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  • Writer's pictureDr. CK Bray

This Is the Year for Late Bloomers

In 2014 seventeen-year-old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel prize, which she added to her Sakharov Prize and Simone de Beauvoir Prize. Fourteen-year-old Robert Nay cleared over 2 million dollars in just two weeks with his mobile game Bubble Ball. At twenty, Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, sold his company to Facebook for 2 billion.(1) Feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy in your life? Don’t; you may be a late bloomer.

The stories of young super-achievers have graced the covers of business magazines for years, but the evidence and data suggest a different story. A late bloomer is the individual who fulfills their potential later than expected and has talents that aren’t initially visible to others.

A recent sports story makes the point. In the 2018 Super Bowl, neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the New England Patriots had many five-star recruits in their starting lineups. Translation: Only six of the forty-four starters were top-rated prospects in high school. Now, look at the quarterbacks. New England’s Tom Brady didn’t merit even a humble two or one ranking in high school. His ranking was NR— “no ranking.”

The victorious Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles, winner of the 2018 Super Bowl’s most valuable player award, had a three ranking in high school. But for most of the season, Foles was actually the Eagles backup. He got to play only after starting quarterback Carson Wentz hurt his knee toward the end of the season. Wentz, like Brady, had an NR ranking in high school. No surprise: As a high school junior, Wentz wasn’t primarily a quarterback. His school’s football program listed him as a wide receiver. With his lowly NR rank from high school, no major college football program had recruited Wentz. He went to North Dakota State, a small-college powerhouse. But while he was there, he grew to six-five and 230 pounds. Wentz literally blossomed in college, which is late by football standards.(2)

The question to ask yourself is, are you a potential Carson Wentz? Could you be a late bloomer who is only beginning to realize your potential? Research on human development clearly shows that we all learn and develop at different ages and different life stages. The majority of us are late bloomers (myself included!).

Let me share some famous examples to drive the “Late Bloomer” point home and get you thinking differently about your life and potential. (Karlgaard, Rich (2019), Late Bloomers)

  1. International star Andrea Bocelli began singing opera at thirty-four.

  2. James Murphy, founder of LCD Soundsystem, released his first album at thirty-five.

  3. Susan Boyle, the surprise star of Britain’s Got Talent, was discovered at forty-eight.

  4. Martha Stewart was thirty-five when she started her catering business in a friend’s basement, and forty-two when her first book of recipes was published.

  5. Vera Wang broke out at forty-one.

  6. Acclaimed artist Marina Abramovic didn’t find her way in the art world until her thirties, achieved national recognition at fifty-four with her performance piece “Seven Easy Pieces,” and became famous at fifty-nine with a Museum of Modern Art retrospective titled The Artist Is Present.

  7. Chuck Palahniuk published his first novel, Fight Club, at thirty-four.

  8. David Sedaris, the humorist, published his first collection of essays at thirty-eight.

  9. Toni Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, at thirty-nine and won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved at fifty-six.

  10. Janet Evanovich launched her bestselling Stephanie Plum series of crime novels at forty-four.

  11. Frank McCourt published his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes, at sixty-three.

  12. In business, Tom Siebel founded his first successful tech company, Siebel Systems, at forty-one, and his second, C3, at fifty-seven.

  13. Dave Duffield launched tech firm PeopleSoft at sixty- six.

  14. After decades of working for engineering firms like Allied Signal, Gary Burrell cofounded Garmin, the GPS device maker, at fifty-two.

  15. John Torode started an airplane company, Vashon Aircraft, at seventy.

  16. Billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who spent ten years in college and worked as a ski instructor, founded energy drink maker Redbull at forty.

The reason you are prepared to be successful later in life has to do with your life experience. As we mature, we are more reflective, more considerate, more patient, and have higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. All of these traits create a recipe for success.

Now more than ever, when careers and lives are in such a state of flux and change, it may be time to be a late bloomer.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– (1) Karlgaard, Rich (2019). Late Bloomers. (2) Karlgaard, Rich (2019). Late Bloomers.




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