Why it’s never too late to embark on your true calling

It’s a strange thing. As we age, we often see our opportunities narrowing not widening.

I say strange because as we go through life, we acquire more and more experience and skills, and logically therefore should see our options expanding not shrinking.

But so many of us are conditioned into thinking ourselves into a box. And if the box you are in just really isn't YOUR box, it gets kind of uncomfortable. And if you’re uncomfortable, you’ll never be capable of achieving your best work.

Here are some examples of well-known people who rejected those ideas and instead went after their true calling.

Some had found their path but hadn't attained any success... some were in a completely different career... some were on the verge of giving up or had given up. But as they matured, they found their true calling and never looked back.

Sylvester Stallone, deli counter attendant. After getting no career traction as an actor in his 20s, Stallone attacked his 30s like any 5'3 man should: He wrote a movie where he was an all-American hero who triumphed over every obstacle.

That movie was "Rocky"... he banged out the "Rocky" screenplay in three days, in between working at a deli counter and as a movie theater usher... and it launched his career with an Academy Award for Best Picture. 

Andrea Bocelli, lawyer. He'd loved music and singing his whole life... but didn't really see it as a career possibility. So, after school, he got a law degree at the University of Pisa. At age 30 he was working as a lawyer and moonlighting in a piano bar for fun and extra cash. He didn't catch a break as a singer until 1992, at age 34. 

Martha Stewart, stockbroker. When she was 30,Martha Stewart was a stockbroker, no doubt learning all about finance and the ‘ethics’ involved therein. Two years later she and her husband purchased a beat-down farmhouse in Connecticut... she led the restoration... transitioned into a domestic lifestyle... and grew that most innocent of things into her evil, evil career. 

Mao Tse-Tung, elementary school principal. In his 30’s, Mao was already involved in communism... he was a young star of the Chinese Communist Party... but didn't realize it could be a career. (Probably didn't see communism as being very lucrative...?)

Instead, he was working as the principal of an elementary school. Where, no doubt, hall passes were decadent. Four years later he started a communist group that eventually became the Red Army and put him in power.

JK Rowling, unemployed single mum. Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as "the biggest failure I knew". Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”.

During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being "as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless" 

Barack Obama, university lecturer. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years, as a Lecturer for four years (1992–1996), and as a Senior Lecturer for eight years (1996–2004).In 2004, he was 43 years old. I’m not entirely sure what happened after that.

James Joyce, alcoholic. By 30, Joyce was writing... just not getting published. So to make ends meet he reviewed books, taught and, weirdly, made a lot of money thanks to his gorgeous tenor singing voice. He was also a raging alcoholic, which isn't financially lucrative until you become an author and can parlay those drunken antics into stories. Just ask Hemingway. Or James Frey.

Joyce finally got his first book, "Dubliners", published at age 32, which launched his career as, arguably, one of the most successful authors of all time. 
Colonel Sanders, tons of blue collar jobs. Well into his 40’s Harland Sanders was still switching from one random career choice to another: Steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, farmer, railroad fireman. He didn’t start cooking chicken until he was 40 and didn't start franchising until he was 65. 

Rodney Dangerfield, aluminium siding salesman. He started doing stand-up at age 19... then gave up on it in his mid-20s.. He started working as an acrobatic diver ... and then as an aluminium siding salesman. He didn't start getting back into comedy until he was 40. 

Harrison Ford, carpenter. When Ford was 30, he starred in "American Graffiti"... which was a huge hit. But he got paid a pittance for acting in it, decided he was never going to make it as an actor, and quit the business to get back into the more financially dependable world of construction.

Four years later, he met up with George Lucas again (Lucas had directed "Graffiti") and Lucas cast him as Han Solo in a movie called Star Wars.

So there you have it. A more or less random list of people who have shown us that by refusing to be kept in your box and allowing your innermost talents to come to the fore, that it’s never too late to start on your own path to greatness.

I guess the message for us all is, never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Especially yourself.


  1. Neil, my favorite part of KFC is Colonel Sanders. A KFC near me has a framed photo of him with the story of how he became a success in his sixties. I hold his success close to my heart, right near my cholesterol clogged arteries.


    1. That's a nice story Diana and I don't think we can really hold him personally responsible for the health of those who overindulge ( I love his chicken too but only indulge myself once or twice a year ;-)