As it stands today, it seems like if you’re not running a successful startup by age 27, you’re not where you’re supposed to be in life.
And that’s a lot of pressure! Even if you’re not a millennial yourself, you probably feel the rising heat of expectation and the fear of stasis that have grown up alongside my generation. Even as I sit here, I feel like I should be running a business at 24. Logically, that feeling doesn’t make a ton of sense, but logic rarely contributes to how we feel about our respective places in the world.
But you know who wasn’t running a company worth millions when she was in her twenties? Martha Stewart. You know who didn’t make it big until he was almost 40? The late, great Alan Rickman. Success is not linear. The prospect of it does not abandon you after your quarter-life crisis. Here are a few people who flew in the face of all that before it was cool.
1. Wendy Davis was 36 the first time she held public office.
2. After being fired from numerous broadcast jobs, Oprah Winfrey launched her talk show when she was 32 years old.
3. Momofuku Ando was 48 when he invented every college kid’s favorite food: instant ramen.
4. The talented Kristen Wiig didn’t start working on “SNL” until she was 32.
5. Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter before breaking into acting at age 30.
6. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish the first book in her famous “Little House on the Prairie” series until she was in her 60s.
7. After scoring a few minor roles, Samuel L. Jackson finally made it big when he was 41.
8. Ray Kroc started building the McDonald’s empire when he was 52.
9. Wedding industry heavy hitter Vera Wang designed her first wedding gown at 40 years old.
10. At 50, Charles Darwin changed the face of evolutionary study upon publishing “On the Origin of Species.”
11. Stan Lee came up with his first superhero when he was 39.
12. Phyllis Diller made her stand-up debut at age 38.
13. After struggling with homelessness, J.K. Rowling published her first Harry Potter book when she was 32.
14. While most people his age were having mid-life crises, Alan Rickman was acting in his first major movie role at 42.
15. Matthew Weiner, creator of “Mad Men,” didn’t even get paid to write until he was 30.
16. It wasn’t until after he was 30 that billionaire and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman made a name for himself.
17. Culinary legend Julia Child didn’t publish her first cookbook until she turned 51.
18. Martha Stewart was 35 when she got her catering business off the ground.
19. James Dyson’s first patent was sold when he was almost 40.
20. Al Jarreau didn’t release his debut album until he was 35.
21. Tim and Nina Zagat started their eponymous food search company when they were both 42.
22. Lupita Nyong’o was 30 when she acted in her first major role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave.”
23. When she was 43, Kathy Bates performed the role that kickstarted her career in “Misery.”
24. Vivienne Westwood’s first runway show debuted when she was 41.
25. Ang Lee started directing at age 38 after a few great years of being a stay-at-home dad.
It’s never too late to start killing it, people! Who says inspiration has to strike before you turn 30, 40, or 50? No one, that’s who. If you have big dreams, go right on ahead and leave us twenty-somethings in the dust!