As a society, we tend to focus on prodigies, the young stars in their fields. But looking at the people at the opposite end of the timeline offers lessons that can benefit us all.

When looking at people who succeed later in life, the message is a simple one: Your chance of success has little to do with age, it’s shaped by your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.

Ray Kroc joined the McDonald’s franchise at 53; Nelson Mandela emerged after 27 years in jail to become president at 76; Julia Child was 50 when she hosted her first TV show.

These late-in-life successes had something in common besides tenacity. They were also stubbornly creativity.

Successful people engage in projects after projects. They don’t just count their winnings; they buy more lottery tickets. They keep producing. People like Shakespeare, Edison, and Einstein are not remembered for a single work of theirs that changed everything. They tower over their fields thanks to their willingness to test their luck repeatedly.

Stubborn creativity, combined with tenacity, not only gives our lives their essential meaning, but it also provides the secret to career-long success.


Inspired by: TED - What can we learn from people who succeed later in life? By Albert-László Barabási