There is no universal definition of success — it’s yours to decide.
Novelist Robert Louis Stephenson once said that “to be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.”
So why does the world keep telling us what it is? And why do so many people chase after validation from others?
The most worthwhile purpose in life is to become yourself, whatever that might mean to you, no matter your age.
Early success doesn’t necessarily lead to lasting success. We all succeed on a different timeline. And that’s okay.
Charles Darwin was 50 years old when he published “On the Origin of the Species” which shaped the subject of evolution forever.
George R. R. Martin was 48 years old when Game of Thrones was published and 63 when it premiered on HBO.
You’ve probably never heard of Vera Wang. She was a figure skater and journalist before entering the fashion industry at age 40. Today she’s one of the world’s premier women’s designers.
Samuel L. Jackson did not get a starring role until he was 46 years. He later went on to be in hit movies such as Die Hard With a Vengeance, Star Wars, and Pulp Fiction.
Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman into his fifties. Then he stumbled onto a clean restaurant that served a good hamburger run by two brothers with the last name McDonald. He bought McDonald’s when he was 52 and transformed the business into a global brand.
“…you still have time. You don’t need to have it all figured out. Don’t worry that what you have tried so far hasn’t led to happiness yet. You can still pursue fulfillment. It’s never too late to achieve the success that is meaningful for you, says Larry Cornett, Ph.D.
All these successful people help us see it is never, ever too late to go after our dreams and never too late to find success. Here are four more important lessons we can learn from these late bloomers.
It’s never too late to be awesome.
Lesson 1: It’s never too late to choose yourself
If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve heard the flight attendant tell you that in the event of an emergency landing, you should put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child or another companion with theirs.
There’s a reason they tell you to do it in that order.
If you don’t put your own mask on first, you won’t be in any position to help your companion. That same principle applies in real life.
The people who end up looking like the “chosen ones” — the best-selling authors, the successful business owners, the talented artists — chose themselves and pursued what brought out the best in them.
When you choose yourself, you can boost your self-confidence, pursue your personal goals and do more of what makes you come alive.
You’ll also teach people how to treat you by showing them that your thoughts, ideas, and feelings matter. After all, you can’t expect other people to see your value if you don’t see it for yourself.
The chosen ones choose themselves.
Lesson 2: It’s never too late to learn something new
From life lessons to college degrees to a GED, it’s never too late to learn.
So what if you’re 40 when you start law school? Law school typically takes two years to complete.
You’ll be 42 whether you accept this challenge or not. So what if you’re 52 when you shape your first sculpture or 62 when you open your first winery?
The point of happiness and success is grasping each opportunity that comes along, not grasping it by a certain age.
Most people spend the middle part of their lives devoted to taking care of other people. When your children are grown and on their own, it’s a great idea to take some years for yourself.
Once you get everyone else started on their personal road to success, plant your feet firmly on your own success road.
Pick up a paintbrush, dust off the piano, or write a new business plan. Whatever your particular dream is, go for it.
It’s not too late for you to travel around the world; become an accomplished cook; skydive; develop an appreciation for art; write a book; get an advanced degree; save for your old age; pursue a passion project…
You don’t get to use age as an excuse — you are more than capable of learning and achieving something worthwhile, even if you don’t think it’s possible.
James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself recommends this exercise:
“…pretend everyone was sent to this planet to teach you. Famous people, dead people, your neighbors, your relatives, your co-workers. This will give you a strong feeling of humility. And guess what, you will learn from people, you will appreciate them more, and they will actually appreciate you more. Because everyone loves to teach.”
Lesson 3: It’s never too late to invest in yourself
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be,” says May Sarton, a prolific American poet, novelist and memoirist.
Growth starts from birth and continues throughout our lives even after physical growth stops, mental and emotional growth keep happening.
The cognitive growth, growth from experience, and emotional development that happen as we age and mature has numerous benefits.
Success, as we age, equips us with a brighter view of the world and gifts us with more time to spend on personal dreams. It also rewards us with more time to nurture and foster our own individuality.
Committing to personal growth as you age can help you age gracefully — if you commit to learning from your mistakes, sharing your wisdom with others, and learning not to take life too seriously.
“Success comes from continually expanding your frontiers in every direction — creatively, financially, spiritually, and physically. Always ask yourself, what can I improve? Who else can I talk to? Where else can I look?” argues James Altucher, Choose Yourself
The success you learn in your later years can help you learn to appreciate the benefits of longevity, embrace the power of experience, and reap the benefits of wisdom.
Lesson 4: It’s never too late to fail forward
One thing none of us ever manages to outgrow is making mistakes — it’s part of life. In fact, making mistakes is how we learn.
Touch a hot stove once, you’ll never touch it, again, right? Mistake made. Lesson learned. Older adults know mistakes are not only inevitable, but they can also be inherently valuable.
Having the wisdom to learn from mistakes can help you go from victim to victor and from faulty to strategic.
Failing forward means learning to adapt favorably to change, learning to build healthy stores of resistance, and learning to be resilient in the face of adversity.
People who found success later in life know another important thing about mistakes — they know how to use a mistake to propel them toward success.
While the wisdom that comes with age doesn’t mean you’ll never make another mistake, it does mean you can learn to turn a stumbling block into a stepping stone, and a catastrophe into a catalyst to drive you toward success.
What you are isn’t a person who has wasted 30 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them? That’s one of the most important questions in life.
Your chance of success has little to do with your age. It’s shaped by your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.
It’s never too late to learn, too late to grow, too late to choose yourself, too late to fail forward. Don’t let age stop you. What are you planning to do with all the precious time ahead of you?
This article originally appeared on Medium.