How our obsession with the 'young prodigy' is holding us back.
There is a notion that the prodigies are the only ones deemed to revolutionise, lead, succeed or even learn. I'm here to examine why we should not conform to the mainstream idea of adulthood and prove that the wunderkind is an outdated concept.
I recently re-watched the movie "Magnolia" which revolves around extremely gifted children. They even have their own live quiz show.
In this film you'll see what the fascination with being a child genius has done to them in adult life. The need to consider the nurturing and development of the whole child is ignored in favour of cruel entertainment, evident in the story of ex-boy-genius Donnie Smith, played by William H. Macy: "Kids, heads full of useless knowledge [..] I used to be intelligent, now I'm just stupid" Smith's character offers at one point.
In this case, there’s his angst over his failure to fulfil all of these expectations to succeed, his choice to miss an early opportunity in life that was given, together with a "Quiz Kid Donnie Smith" label. But beneath that there’s the why: as a society, we're obsessed with a lack of time. There’s considerably less out there about those who started or changed their careers later in life; and it isn't because of the lack of the latter. It’s particularly true in the case of a lot of female role models. Have you ever felt like when you hit a certain age it is better leave exciting things to the younger ones and stop trying? I did, I wanted to learn how to play guitar and someone told me that I missed the boat. I was 17. The point is, the age is almost decided by what you do or how you think not by what people assume you're capable of.
Perhaps our desire to be prodigies is rooted in envy, because wouldn't it make life so much easier to have life sorted out at the age of 25? Sophia Amoruso is a great example of becoming successful as if too early. It's hard not to give her massive kudos for creating something of this size and having a vision. But because she had no business experience and never run a company (nor worked for one) her NastyGal brand went from shop selling amazing vintage pieces to a brand that went under water. You'd think that having your life sorted out early makes it all easier but fires that burn too quickly have a way of flaming out. After all, who wants to be some burnout in their early thirties?
“Wisdom comes with age” sharply observes Vivienne Westwood, who started out as a teacher, opened infamous punk store Sex at 36 and had her first runway show at 41. Now in her 70s she still has an amazing career and legacy.
"It’s what you[...]invest. The way you think about and understand your experiences. The older you get, the less you change your mind, because your way of seeing things is more solid. Solid in a good sense, meaning that everything keeps connecting, and when you make a point, it’s got the basis of all that experience."
There are more people who did not give up on their dreams. J.K Rowling was a single mother living off state benefits before she had her first book published at the age of 33. She is now worth over $1 billion.
Hollywood can be particularly unforgiving when it comes to age. But it is important to highlight actors like Morgan Freeman who; prior to his first major role in Glory have been rejected a million times before he became an international star at 52. This speech Morgan Freeman does here is probably one of the best of his career,
There's a Kerry Washington or Viola Davies who's career didn't start until age 35. For every prodigy you stumble across, there are millions of later-bloomers whose big breaks just haven't come yet.
The real key to success is time. Take MIISTA, for example. Laura Villasenin, before finishing Cordwainer's and happily starting her designer shoe brand was a professional ER nurse. Think trauma and high adrenaline situations; but the experiences that came along with shifting her medical career and working hard towards becoming a shoe designer were remarkable. While she's not a designer prodigy, she's a person who put nose to the grindstone and fulfilled her dreams.
It's more than important to highlight people who change their mind and did not get discouraged along the way. Your career hasn't peeked at the age of 8, 20, 45 so what? Instead you'll slowly but surely build something great in your 60s. There is no expiry date on success. It's the same recipe no mater how old you are: working your way up. This showcase of great achievements from late-bloomers means that numbers just hold us back.