Success at a Late Age (Part III)


The above infograph is for the average person 30 and older, i.e. miserable, poor people. These millionaires and even billionaires are just like you and me! That must mean you and I can be millionaire success stories too!

No. You can’t.

So far, we discussed why you will never be Mark Cuban, Suze Orman, Harrison Ford, Pejman Nozad, Ray Kroc, Mary Kay Ash, Andrea Bocelli and Amancio Ortega. In this final installment, we’ll look into the success stories of Ang Lee, J.K. Rowling, Manoj Bhargava and Sheldon Adelson.

Ang Lee

According to the motivational picture above, Mr. Lee was just a house husband until his 30s. Clearly, a lot of context is missing here. Let’s get a better picture here.

Like nearly every other example we have explored so far, Lee’s success was a long process in the making well before the age of 31. After high school, Lee attended the National Arts School in Taiwan where he graduated at the age of 21.Ang_Lee_-_66ème_Festival_de_Venise_(Mostra).jpg

After mandatory military service, Lee completed a bachelor’s degree in theater at the age 26 at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We’re already just five years away from the 31-year-old mark in the above picture.

Lee then received an MFA at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where he worked on the thesis film of fellow classmate Spike Lee. Other notable alumni include Mahershala Ali, Woody Allen, Joel Coen, Whoopi Goldberg, Anne Hathaway, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Neil Simon, Kristen Bell, Selma Blair, Bridget Fonda, James Franco, Gina Gershon, Ethan Hawke, Lady Gaga, John C. McGinley, Jerry O’Connell, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Sandler, M. Night Shyamalan, Morgan Spurlock, Rainn Wilson and a shit ton of other very successful people in entertainment.

Essentially, this Tisch School of the Arts is the Harvard Law School of entertainment, i.e. by having it on your resume a great job is a guarantee.

Furthermore, Lee’s short film as a graduate student won Best Drama Award in Short Film in Taiwan, and his thesis film won NYU’s Wasserman Award for Outstanding Direction and was selected for Public Broadcasting Service.

With such an impressive resume, Lee was signed by the infamous William Morris Agency. Unfortunately, work dried up and Lee was essentially unemployed for six years. This is when we reach the “house husband until 31” nonsense. It’s true, but missing a lot of context, including the fact his wife was a molecular biologist who made plenty of money to support the two.

In 1990, two of Lee’s screenplays won first and second in a Taiwanese competition, which ended up getting him his big break of directing a full-length feature film. The rest is history.

Assuming you attended one of the most prestigious schools in your field and marry a scientist to support your transition period, you too can be a “late bloomer” like Ang Lee!

Manoj Bhargava

You probably don’t know this guy’s name, but you certainly know his product: 5-Hour Energy. Until he was 30, he worked as a taxi driver and a monk. Hmmmmm, sounds like an inspirational immigrant success tale.

Bhargava was born in India in 1953, but his family moved to Philadelphia when he was 14. His father acquired a doctorate degree at the Wharton School of Business. You’ve probably never heard of that university (just kidding).

Manoj_Bhargava.jpgBhargava attended a super elite private academy called The Hill School. A bunch of politicians and super successful people went there, including Donald Trump and his son Eric. Already, Bhargava is far ahead of 99.9999% of the world population. He then attended what I can only assume was his “safety school” for one year: Princeton.

After that one year at an Ivy League school, Bhargava spent 12 years travelling to and from monasteries and worked odd jobs in the U.S. and India.

Bhargava then went to work for a PVC manufacturing company his parents owned. Essentially, he lived a working class life because he had a huge safety net with mom and dad’s successful company. With that money, he bought an outdoor furniture parts company at the age of 37 and sold the PVC company when he was 43.

In 2003, he created another company and launched 5-Hour Energy. He was 50 at the time.

What we have here is a rich kid who went on a long 12-year trip exploring the world because he had the financial resources. He wasn’t a monk or cab driver out of necessity. He was able to become an entrepreneur with family money. Bhargava is essentially Donald Trump, i.e. attended super-elite schools turning family money into a bigger empire.

The good news is if you attend the same schools as people like Donald Trump and your parents own a successful business for you to cash in on, perhaps you can also create a multi-million dollar, heart attack-inducing beverage company.

Sheldon Adelson

Super rich and powerful casino magnate (and now owner of Las Vegas Review-Journal) Sheldon Adelson appears to have a similar success story as Ray Kroc in the questionable above motivational picture: salesman of shitty products early on. Maybe the real story is similar as well.

Born in 1933, Adelson grew up poor in Boston, his father a cab driver and his mother ran a knitting shop. When he was 12, his Uncle Al gave him $200 to purchase a license to sell newspapers. That’s the equivalent of nearly $2,700 in 2017 dollars. Quite an investment for a 12-year-old in 1945 Boston.Sheldon_Adelson_21_June_2010.jpg

His uncle’s generosity didn’t stop there. When Adelson was 16, Uncle Al gave him $10,000 to start a candy vending machine business. Set for inflation, that’s more than $100,000.

After spending some time in the Army (like most men in that generation), Adelson started a business with his brother called De-Ice-It, which sold a chemical spray to help clear frozen windshields. Also, “Adelson became a mortgage broker; he sold ads for financial trade publications and advised companies looking for financing; he invested in real estate, and ran a tour business,” according to a New Yorker feature piece.

By his mid-30s, he had become a millionaire and lost it twice. Adelson created a computer trade show called COMDEX in the late 70s, which he eventually sold for $500 million (his share) in 1995. He bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in 1988.

Sheldon Adelson is a combination of Mark Cuban and Suze Orman, i.e. an extraordinary business mind combined with access to startup capital. Most 16-year-olds could never get a $100,000 loan for a business. Most 16-year-olds wouldn’t even think of starting a business with that kind of money.

Adelson is a brilliant entrepreneur who began business ownership at the age of 12 with a large loan from a family member. He didn’t just sell shampoo and windshield defroster, he owned the damn company, sold it, reinvested and made millions more.

You can be the next Adelson if you also have a brain that of a business genius, started at an early age, and have a rich uncle to give you money to get started.

J.K. Rowling

One of the more well-known “delayed success” stories of the 21st century, Rowling’s early life is not nearly as remarkable as the other people we have dissected so far. Her father was a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer and her mother a science technician, so she came from an educated family. However, she didn’t attend prestigious schools and did not accomplish anything extraordinary as a minor.J._K._Rowling_2010.jpg

So far, Rowling is like most people.

While applying to colleges, Rowling was denied by Oxford. Rowling would end up graduating from Exeter in 1986 at the age of 21. Again, pretty normal life.

After college, Rowling worked for Amnesty International and the Chamber of Commerce, typical path for someone who studies Classics in college. She then taught English in Portugal. During this time, Rowling had been working on the first Harry Potter book.

After a child and marriage separation, Rowling moved to Scotland. She described herself as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” Dealing with depression and near-poverty, Rowling was much worse off than most of us.

At around 1996 is when Rowling finally found a publisher after 12 others had rejected her book. As the image above states, she was 31. The book was published in 1997 and we know how the rest goes.

Folks, we have our first legitimate “late bloomer” success story!

Don’t give up, but don’t get your hopes up either

This “Lost in Life” motivational picture by Anna Vital commits what most inspirational speakers do when trying to sell adults “How to be a millionaire” books/videos: Taking situations out of context to support their bullshit narrative.

Of the 12 examples, only one can be considered an average person with no advantages who overcame the odds and grinded her way through life to find success after 30. The others had some sort of privilege, usually in the form of access to resources or were an extraordinary person that began their adventure very early in life.

By the time we reach our mid-30s to early-40s, most people are on whatever trajectory they have designed for themselves. Keep in mind, that although many of the above examples didn’t realize success until after 30, they had paved a path directed towards massive wealth. These weren’t unmotivated people who suddenly experienced an enormous injection of drive in their 30s. Their success was being built for years or decades before.

Without any kind of business background or natural knack for business, you probably won’t build the next corporate empire. No literary background? You probably won’t write a New York Times bestseller. Without access to money, you’ll have a hard time convincing investors your great idea is worth gambling on.

Life is complex. A one-sentence explanation will not be sufficient to describe one’s day, let alone their path to success. There are so many variables that lead us to wherever we go that we cannot use someone else’s experience and apply it to our own. The odds that those same variables will play out for us are astronomically against us.

We like to believe that we are 100 percent in charge of our life; our choices alone determine our path. That’s simply not true. Uncontrollable external forces play a major role, e.g. socioeconomic upbringing, chance encounters, location, timing, etc.

Motivational posters like the above can make people believe they are not working hard enough. That may not be true. You can be incredibly talented, motivated and hard-working and still never realize the kind of success you desire. And that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily your fault. Luck is a significant element in the game of life. The more we accept this reality, the happier we can be with our plight in life.

Related stories:
Success at a Late Age (Part II)
Success at a Late Age (Part I)

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