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5 Athletes Who Bloomed Late In Their Career

5 Athletes Who Bloomed Late In Their Career

Some athletes were born for greatness. When Tiger Woods was two years old, he was already out-putting Bob Hope on the golf course. When he stepped onto the course as an adult, it was clear that he would make sporting history.

But not everyone is Tiger Woods. Certainly, they were born to play a sport but they took a different trajectory to greatness. For some of the best athletes in history, reaching stardom took thousands of hours of work over years of their life to make it to the big time.

Here are just five athletes who reached greatness late in their career.

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Ken Norton

In 1973, Ken Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw in an epic fight. But Ken Norton had not spent his entire life preparing for that fight. By all accounts, Norton should have been a football player. He received a football scholarship to Truman State after high school but left after two years because of injuries.

Norton began boxing in 1963 when he enlisted in the Marines. He committed to boxing and forged a 24-2 record for himself, capturing three All-Marine Heavyweight titles.

After the leaving the marines, he became a professional boxer. He had a 14-year-long career as a pro boxer and became the heavyweight champion after his 30th birthday.

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R.A. Dickey

Dickey was a first-round pick for the Texas Rangers, but despite his hard work, he was unable to hold on to his starting position on the team. For a decade, he tried to stay afloat as he drifted into Major League Baseball obscurity.

In 2005, Dickey perfected the knuckleball. All of a sudden, he went from a career as a relatively unknown baseball player to becoming a starting pitcher for the Mets at the age of 35. In 2012, he was voted in as an All Star and he was the only pitcher with a knuckleball to receive the NL Cy Young Award.

Anthony Davis

Davis is one of the hottest players in the NBA right now and likely has a long future as a professional basketball player in front of him. But Anthony was not always the top pick for the court, in fact, he struggled to get on the court at all at the high school level.

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Davis stood at 6 feet 2 inches tall until the summer before his junior year of high school. Over those three months, Davis grew a remarkable eight inches and reached 6’10”. By the time he left school, he would be scouted by colleges and the NBA. He committed to play ball for Kentucky. He even joined the American basketball squad for the 2012 Olympic games without having gone pro.

Kurt Warner

Once upon a time, during the 1994 NFL Draft, every professional football team chose to pass on Kurt Warner. So, Warner gave up on his dream briefly and began working at a supermarket. Later, he began playing arena football and he made a serious impression on those around him. Warner signed to the St. Louis Rams in 1998 and he worked his way up from third string over several seasons.

Then, he had a stroke of luck. The Ram’s starting quarterback was injured in the preseason and Warner was called up from the bench to finally become a starting NFL quarterback. The situation has parallels with the fortunes of Brazilian veteran soccer star Denilson, who also saw a late career resurgence. During that season, Warner threw 41 touchdowns, racked up 4,353 yards, and lead the Rams to victory at Super Bowl XXXIV. He was the Super Bowl MVP that year and the NFL MVP.

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All this success came from a man who sat on the bench for the better part of a decade.

Rocky Marciano

Rocky is a storied fighter, probably one of the most famous athletes to come from the sport of boxing. However, Rocky didn’t start training for his first professional fight right out of the gate. In fact, his first pro match didn’t happen until he turned 25.

Rocky was an amateur fighter while he was in the service. When he did go pro, he knocked out his opponents the first 16 times he stepped in the ring. When he retired, he left with 49 wins (43 knockouts) and zero losses. He had the kind of record that inspired major Hollywood films.

A select few athletes walk on the pitch for the first time and awe the crowd. But don’t discount those who don’t shine right away. Some of the greatest sports heroes in modern history were late bloomers.

Featured photo credit: slgckgc via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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