Last time I wrote a post about people who found success starting in their 30’s, and it got amazing feedback. Some wanted to know if hope was there for 40 year olds. There definitely is!
I just read a 2009 survey that said the average median age of 539 company founders when they started their current companies in a variety of industries, including aerospace and defense, computer and electronics, health care, and services, was 40. (This is consistent with their previous research, which found the average and median age of technology company founders to be 39).
For this post, I have actors and entrepreneurs on the list. You might not want to be an actor, but their stories are inspiring. Plus being a television/movie star is one of the most difficult professions to succeed in. So to be a working, successful actor for many years is a huge achievement.
America’s favorite 40 year old virgin got his big break in his 40’s.
Earlier in his career he was a mail carrier, but fired cause he wasn’t efficient enough. He planned on applying to law school, but was unable to write an explanation why he wanted to be a lawyer on his application form.
He then turned to acting. He did some children’s theater and a commercial. He got a minor role in a movie. He had some small roles in short lived television shows.
Some fans will remember him as a correspondent on the Daily Show starting at the age of 37. That lasted for six years.
I first remember him as a hilarious news anchor in Bruce Almighty. He was 41 years old. Then things started to get better. The next year, he had a memorable supporting role in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
In 2005, Carrell signed a deal with NBC to star in The Office. Though the first season’s ratings were mediocre, they renewed the show due to the anticipate success of his first starring role, The 40 Year Old Virgin. Their guess was correct.
That movie established Carrell as a leading man at 43. It was a huge hit!
That translated to The Office becoming a hit on television. In his third year on The Office, he was paid approximately $175,000 per episode! There were 25 episodes that season, so you do the math.
Since leaving The Office in 2011, he has focused on his movie career playing comedic and dramatic roles.
Hard to imagine Steve Carrel not making audiences laugh, but it took him awhile to let people know his true comedic abilities. For him, it took a series of small roles, till he got his first starring role in The 40 Year Old Virgin that changed his career forever.
He’s acted some memorable roles in Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jackie Brown, The Incredibles, Shaft, Snakes on a Planes, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
It’s hard to believe he found success starting in his 40’s. To me, it seems like he’s been acting forever! But it was a long road filled with small roles, heroin and cocaine addiction.
After college, he moved to New York and spent a decade acting in stage plays. He had tiny roles in movies. I remember he was in one of my all time favorite comedies Coming to America playing a robber. He was 40 years old when that movie was released.
While in New York, he developed an addiction to herion first, and then cocaine. After seeing the effects, his family entered him into rehab. He came out clean.
He continued with minor roles and did have a role in Jurassic Park playing a scientist.
Then he was asked by Quentien Tarintino to star in Pulp Fiction. The role was written specifically for him. Although that was his thirteenth film, the movie made him an international superstar at age 46. It also resurrected the career of John Travolta.
From there, he found starring roles in everything from a Jedi knight to next summer’s highly anticipated movie, The Avengers.
The 2009 edition of The Guinness World Records, stated that Jackson is the world’s highest grossing actor, having earned $7.42 billion in 68 films.
It all started in his 40’s.
He was a regular on Saturday Night Live from 1995-2009. You may know his impressions of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, Sean Connery, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney. He’s been on the most episodes of any cast member in the history on SNL.
When he left the show he was the oldest cast member in history at 53.
In his 20’s, his ultimate career goal was to be on Saturday Night Live. He took a rough road to get there.
In college at the University of Florida, he had been turned down by professors and directors for plays, because he constantly fumbled his speech. One theater professor, David Shelton took a chance on casting him in a play. From there he convinced Darryl this was a career he should pursue. That gave him confidence to continue acting after college.
He moved to New York after college, but he struggled. He was abused as a child and that affected him all throughout his life. He turned to alcohol to ease the pain. He spent his first three years waiting tables and drinking so much that he was barely able to go to auditions.
He cleaned up his act, cut back on drinking, and studied at an acting studio whose alumni included Robert DeNiro, Billy Crystal, and Barbara Streisand. That led to roles in off-Broadway and regional theater.
He tried stand-up comedy, performing at a local club when he was 26. The next year, he made it his ultimate goal to be on Saturday Night Live.
It took him 13 years to make his dream come true. So many would quit after just one year.
He moved back to Florida doing some voice over work the next few years. He kept his eye on his goal and developed a philosophy of self improvement that got him through those years. (I love this)
“I came up with a concept when I was 27. The concept was that if I could make one small improvement in myself, in my abilities, once a week, that would be 52 improvements by the end of the year.”
That’s what he focused on and at 32, moved back to New York, determined to be a successful stand-up comedian and attract the attention of Saturday Night Live producers.
Being in his 30’s he knew he started late.
“By the time I was 32, I figured I was too old to make it anyway. But I had that terrible moment of truth when I realized I had to try even though I thought I wouldn’t make it, because that was my dream.”
He was still struggling with his past and kept drinking. However, his dream was the only thing that kept him going.
He put pictures of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi on his wall for inspiration. His reason was that they were people who probably didn’t have any evidence that they could accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, but kept going anyway.
On Saturday Night Live he was known for his incredible impressions, but the stand-up clubs at the time didn’t accept it, so he had to keep those talents hidden.
During the next seven years, he had two auditions for Saturday Night Live and failed. Most people would have just given up their dream. He didn’t.
One night in 1995, he did a one line impression of Bill Clinton. In the audience that night happened to be an SNL producer, who hoped to fill a void for a Clinton impression.
Then he got an invitation to audition directly for SNL creator Lorne Michaels.
He said he had been preparing for that moment for 12 years.
He landed the role at 39. When the first episode aired, it was a month before his 40th birthday.
He said 39 was way too old to be on Saturday Night Live, but that didn’t stop him being a cast member longer than anyone in the show’s history.
At an age when other struggling actors had long given up on their dream, his was just beginning.
He went from a struggling actor, to having Presidents know his name. A couple years after on SNL, he performed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He performed there a total of three times.
After 14 seasons, on SNL and over 200 episodes, it was time for him to leave the show.
He leaves some advice that we should all remember.
“Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you don’t make it by the time you’re 25 doesn’t mean you’re not going to make it when you’re 29 or 39.
“I never really thought I was going to make it, but I’d become this crazy, coiled up human who was determined to try to make it. You have to just keep plugging away.”
If you’ve ever played Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, Zynga Poker or a handful of games online, then you’ve played games created by Zynga, a company founded by Mark Pincus.
Zynga was his fourth company. He started it at 41. After each previous company was sold, he went into brainstorming mode for his next venture.
It started by building a poker game for Facebook when they started allowing developers to create for the social media site.
The game was launched July 2007 and by September, the company was profitable.
John Paul DeJoria
You may not recognize his name but if you’re a woman, you’ll know the first company he started, Paul Mitchell Systems. For the guys who don’t know, they sell hair care products to salons. It’s big business.
If you’re a tequila drinker, you’ll know his second company.
He started Paul Mitchell at age 36. When he started it, he was homeless. This was the second time in in life he was homeless. This time he wasn’t getting along with his wife, so he left and gave her all the money.
A financial backer was suppose to give half a million to start Paul Mitchell. He never showed up. So he slept in his car for two weeks. In the end, the investor never showed up. Instead he borrowed $350 from his mom and his partner (Paul Mitchell) came up with the other $350. As of 2011, Paul Mitchell Systems had over $900 million in annual revenue. (Imagine what that investor is thinking now)
At age 45, in 1989, with a friend, they started the Patron Spirits Company, maker of the premium tequila Patron.
This is how the business got started. (I always find it interesting how big ideas got started.)
I started Patron in 1989 with a friend of mine. I had put my friend Martin [Crowley] in the architectural business. He had a little bad luck in his life, so he would go down to Mexico, buy stone pavers and furniture and come back to the United States and sell it to architects. I said, “Martin, why don’t you bring back a few bottles of whatever the best tequila is that Mexicans drink down there.” So Martin brought me back the tequila and this bottle he found, that was the same bottle as Patron today.
He said, “JP, I have this idea; taste this.” I thought, Wow, that’s smoother than anything we’ve ever had. He said “I can make it smoother. I can send a mixologist down. And here’s a bottle we can put it in, and I’ll design this beautiful label for it. What do you think about going into business together?” We made it a little smoother, put it in these hand-blown bottles. So I bought a thousand cases–12,000 bottles. And my thinking was, if no one bought it, I would keep it, because Paul Mitchell was doing good. And for 10 years everybody I knew got one–for their birthday, christening, bar mitzvah, any kind of holiday you could think of. “Here’s a bottle of tequila! [laughs] If you’re too young, give it to your parents.”
He didn’t have to resort to giving it away as gift. It’s now the #1 selling premium tequila. Celebrities drink it. Rappers rap about it.
Before he starte the company, tequila was seen as a cheap drink. As Ed Brown, CEO of Patron says, “”Who would have ever thought of doing ultra-premium tequila back in those days?” John Paul DeJoria did and now he owns about 70% of the company.
I couldn’t find how much he’s earned through Patron because it’s a private company, but he said it’s extrememly profitable and very large.
His net worth is $4 billion according to Forbes. That’s a lot of hair care products and tequila.
It’s Never Too Late
One advantage about being in your 40’s is that you have more experience. Most entrepreneurs I read about have that attitude that “it’s now or never”. It’s a powerful motivator to know you’re not getting any younger.
However, we’re living longer and longer now so even if you find your success in your 40’s, you still have decades to grow it and enjoy it.
I leave you with a quote by Anthony Robbins,
“We usually overestimate what we think we can accomplish in one year, but we grossly underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”