6 Successful People Who Failed to Make it Before 40

You’ve graduated college. You’ve landed your first job. You thought things would have turned out a lot better by now, though. You figured, with all your hard work, you would have achieved something that felt much more like the precursor to success.

All your worries are normal, but they’re no less exaggerated. Plenty of successful people throughout history, in a variety of professions, failed to achieve the success they are now well known for in their 20s. Even in their 30s. Some of them didn’t hit the big time until they were in their sixties.

If you’re feeling down about your life today, here are a few names you might recognize. None of them found success before 40. Things eventually turned out just fine for them.

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The classic children’s author published the first “Little House” book in 1932, when she was in her sixties. Because she and her family moved a lot, she did not receive a consistent, formal education, teaching and learning from her siblings.

She became a teacher at the age of 15 for financial stability and went on to raise a daughter who became a journalist. Wilder’s daughter encouraged her mother to write about her life growing up.

After 10 years of rewrites, long after retiring from her teaching jobs, the first book in the series that inspired the renowned T.V. show was published. Years after publishing the final book in the series, Wilder spent her days answering fan mail from her readers until she passed away at the age of 90.

2. Julia Child

Julia Child photo by Glenn Dettwiler https://www.flickr.com/photos/swisschef/

The famous author, chef and T.V. personality broke into the business at age 65. Child grew up in the United States but moved to France with her husband when she was 36. Before that, she hoped to become a writer and spent a short amount of time working in advertising.

After learning more about French cuisine, she was inspired to create complicated French recipes that anyone could prepare, no matter her skill level. Out of that came her renowned set of cookbooks “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Her books and T.V. shows still inspire people all over the world to fall in love with food and cooking. And to think, she couldn’t get a manuscript published in her 20s and was fired from one of her first jobs.

3. Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson photo by Kevin Tostado https://www.flickr.com/people/tostie14/

The top-grossing actor landed his first major acting role at 43. He spent his childhood watching films, was expelled from his first college and eventually went on to receive his degree in acting in 1972.

Jackson started out touring around the country doing skits with a theater company. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that he began acting in Off-Broadway shows. His career began to take off when he met and befriended Morgan Freeman and Spike Lee.

He has since appeared in films such as “Pulp Fiction,” “Jungle Fever,” “Star Wars” and “Iron Man 2.”

4. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

“On the Origin of Species” was published when Darwin was 50 years old. Even if you don’t know much about science, you probably at least recognize his name or have heard of the book before.

Darwin is known as the “father” of evolution. His theories were the first to explain biological change in nature. He spent years traveling the world and studying species in their natural habitats before he formed any arguments about natural selection.

As often happens when new theories about history arise, Darwin’s views on the history of the world’s origins weren’t exactly popular among his colleagues. In the century following his death, further scientific research supported his original findings.

5. Henry Ford

Henry Ford

At 45, Ford created the Model T car, which paved the way for automobile production in the early 1900s. Young Ford was fascinated with machines and fixing things, and worked as an engineer before he made a name for himself in the automobile industry.

After presenting his model of what he called a “horseless carriage” to Thomas Edison, the famous inventor prodded him to create a second, improved model. Later, in 1903, he established the Ford Motor Company, and in 1908, the Model T was born.

Ford revolutionized the mass production of automobiles in 1914, at the age of 52. He only grew more and more successful as he aged.

6. Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

At the age of 70, Regan became the 40th president of the United States. He did not even think about entering the political scene until the 1960s, after he had spent 30 years as an actor, military captain and T.V. host.

His acting career leveled off around the time he became the host of the weekly television series The General Electric Theatre. He was required to tour the country doing public relations for this job, which was what ultimately led him into a completely different, but highly successful career as president.

He served the country for two full presidential terms, surviving an assassination attempt, persuading the ultimate end to the Cold War and completely turning the nation’s economy around—all very, very late in life.

So you still haven’t quite found the success you’ve been hoping for yet. Don’t get discouraged. You still have plenty of years to try your hand at the kind of success patience and hard work rewards.

Your first, maybe even your second or third career, might not be where your chances at success are lingering. What you studied in college might only be a stepping stone to get you to where you will eventually end up.

You never know what is going to happen, or when it’s going to happen. The best thing you can do for yourself is continue working hard, even if it doesn’t seem as though it’s paying off yet.

Follow your dreams and stick with your hobbies, even if you only have time for them on the weekends right now. Never give up, because your passions and skills might eventually, years down the road, lead to greater success than you ever imagined you could be capable of achieving.