As the middle of the year approaches (yes, already), I was chatting with some friends about what we hope to achieve before the clock ticks over to 2020.
After discussing our small, short term ambitions, we started talking about bigger life goals. It was during this discussion that I noticed my friends saying things along the lines of: “It’s probably too late” and “I should have done it by now”. These self-deprecating phrases popped up way too often. It got me thinking: Is there a deadline for success? As a group of thirty-somethings, it felt like we were operating under the dangerous assumption some kind of hypothetical success ship had already sailed.
I noticed my friends saying things along the lines of: “It’s probably too late” and “I should have done it by now”.
Boy wonder, child prodigies
Society loves celebrating early success. Articles about child prodigies and lists such as “30 under 30,” always pique our interest. We grow up believing the quicker something is done, the more impressive the achievement is. It can feel like success worth celebrating is intrinsically bound to youth. This also applies to the opposite end of the spectrum. British Vogue recently published an article about Luchita Hurtado, an artist, who at age 98 is exhibiting her first show at a London Gallery. She is thrilled she is only now sharing her work later in life. There is no doubt achievements like that are extraordinary. But what does this mean for all of us who currently fall in those murky in-between years?
Inspiring or harmful?
Stories about astonishing professional and personal accomplishments can be inspiring but they can also be harmful. Ever thought it wouldn’t be as special if you did something, because Jane Doe did it when she was ten years younger? This kind of thinking can lead to a distinct lack of motivation. Now with social media making everyone’s lives more visible, it becomes even harder to escape the comparison trap.
Success, is it just for the young?
After the conversation with my friends, I came across a quote by writer and academic Roxanne Gay and immediately shared it with them. Although Gay is discussing writing, her comments can apply to any field.
“It is easy to fall prey to the idea that writing success is intrinsically bound to youth. Publishing loves a literary ingenue, as if no one over the age of 40 or 50 or 60 has anything worthwhile to say. Such is not the case. The older I get, the more I have to say and the better I am able to express myself. There is no age limit to finding artistic success.”
Whether it being writing your first book, starting a new side hustle or undertaking a new project at work, it’s never the wrong time. Your achievement shouldn’t mean any less simply because it didn’t happen at an interesting age.
Of course, a seventeen-year-old CEO will always make the front page and a video of a toddler playing the cello like a pro will go viral (and lead to an appearance on Ellen). This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keeping trying. Let’s celebrate all of our wins, big or small, at every age and at any stage.
Have you always dreamt of doing something but feel you’ve left it too late? Share with us in the comments below.