You’re never too old to fly.
If you are now 50 plus and still haven’t achieved the career success you once dreamed of, know this: it is never too late to achieve greatness.
Of course, if your dream is too technical or athletic, you might have to tweak your ambitions to suit your energy and fitness capabilities – but lots of wildly successful people only found big success in their careers after their fiftieth birthdays. One of the wonderful things about life is there is always the possibility to change path and move in a new direction
Known as late bloomers, there are many reasons why it takes some women longer to blossom. Maybe they just haven’t had the opportunity to shine, or perhaps it was necessary for them to spend years gaining the knowledge and experiences to know what they really wanted to do. So many of us start off with great ambitions, study hard and go onto tertiary education … then fall in love, have children and dedicate the first half of our adult lives to raising a family, caring for husbands, houses, kids and pets. Then, when the children grow up and leave home, we have the time and energy to devote ourselves to our own ambitions.
The second reason is that, sadly, the down economy has put a lot of women over age 50 in the unenviable position of needing to find work. We get retrenched, laid off, fired, or our husbands get sick and/or lose their jobs – so we have to find ways to earn money.
Check out the latest writing sensation, Erika Mitchell, better known as E L James, who is the bestselling British author of the erotic romance novels trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
She only started writing them close on 50 years old, and now the combined novels have sold over 35 million copies in the United States, and over 70 million copies worldwide, setting the record in the United Kingdom as the fastest selling paperback of all time. The movie recently came out and James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as “my midlife crisis, writ large.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” may be some of the world’s most beloved children’s books, but she was no youngster when she sat down to write them. Wilder didn’t publish her first novel until she was 65 years old, but she still managed to crank out one of the most beloved series of all time.
She was the state leader of a major political party, played a lead role in a primetime television drama, fought for social change and worked at a radio station in a newly decolonised Malaysia. Then, at 93 years of age, in 2014 Dr Lis Kirkby became one of Australia’s oldest PhD graduates.
“You can’t believe that when you retire you just play golf or bowls or sit round with your mates. You always have to do something,” she told The Australian.
“People should be judged in old age on their capacity, not on their chronological age. I think it is terribly wrong that as soon as a person reaches a certain age they are automatically written off as too old. It really is infuriating that people assume you can’t do something because of your age.”
Before she was one of America’s most powerful and respected media personalities, Martha Stewart was a married stockbroker with a young child. It was only at age thirty-five, she started her own catering company and she was forty-one years old when her first book was published. Her television program began in 1993, when she was 52 years old. When her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, went public in 1999, Stewart became a billionaire. She was fifty-eight years old. She even served a five-month stint in jail when she was 63 – also quite an achievement – which she took in her stride.
Sister Marion Irvine, known as the flying nun, started running at age 47, when she was overweight and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day. In 1983, she went on to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials at age 54. In her career as a runner, she shattered all major running records in the 50–54, 55–59, and 60–64 age groups, and earned five gold medals at the World Veteran Games in Eugene, Oregon.
Who can possible forget the fabulous Susan Boyle who stunned the world and achieved worldwide recognition for her singing talent at age 48 (almost 50) – going from obscurity to superstar status later in her life. Before she entered Britain’s Got Talent, she was an an unemployed cat lady with a penchant for sensible shoes, living in a council house in Scotland. A few years later, she now has she has a net worth of 22million pounds and has sold over 19 million albums worldwide.
One of the most renowned American folk artists, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known by her nickname of “Grandma Moses,” only began painting at 76, after arthritis forced her to give up embroidery. She continued painting until 101. Her works have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad and have been marketed on greeting cards and other merchandise. Moses’ paintings are among the collections of many museums. Moses has appeared on magazine covers, television, and in a documentary of her life, won numerous awards and was awarded two honorary doctoral degrees.
Mother Theresa only established the “Missionaries of Charity” order when she was 40. This eventually became a world-wide organization that helps the sick, the poor, the dying, as well as disaster victims through a network of religious houses, schools, hospices, and charity centres in more than 120 countries
Actress Kathryn Joosten, who won two Emmys for her work on Desperate Housewives, when she was in her late 60’s, only moved to Hollywood (and in with her son) at age 56 to become an actress. Before that, she was a nurse and married. It was only after her divorce that she decided to go for it and fulfill a life-long ambition to act. Apart from Desperate Housewives, she appeared on TV in such shows as Scrubs (appearing in My Old Lady, which won a Humanitas Prize as well as reappearing in a later episode), My Name is Earl, Spin City, The X-Files, Judging Amy, Monk, Charmed, Will & Grace, Malcolm in the Middle, Grey’s Anatomy, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, So Little Time, Gilmore Girls, The Closer and a recurring role as one of the less intimidating incarnations of God seen by the title character (played by Amber Tamblyn) on Joan of Arcadia.
In 2005, Joosten appeared in the film Wedding Crashers, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
Julia Child, who died in 2004, became a chef after many years as a secret intelligence officer. She was 49 when her first book was published, and 51 when her TV program “The French Chef” first aired in 1962. She remained the face of cooking, and is still the go-to person for culinary enthusiasts. Child never slowed down, even in her final days. “In this line of work…you keep right on till you’re through,” she said. “Retired people are boring.”
And let’s not forget Maya Angelou, one of the most incredible writers of our time, who was in her 60s when her poetry and books became popular.
But these are just a couple of people who not only started careers later in life, but also become massively famous. Most late bloomers are simply quiet achievers – and never make headlines. For further inspiration, I suggest you read Defying Gravity, a book celebrating late blooming women, by Prill Boyle, who only started writing when she was 47 years old. This inspiriting collection of interviews with American women include Linda Bach, who entered medical school at the age of 46, and is currently a doctor in private practice, Patrician Symonds, who became a Professor of Anthropology at Brown University in her late 40’s, Evelyn Gregory who followed her dream to become a flight attendant aged 71, Mary Orlando who opened her first business at 62 years old, Jane Work a newly-qualified 57-year old psychologist, and Irma Elder, the first woman to own an automobile franchise in Detroit, aged 52.
But each and every country will have their share of wonderful late bloomers who get up and shine to share the knowledge and experience they have accumulated while doing other things.
It’s never too late to set course in a new direction…..and it is absolutely possible to create a more meaningful and an authentic career after 50.