As we look at actors, businessmen, and other geniuses who found success at a young age, we sometimes cannot help but wonder what we have been doing with our life. But not everyone hits their peak in their 20s to 30s. Here are 20 famous people who achieved success after the age of 40, and what they did to get where they became.
1. Samuel Jackson
The famous movie star was 46 when he played his role as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. Before then, Jackson had struggled with drug addiction for two years until he got his first major role in Jungle Fever in 1991.
2. Martha Stewart
Stewart worked in catering for years, but her role as “America’s housewife” did not materialize until she started writing cookbooks and other pieces on domestic living in her 40s.
3. Ronald Reagan
Reagan obviously had a successful acting career, but he first came onto the political stage when he delivered his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech during the 1964 election at the age of 53. He leveraged his past acting talents to become one of the most respected presidents of the 20th century.
4. Henry Ford
In his youth, Ford worked as an engineer under Thomas Edison, where he worked on ways to improve the then new automobile. It was not until he was 40 that he founded the Ford Motor company, where he introduced the Model T five years later.
5. Abraham Lincoln
At the age of 40, Lincoln left the House of Representatives and went back to practicing law, his young political career seemingly over. He jumped onto the just-founded Republican Party seven years later, and then was elected President of the United States four years after that.
6. Reid Hoffman
Not every social media website was founded by some young tech genius. Reid Hoffman founded SocialNet.com in 1997, a precursor of sorts to Facebook. But he founded LinkedIn in 2002 at age 35, and then worked for years to make it the professional social networking site. When Hoffman took LinkedIn public 8 years later, he became a billionaire.
7. Lee Ermey
Ermey’s infamous performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket was his first major acting role at the age of 43. Ermey was originally supposed to be an advisor, but was cast as Hartman by impressing Stanley Kubrick with his knowledge of life as a Marine.
8. Ray Kroc
Kroc worked various jobs including a pianist and a travelling salesman for a milkshake maker. Then at the age of 52, he met the McDonalds brothers and proposed that their restaurant could expand across the United States. By the time he died in 1984, McDonald’s had become well, McDonald’s.
9. Richard Adams
While he worked as a British civil servant, Adams told his two daughters a story about a rabbit, who insisted that he write it down. After writing it down two years later, he published Watership Down, which instantly became a children’s literary classic.
10. Jack Cover
Cover worked for NASA and IBM, and eventually used his scientific knowledge to create a weapon which could stop individuals without killing them. Today, police agencies across the world use his Taser to subdue criminals nonviolently.
11. Momofuku Ando
As Japan recovered from the end of World War II, Ando sought a way to provide quick and cheap noodles to his impoverished countrymen. At the age of 48, Ando developed the instant ramen which sustains college students everywhere.
12. Alan Rickman
Rickman quit a successful graphic design business in his mid-20s to go into acting, but spent years working in theater until he was asked to play the role of Hans Gruber in Die Hard.
13. Sam Walton
Walton ran several stores, and failed many times in the process. But he learned from those failures and used the lessons to open the first Wal-Mart at 44 and become one of the richest men in the world. The store’s philosophy was simple, buy in bulk and sell them cheap. Today his stores sell everything from groceries to electric skateboards, and everything in between.
14. Miguel de Cervantes
Widely credited as the first Western novelist for his work Don Quioxte, Cervantes did not publish his first book until 38 and his most famous work at 58. Before then, he served in the Spanish Navy and struggled for years to find work which could support him as he wrote.
15. Julia Child
The woman who brought French cuisine to American televisions did not eat French food until she was 36, working for the OSS in post-war France. But after being absolutely stunned by French food, she studied the cuisine fanatically until she had enough knowledge to host The French Chef at 51.
16. “Colonel” Harland Sanders
Sanders worked a variety of odd jobs throughout his life, and watched his first attempt at a fried chicken restaurant fail at the ripe old age of 65. But Sanders used his Social Security checks to begin franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken, which became the success it is today.
17. Tim and Nina Zagat
These two certainly enjoyed success throughout their life as a pair of corporate lawyers. But after making a list of local restaurants they liked or did not like, they expanded the list into a full-time business. Today, the Zagat list covers over 70 cities.
18. Charles Darwin
Darwin went on his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle at just 21, but his work as a naturalist was held back by health issues. It was not until he was 50 that he finally published On the Origin of Species.
19. Peter Mark Roget
Peter Mark Roget had an interest in lists and orderly language throughout his life. When he retired from his scientific and mechanical work in 1840 at the age of 61, he began preparing to work on a book which would organize words by their definitions. The first thesaurus was published in 1852.
20. “Grandma” Moses
Anna Moses loved to embroider, but when her fingers started to fail at the age of 78, she took up painting. Today, she is remembered as one of America’s great folk artists, who painted scene after scene of American rural life.
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