Late Bloomers

By Christopher Crown

January 12, 2018 4 min read

From business to cinema, from changing careers to becoming a leader in a field, countless people in middle age and older have proved that it is never too late to achieve greatness. Many of the top entrepreneurs, cultural icons and business moguls we see every day started their success after age 40. Some have redemption stories, whereas others were just cruising in the wrong set of circumstances, but this inspiring look at older achievers, though in no way comprehensive, demonstrates that age has no relation to fame.

*Samuel L. Jackson

Although not technically in his golden years, Samuel L. Jackson is a prime example of having a late claim to fame. Popular startup magazine Inc. published a review of late bloomers and cited Jackson as the ultimate phoenix metaphor. Jackson grew up with an alcoholic father and attended segregated schools. Later, he would become addicted to cocaine and heroin, vices that halted his acting career when he had to drop out of several Broadway plays. Eventually, however, Jackson booked his first major role in "Pulp Fiction," and his career has skyrocketed ever since. Famous in movies, charity and political campaigning, he now enjoys a vegan lifestyle and worldwide success.

*Momofuku Ando

While we all are familiar with Jackson's pistol-wielding role in "Pulp Fiction," another middle-aged entrepreneur may have touched our lives much closer to home -- or our dorms! Momofuku Ando, a Japanese credit association chairman, had the chair pulled out from under him when his company went bankrupt in 1958, says Dennis Hevesi, a contributor for The New York Times who wrote a 2007 obituary for Ando. Penniless, Ando started experimenting with instant noodles, and he eventually founded Nissin Food Products Co. at the age of 48. This business icon's company supplies the world with Top Ramen and Cup Noodles -- staples for many college students and other late-night snackers. Ando seemingly rotated 180 degrees from where he had once found success, but thanks to great products and the hustle to pursue them, he found international greatness at an age when some start thinking about retirement.

*Julia Child

Qualifying for AARP, Julia Child truly found her calling at a later age. Although she had no history of drug abuse or crippling financial meltdown in her past, Child wandered from career to career, never quite finding the right fit, according to her profile written by editors. After college, she pursued playwriting, but none of her work was even considered for publishing. During World War II, she served for the Office of Strategic Services, relaying top-secret information to military personnel, but she quickly left this type of administrative work after the war ended. At the age of 49, she published her first cookbook, "The French Chef," and launched her first successful TV show, of the same name, at 51.

*Gladys Burrill

Although no top-secret spy, Gladys Burrill definitely tops Child's age at her claim to fame. At 92, Burrill became the oldest person ever to finish a marathon. After her first marathon -- in 2011, when she was 86 -- she knew she wanted to keep going, says Associated Press reporter Mark Niesse. Her secret: positive thinking.

Decades separate these inspiring stories, but Jackson, Ando, Child and Burrill's spirits present an encouraging look into the worlds of fame, entrepreneurship and athletics for those not traditionally considered to be in their prime achieving years. Child just recommends, "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."

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