You look around and you see your friends doing pleasantly well with their careers while you’re stuck in a room doing a job that you don’t even know what you’re doing half of the time. You start to wonder if you’re doomed to remain at a standstill for so long that roots will start growing from your feet as far to the Great Land Under, and that achieving your dreams are now a distant memory. You’re afraid of letting go and even more afraid of being stagnant in this abyss that you can’t get out off in years to come. You think it’s too late for you, too late for anything.
Well believe it or not, there are others who are like you out there, experiencing the things that you’re currently going through. But fret not, we’ve compiled a list of late bloomers whose careers didn’t exactly have the brightest of starts, but got better as they’ve reached their twilight years and became better with age – just like a bottle of wine:
1. Colonel Sanders
The famous face of a multi-billion fast food franchise, he was the epitome of a late bloomer. Before founding KFC, he had a long and diverse career where he worked as farmer, steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, lawyer, fireman and a tire salesman among other unsuccessful businesses and careers.
He eventually opened up his own service station at the age of 40 and started selling chickens that are cooked through his now famous pressure frying method. His way of cooking chickens became popular among his customers and he saw the potential of franchising his secret recipe all over the United States.
He founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken company at 65 years old with massive success. However, he sold the company for a mere $2 million at the age of 75 years old. Today, KFC is the second largest restaurant chain in world with more than 18,000 outlets operating in 115 countries.
2. Ang Lee
When I sent those scripts, that was the lowest point of my life. We’d just had our second son, and when I went to collect them from hospital, I went to the bank to try and get some money to buy some diapers, the screen showed I’ve got $26 left. – Ang Lee
The Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director is the first Asian director to win an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA. Currently, he has the world at his feet, but things were very different for him back then.
After he graduated from NYU, he was unable to land a job, was unemployed for 6 years and stayed at home as a full-time-home-dad while he continued to work on scripts. Thankfully, he has an understanding wife who not only was the sole breadwinner of the family at that time, but she supported and encouraged him to not give up on his dreams.
It was until he was 31 years old when he finally got his big break when both of his screenplays, Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet came in first and second respectively in a competition – which attracted heads and landed him the directorial role for Pushing Hands and as they say, the rest is history.
3. Morgan Freeman
Before he became the luminary figure we’ve come to love in roles such as The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Almighty and Seven, his roles were mainly limited to theatre and commercial works. It was not until the release of Glory in 1989 when he landed his first major film role – at the age of 52. Check out one of his earliest and cheesiest commercial work in this link.
4. J.K Rowling
Today, she’s worth £1 billion, is the most influential woman in Britain, created a series of successful books (450 million copies sold worldwide) that sparkled the imagination of children across the world and spawned a series of mega blockbuster films (the highest grossing series to date with $7.7 billion). But to say that she had a rough early career is an understatement; prior to becoming the phenomenon she is today, the Harry Potter creator once taught English in Portugal.
Her marriage lasted very briefly and she became a single mom. She was also once jobless, lived on welfare and was in deep depression. She regarded herself as a failure and described herself as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” But she kept on going. She wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone for 5 years.
After being rejected countless time by publishing houses for Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone, she finally got her break in 1997 when it was published. She was 30 years old at that time.
5. Ray Kroc
He may not be the founder of McDonald’s, but he was crucial to the expansion of a potential idea into a multi-billion dollar business that it is today.
Just like Colonel Sanders, Ray Kroc took many odd jobs roles. At 15 years of age, he lied about his age to serve as a Red Cross Ambulance driver during the First World War.
After the war ended, he worked as a paper cup salesman, a pianist, and as a DJ at a local radio station in Oak Park, Illinois.
His curiosity in the restaurant business lead him to work at a restaurant, and soon he utilized that knowledge to work as a traveling milk shake salesman. He would continue on for a further 17 years until he met the McDonald’s brothers which ultimately brought him to his destiny.
At the age of 52, attracted to the prospect of the potential of the brothers’ restaurant, he volunteered to franchise their business and soon opened his own restaurant in 1955. He bought the rights from the McDonald’s brothers 6 years later.
Under his leadership and strict guidelines in quality and food preparation, McDonald’s blossomed and vastly expanded its reach globally. Today, McDonald’s is one of the most valuable brands in the world and is worth a staggering $92.5 billion.
6. Albert Einstein
One of the smartest person in human history (with an IQ of 150), so smart that the phrase “Einstein” is actually a compliment for someone who’s smart. Famously known to have developed the theory of relativity and a Nobel prize winner, he was however, not considered a bright spark until he was relativity (pun unintended) older.
As a child, he had difficulty speaking until he was 3 years old and was considered to have speech challenges. His parents also feared that he might be cognitively challenged at one point. He failed his university entrance exam after failing several subjects like history and geography although he excelled in math and science, but eventually made the cut after retaking the subjects.
7. Bryan Cranston
Before he played the ruthless meth lord “the one who knocks” Heisenberg in the television drama Breaking Bad, he was largely unknown to the general public. He started his career in several cheesy commercials like these:
Besides landing minor roles in television series such as Seinfeld, X-Files as well as minor film roles such as Saving Private Ryan, he had several voice acting roles such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Yes, Power Rangers!
If you’re a fan of Malcolm in the Middle, then you would probably remember him playing as Malcolm’s often humorous dad, where he was nominated 3 times for his performance. Although he has been acting since the 80’s but Malcolm in the Middle was arguably the role that truly kick-started his career as it was his first major role – at the age of 44 years old. From there, the sky was practically the limit for him as his fame increased noticeably after that.
He’s now won 3 consecutive Emmy awards for Outstanding lead actor in a Drama series for his role in Breaking Bad (he was 52 when he landed the role) and landed roles in films such as Drive, Argo and more recently, 2013’s Godzilla. But who would’ve thought that someone who wore a skunk suit in a soap commercial would one day become one of television’s most iconic characters in Breaking Bad?