America has a cultural obsession with early career achievement. It starts in our schools, which promote the primacy of measurable achievement. It’s glorified in the movies and in the books we read. We are supposed to choose a college based on our expected major and pursue specialized skills in order to have stable and rewarding careers. This template for success works for many, but it’s toxic for others. Some people, especially those with great intellectual curiosity, can lose themselves in choosing specific professions over exploration of career paths and passions.
For many, the best template for success is to pursue a wide range of experiences in order to fully nurture diverse talents and predilections that can later coalesce into a unified skill set. If you are somewhere along this path of learning and seeking, don’t feel you need to conform to a standard timetable for success. It pays to peak later on in life as a more fully developed human being. Yes, the tortoise can win in the end!
Here’s why being a late bloomer can be to your long-term advantage:
Neurological science has shown that people become better at decision-making, planning, and keeping things in perspective as they gain in age and life experience. When varied experiences contribute to a person’s development, a person can bring even more of life’s hard-earned wisdom to the table when ideal career opportunity arises. Employers may not always recognize this, so it’s important to be able to sell this benefit of being a late bloomer.
Gratitude is the mother of all virtues and a key to true enjoyment in all that life has to offer. If success comes too soon, it’s hard to fully appreciate. Give a high school student a Mercedes and they’ll never appreciate it like a 50-year old who has always driven a Chevy until that milestone promotion. Talk to anyone who has gone from a one bedroom apartment to living a life of abundance, and they will often tell you it’s journey from one end of the spectrum to another that gives their achievements meaning. They are grateful for the experience of having overcome adversity and in order to earn their current success. Gratitude also develops a more humble, genuine character that will serve you well in your career and in every other aspect of your life.
A New Type of Creativity
It’s a myth that years of living cannibalize creativity. According to recently published scientific findings in the book linked below, “the brain’s right and left hemispheres are connected by a ‘salience network’ that helps us to evaluate novel perceptions from the right side by comparing them to the stored images and patterns on our left side. Thus a child will have greater novel perceptions than a middle-aged adult but will lack the context to turn them into creative insights.” A thoughtful older person will have a lifetime of “experiments” to draw upon.
The Joneses Don’t Matter
Part of the problem in conforming to mainstream expectations is that it sets a pattern of personal expectations and standards. If you feel pressured to have a solid career by 23, get married by 25, own a home by 26, and have kids by 28, it may well be that your own individuality has been suppressed. Conversely, if you decide early on to pursue your own version of happiness, you won’t constantly measure yourself by the attainments of others. You won’t need to keep up with the Joneses. You’ll be able to follow your own path and let the Joneses eat their hearts out as you flourish.
If you would like to further explore this subject, check out Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard.