I remember a moment in my life like it was yesterday. I just turned 30 years old and living in Taipei. I was not looking forward to turning the big 3-0. I felt like I had wasted my 20’s. Where did the time go? I was in a four year relationship that should have lasted two. It had been years since I hated my job.
I had no direction in my life.
Leaving for Taipei was my escape. I hoped to learn more about myself, grow as a person, and come back with all the answers I was looking for.
On the night of my 30th birthday, I hiked up this short but steep hiking trail to get to my favorite view of the city (see above). I sat up there and literally right in front of me was the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101. Taipei is a busy city with lots of cars, buses, and scooters. Up there, it was so peaceful.
I could have stayed there all night.
I hadn’t done anything significant with my life yet. I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of my potential. I knew it was in me, but had to find the right area to put my energy into.
I looked at my 30’s at a new beginning. I had to embrace it. I wanted it to be the best years ever. I didn’t want to waste the next ten years.
If you’re about to turn 30 or are in your 30’s, it’s never too late to change careers or have your success.
The list of jobs people had below include stockbroker, carpenter, handling classified information, schoolteacher, lawyer, set designer for soft core porn, and waiter. We don’t remember them that way though.
Here are a list of famous people, who were late bloomers and didn’t find success till their 30’s.
1. Sylvester Stallone – He was a struggling actor in every definition. He was so broke he sold his wife’s jewelry! (She wasn’t happy about that of course).
His lowest point came when he tried to sell his dog at the liquor store to any stranger. He didn’t have money to feed him anymore. He sold his dog for $25 after a guy bargained from $50. He said he walked away crying.
Two weeks later he saw a boxing match between the world champion Muhammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. Stallone had his idea for his movie. He sat down and wrote the screenplay for Rocky in 20 hours.
He tried to sell it. He got an offer for $125,000 for his script! That money would have changed his life. He had one request. He wanted to star in the movie. The studio said no way. They wanted a real star. Not a guy who looked funny and talked funny. He left.
A few weeks later, they offered $250,000 then $325,000. They wanted his movie but not him. He said no. He was an actor first.
The studio agreed on giving him $35,000 for the screenplay and let him star in it.
The rest is movie history. It won Best Picture at the Oscars and took him to stardom.
He was 30 years old when Rocky was released.
You might be wondering what was the first thing he bought with the $35,000? He said he stood at the liquor store for three days hoping to see the man he sold his dog to.
Finally on the third day he sees the man and his dog. He explained why he sold him, but begged for him back. He offered $100. The man said no. $500. $1000. The guy said no amount of money would make him sell the dog. Stallone was determined. He had to get his dog back.
He offered the man $15,000 and a part in Rocky! The guy said yes and Stallone got his dog back.
2. Martha Stewart – Before she wasn’t the Martha Stewart we’re used to now, but instead a stockbroker. In her 30’s she and her husband bought and began restoration on an 1805 farmhouse. That’s where the love of restoring and decorating became apparent.
She started a catering business in her basement with a friend. That eventually led to her creating cookbooks, which led to decorating tips and appearances on Oprah.
She became a billionaire when her company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public. It all started with a career change in her 30’s.
3. Harrison Ford – The actor we know as Han Solo and Indiana Jones used to be another struggling actor. He had small roles but not enough to take care of his wife and two kids. So he became a self taught carpenter in his 30’s.
It was cause he was tired of acting in bad TV shows. He never gave up his dream of being an actor but being a carpenter provided income so he wouldn’t have to take crappy roles.
At 29, he got a supporting role in George Lucas’ American Graffiti. How did he get the part? He was hired to build cabinets in George’s house. That didn’t turn him into a bonafide movie star. That would happen six years later.
At the age of 35, he starred as Hans Solo in Star Wars, created by the same George Lucas.
He had his big break at that at an age when many of us think it’s too late to do anything with our lives.
4. Julia Child – After college, she worked as a copywriter, writing for local publications, and in advertising until the age of 29.
She then worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She dealt with a lot of highly classified information.
After the war and at the age of 36, she and her husband moved to Paris. He introduced her to fine cuisine. That’s where she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and studied with other master chefs.
That started her love of food and spent the rest of her life sharing it with audiences in America as a famous television personality and author.
For her, she found her real passion in her mid thirties.
5. Brenden Gleeson – You might be wonder who is Brenden Gleeson. I did too until I saw his picture. He’s one of those actors you’ve seen many times before but don’t remember which movie.
Brendan Gleeson was 34 when he kicked the day job to become a full-time actor (he had been acting since his late teens). Behind him was a brief two-year stint in the health service and a decade as a teacher, where he taught Irish and English.
He started in small roles but worked his way into many movies including some notable ones such as Braveheart, Mission:Impossible 2, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Gangs of NY, and Troy.
Harry Potter fans will know him as Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody.
He’s won awards for his acting. He is considered Ireland’s greatest living actor.
He took a chance on his dream, even at the age of 34.
6. Andrea Bocelli – He grew up loving music. At the age of six he started piano lessons, and later also learned to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, harp, guitar, and drums. He also spent time singing.
So what did he do? He went to law school. In the evenings he performed in a piano bar to make money. After graduating law school, at the age of 30 he spent a year as an attorney.
After that year, he gave it up to pursue music full time.
He didn’t get his break until he was 34. Italian rock star Zucchero held auditions for tenors to make a demo tape with of the song Miserere from his album of the same name, to send to Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. After hearing Bocelli on tape, Pavarotti urged Zucchero to use Bocelli instead of him.
Zucchero eventually persuaded Pavarotti to record the song with him and it became a hit throughout Europe.
7. Jon Hamm – Before he was Don Draper in the hit series Mad Men, Jon was a struggling actor approaching his self imposed deadline on his dream.
In school he played sports as much as he acted, but he got drawn back into acting. In college, he did some theater. After graduating from college with an English degree, he taught eight grade acting.
In 1995, he decided to move out to Los Angeles with his car and $150. He didn’t want to have a “normal career”.
He had an agent with the famous William Morris Agency. Success right? Wrong. In three years, he didn’t get a single acting job. That time many 25 year olds were getting jobs playing high school students. He didn’t cause he looked too old.
So his agency dropped him.
He worked as a set dresser for soft core porn films. He became a waiter.
He had given himself five years to make it as a working actor. He was now 29. Time was running out. He could make a living as a waiter. But he knew a lot of 40-year-old waiters and he didn’t want to be one of those. He had taught school and he knew that he could always go back to teaching.
He gave himself a deadline of 30 years old to succeed and said:
You either suck that up and find another agent, or you go home and say you gave it a shot, but that’s the end of that. The last thing I wanted to be out here was one of those actors who’s 45 years old, with a tenuous grasp of their own reality, and not really working much. So I gave myself five years. I said, if I can’t get it going by the time I’m 30, I’m in the wrong place. And as soon as I said that, it’s like I started working right away.
At the age of 29, he got cast in a television show, Providence. That led him to quit waiting tables. When he turned 30, he was on the set of his first big movie, We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson.
After many small roles the next years, in 2007 at the age of 36, he beat out 80 actors for the role of Don Draper on Mad Men.
Your life is just beginning in your 30’s
After researching and putting together this post, I got inspired by each person’s story. I loved their stories. I learned so much about each person.
Each of them had different careers before discovering their true passion. Some never gave up their dream but did odd jobs to survive. I’m sure every single one had struggles along the way. Stallone even had to sell his dog just make some money!
If you have a dream you’ve been working on, but haven’t seen the results you wished, let these people inspire you to keep going. Your time might just come a bit later.
So if you’re about to approach your 30’s, don’t worry. You still have your best years ahead of you. If you’re in your 30’s like me, it can get better. It’s never too late to do what you love and have your big breakthrough success.
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