Is it Too Late for you?

Someone on Quora said that they were in their early 20s and felt that they’d wasted a lot of time – was it too late late?

Here’s Marcus Geduld’s answer:

Too late for what?

If you slept through your 26th birthday, it’s too late for you to experience that. It’s too late for you to watch “LOST” in its premiere broadcast. (Though, honestly, you didn’t miss much.) It’s too late for you to fight in the Vietnam War. It’s too late for you to go through puberty or attend nursery school. It’s [might be] too late for you to learn a second language as proficiently as a native speaker. It’s probably too late for you to be breastfed.

It’s not too late for you to fall in love.

It’s not too late for you to have kids.

It’s not too late for you to embark on an exciting career or series of careers.

It’s not too late for you to read the complete works of Shakespeare; learn how to program computers; learn to dance; travel around the world; go to therapy; become an accomplished cook; sky dive; develop an appreciation for jazz; write a novel; get an advanced degree; save for your old age; read “In Search of Lost Time”; become a Christian, then an atheist, then a Scientologist; break a few bones; learn how to fix a toilet; develop a six-pack …

Honestly, I’m 47, and I’ll say this to you, whippersnapper: you’re a fucking kid, so get over yourself. I’m a fucking kid, too. I’m almost twice your age, and I’m just getting started! My dad is in his 80s, and he wrote two books last year.

You don’t get to use age as an excuse. Get off your ass!

Also, learn about what economists call “sunk costs.” If I give someone $100 on Monday, and he spends $50 on candy, he’ll probably regret that purchase on Tuesday. In a way, he’ll still think of himself as a guy with $100—half of which is wasted.

What he really is is a guy with $50, just as he would be if I’d handed him a fifty-dollar bill. A sunk cost from yesterday should not be part of today’s equation. What he should be thinking is this: “What should I do with my $50?”

What you are isn’t a person who has wasted 27 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them?

 

James Altucher gave a lot of examples of people who succeeded very late into their lives [I haven’t fact checked it, but it seems legit]:

When I was 27 I had yet to do (or even start) anything or any path that eventually led to future successes. I had not started any companies. I later started over 10. I had not written any published books. I later published 10 and have another 5 this year. I had yet to be asked my opinion on anything important. I had yet to date someone I loved. I had yet to have kids. I had yet to travel to many of the countries I’ve since traveled to.

Most importantly, I had yet to massively fail. I did that all through my 30s.

Here are other examples  of people who found great success not only after the age of 27, but after the age of 45:

Rodney Dangerfield didn’t succeed in comedy until his 40s. One of the funniest guys ever, he was an aluminum siding salesman. And then he had to start his own comedy club, Dangerfields, in order to actually perform as a comedian. He chose himself to succeed! But not until his 40s.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman into his 50s. Then he stumbled onto a clean restaurant that served a good hamburger run by two brothers with the last name McDonald. He bought McDonalds when he was 52.

Henry Miller wrote his first big novel, Tropic of Cancer, at age 40.

Raymond Chandler, the most successful noir novelist of all time, wrote his first novel at age 52. But he was young compared with Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer for his first novel, Angela’s Ashes, written when he was 66. And, of course, Julia Child was a young 50 when she wrote her first cookbook.

One of my favorite writers of all time: Stan Lee, created the entire universe for which he is known for: the Marvel Universe, when he was 44, inventing the characters Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, etc.

If you don’t like to kill people but still need a weapon, consider the Taser, invented by Jack Cover when he was 50. He didn’t sell a single one until he was 60.

If you like restaurant reviews you might have read Zagats. Started by Tim Zagat who quit his job as a lawyer in order to create the book of reviews when he was 51.

Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his best selling memoir, “The Invisible Wall”. His prior 40 (Forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out he was 93 years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”

Peter Roget was a mediocre doctor who was finally forced to retire in his early 70s. But he became obsessed with words that have similar meanings. Was his “purpose” as a medical practitioner or as a guy who could play with words? Do you know him as a doctor or as the author of Roget’s Thesaurus which he wrote when he was 73.

When I was in college I ate Ramen noodles every day. One time in a grocery store a woman tried to tell me they were the worst thing I could eat. Really? Like worse than eating a brick, for instance? That was when I was 19. Now I’m 45. It didn’t hurt me that much that I ate Ramen noodles for an entire year because it was the only thing I could afford. If something costs 25 cents and has a few slivers of peas in it then its ok by me. Meanwhile, the inventor of Ramen noodles didn’t invent it until he was 48 years old. Thank god for him!

(I would have died of starvation if not for the guy who invented this).

Charles Darwin was a little bit “off” by most standards. He liked to just collect plants and butterflies on remote islands in the Pacific. And then he wrote Origin of Species when he was 50.

To top it all off, Henry Ford was a failure at his first Model T car, invented when he was 45, because he didn’t yet have the productivity efficiencies of the assembly line, which he developed when he was 60.

This is not meant to be inspirational. You might never have your “great” thing that you do. I’m not even saying “it’s the journey that one should love”. Because some journeys are very painful. And nobody says you get special marks in death if you wrote a great novel at the age of 50. Or came up with a great chicken, or a way to stuff lots of people into factories.

I’ve stumbled and fallen and got up and survived enough that I’m sick of goals and purposes and journeys. I want to cut out the middleman. The journey. The desperation and despair that thinking of a “purpose” entails. Fuck purpose. It’s ok to be happy without one. You don’t need to pay with lots of unhappiness to buy happiness.

Meanwhile, Harlan Sanders made such a great chicken that even though he had barely made a dime off of it (that would happen 15 years later), at the tender age of 45 the Governor of Kentucky made Sanders an honorary colonel.

Last week I turned 45 years old. So there’s still hope for me.

 

 

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