impressed by their low priced and simple menu. He suggested the brothers could make more money franchising their business. They were interested but lacked the know-how. Ray Kroc volunteered himself for the job. He was 52 and had diabetes and arthritis. Within a few years, he bought out the brothers' share in the business. By 1963, the company sold its one billionth burger. Ray ran the conglomerate until his death at 82.
Charles Bukowski was 49 years old before he decided to finally make a career of writing. Before that he had worked at the post office, served a short prison sentence for draft evasion, married, divorced, and fathered a child. He was not in good health and his chronic bleeding ulcers were made worse by his alcoholism. He published his first successful novel, Post Office, in 1971 and went on to write 5 more novels and many poetry collections before his death at the age of 74. He became one of the great American writers.
There are lots of folks that became writers and painters in their waning years. Grandma Moses and Laura Ingles Wilder got very late starts. Frank McCourt is the author of the book Angela’s Ashes. He worked for over 30 years teaching English and writing in the New York university system. He finally got around to telling about his own life in his 60s and published his Pulitzer Prize winning novel at 66.
I had a patient that lost everything, and I mean everything. He told me how he and his wife survived Auschwitz. It was the most awful thing I have ever heard. It took him two hours to tell me the whole story. His tale was the kind of thing that movies are made from. He had gone into the camp with a wife and three young children. He emerged a broken 27 year old man. He was sent to a re-integration camp in the US. He was taught a trade, tailoring. He borrowed money from a Jewish organization and founded a tailor shop in Philly. He married another survivor and together they had 2 children. His business was successful and his boys both became brain surgeons. He had started completely from scratch at 30. If he can do that, so can I and so can you.
We never give ourselves enough credit. We all have so much potential. True, many of us waste our abilities on jobs we hate, television, and alcohol. I feel I have wasted years toiling away at things that did not bring me any satisfaction. But it's really not too late! A writer can work until the day he or she dies. So can a painter or artist. I have known people that ran their own businesses until they were 90. I had one patient that owned a car dealership and successfully managed it until he was 100.
We all have to go under the assumption that we have a few years left. To think anything different will only result in us giving up. Time is the one thing we should never waste. There is time! It's not too late.