7 Highly Successful and Creative People Who Didn’t Have it All Together In Their Twenties (Or Thirties)

Why can't I just be 25?

Why can't I just be 25?

By Stephanie Schaefer

As I approach my 25th birthday (or as some like to say, “quarter of a century”), I can’t help but flashback three years prior. Fresh out of college and upset with the trials and tribulations of the so-called “real world” I had been thrown into, I called my mother in tears from my tiny New York City apartment.

“I just want to be 25,” I whined similar to the way that Jennifer Garner’s character wished she was older in the romantic comedy “13 Going on 30." I guess I naively believed that 25 is the age when everything falls into place—that perfect moment in time when your skin is free from the acne of your youth and the wrinkles of true adulthood. More importantly, I assumed that 25 was the year in which you put it all together—a blossoming career, a savings account, and a real, grown-up relationship.

Laughing at my naiveté, I know that when I wake up on my upcoming birthday, I probably won’t feel any different than I do now. I know that it’s not necessarily about the milestones, but, as clichéd as it sounds, it’s about your individual journey.

The seven uber-successful people listed below never put deadlines on their accomplishments or limits on their creativity, and neither should we.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We all know and love her has the creator of the popular Little House on the Prairie children’s books, but did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book in the series until the age of 65? The original autobiographical work she wrote, which detailed a first-person narrative of her childhood on the frontier, was actually rejected by numerous publishing companies. It wasn’t until Wilder changed her approach to write in third-person that she finally achieved success in the industry.

Stan Lee

Without Stan Lee, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would just be two scrawny dudes trying to find work in Hollywood. Thanks to Lee’s creativity, we now know them both as Spiderman. Lee created his famous superhero at the age of 43, after working his way up in the industry. During his younger years he took any job he could get, including writing obituaries and selling them to the New York Herald Tribune. Now, his famous characters are still box office gold—“The Avengers” is the third highest-grossing film of all time.

J.K. Rowling

Prior to hitting it big with the beloved Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling was a divorced, single-mom living on welfare. She sold her first book—after a slew of rejections—at the age of 32 for the equivalent of about $4,000. Today, there’s a whole theme park based on her creativity.

Sylvester Stallone

Sly Stallone’s journey is the ultimate Cinderella story, as Sean Tuohy has previously discussed.

Before gaining success by writing and staring in “Rocky,” Stallone was so broke that he once had to sell his dog for $50. Luckily, after selling his script, he was able to re-purchase his prized pooch, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Julia Child

Sometimes success tastes sweeter when it’s achieved later in life. In 1950, while Child was in her late 30s, the culinary master actually failed her first Le Cordon Bleu exam. This didn’t stop her from eventually receiving her diploma at the cooking school and going on to pursue a successful career within the industry. Neither did the fact that Houghton Mifflin actually rejected her cooking book manuscript twice. Today, more than 1 million copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (published by Random House in 1961) have been sold. Child’s story even inspired a popular rom-com starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

Frank McCourt

A self-described “late bloomer,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist didn’t publish his first book until the age of 66, after retiring from teaching in New York City. McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes details his poverty-stricken upbringing during the time of the Great Depression. The book has sold more than 5 million copies, has been translated into 20 languages, and made into a feature film.

Lucile Ball

The world’s most lovable redhead was once known as the “Queen of the Bs” because she couldn’t break into A-list acting. In fact, her agent recommended that she should find a different career. Believe it or not, CBS was also originally unimpressed with the pilot of “I Love Lucy,” the show which re-launched Ball’s career when she was 40.

As for me, although I may not have it all figured out right now, I’m definitely closer than I was three years ago. And if things don’t magically fall into place on July 14, at least there will be cake.

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