What 13 Highly Successful People Were Doing Before Age 30
When you’re young and early in your career, it can sometimes feel like there’s a lot of pressure to succeed — immediately.
But some of the most interesting and prosperous people now and throughout history have been so-called late bloomers.
Sometimes they were obviously on their way toward what they would end up becoming. At other times, they were in jobs that had absolutely nothing in common with what would clearly become their true calling.
Knowing that these impressive, accomplished people took a little longer to get started down their life’s path may make you feel better about wherever you are in your own.
Julia Child, Advertising Manager and Spy
An absolutely fascinating woman, Julia Child always had a passion for cooking. But when she was in her younger, she wasn’t always cooking delicious meals. She was working for the OSS, precursor to the CIA.
Her background before joining the intelligence agency? She was an advertising manager at a furniture store. It wouldn’t be until later, after her stint with intelligence, that she would begin to turn her true passion of cooking and food into a life-changing career.
Vera Wang, Figure Skater and Fashion Editor
Vera Wang first learned discipline and creativity by becoming an excellent figure skater.
The seeming failure of not qualifying for the Olympics would nudge her towards her true life’s path, as she took a job as a fashion editor for Vogue instead of continuing to pursue skating professionally. That’s what she was doing when she turned 30.
After years on the sidelines writing and working with fashion, she sketched her own wedding dress design and got the itch to do more once it was made.
She began her own fashion line at 40. The rest is fashion history.
Ray Kroc, Salesman
One of the most successful people in restaurant history, Ray Kroc worked jobs as diverse as musical director and real estate salesman before becoming a simple milkshake machine salesman. He surely got plenty of ideas on how restaurants were run and operated, thanks to his time selling machines to restaurant operators.
But his life changed when he bought the first McDonald’s at 52 years old and began pioneering the modern fast food industry.
Needless to say, he’d become wealthier than any other milkshake salesman.
Jeff Bezos, Finance and Telecommunications
When he turned 30, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hadn’t yet launched the company that would make him one of the world’s wealthiest people.
He was working in telecommunications and finance, and had amassed a great skill set and plenty of wealth during that time. But he left his comfortable job to risk it all in launching Amazon.
Obviously, that paid off for him nicely.
Grandma Moses, Farm Laborer
Her paintings may sell for huge amounts of money, but it took Anna Mary Robertson Moses a very long time to finally commit to being an artist.
Before she began painting, Grandma Moses spent a lifetime as a housekeeper and farm laborer. It wasn’t until she turned 78 that she finally picked up a paintbrush and began publicly showing others her work.
Tim and Nina Zagat, Attorneys
Both Tim and Nina Zagat were merely fans of food until they were in their 30s. They worked as lawyers during the day, but they clearly shared a passion for rating and reviewing food.
When they finally published the first collection of restaurant reviews in their late 30s, their lives would change. Eventually, the Zagat rating would become a standard.
Dick Van Dyke, DJ
Dick Van Dyke was a radio DJ and a touring actor with some regional success before he struck big.
He made his first film debut at 36, then went on to a long career. The iconic actor stole the screen in classics like “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” while also winning hearts of Americans everywhere with “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
J.K. Rowling, Single Mother
It’s one of the most famous and infamous rags-to-riches stories.
Before “Harry Potter” became a worldwide sensation, J.K. Rowling survived a broken relationship and supported a young child as a single mother while living in poverty.
She was 32 years old when the book, which was famously rejected by 12 publishers, finally made it into print.
Leonard Cohen, Poet
Though he always had the heart and talent of an artist, Leonard Cohen pursued a completely different artistic field during his younger years: He struggled to make ends meet as a poet.
Eventually, at age 33, he leaned into his musical background and began a professional music career that wouldn’t take long to blossom.
Tim Westergren, Record Producer and Nanny
Before founding Pandora in 1999, Westergren worked as a record producer and composer. Between his jobs in the industry, he would even work as a nanny to make ends meet.
When he was 35, he started what would become one of the most influential music sites on the internet. But it would take two years of work before he started getting enough money to pay people’s salaries.
Martha Stewart, Modeling and Finance
Like her lifestyle predecessor Julia Child, Martha Stewart had a very interesting life before becoming an entrepreneur.
She first worked as a model before transitioning on Wall Street. Not exactly a typical path.
It wasn’t until she was 41 that she published her first book, “Entertaining.”
Clara Barton, Teacher
Clara Barton taught herself basic nursing and healing practices when her family put her ailing brother into her care. Though she would always use her background in nursing, she shifted to become a teacher and then work as a patent clerk before the Civil War broke out. During it, she worked as a nurse and taught others.
All that alone would have been an impressive lifetime contribution. But Barton showed no signs of slowing down when she founded the American Red Cross at age 60. She continued to work for it and serve others for three more decades as it grew.
Alan Rickman, Graphic Designer
The prolific late Alan Rickman has an impressive filmography. But his path to becoming a movie actor wasn’t a direct one. He worked in graphic design until he was 26 and shifted career paths to learn acting.
He landed his first role on TV on the BBC at age 32, but wouldn’t get a film role until ten years later, when he was 42.