THE LATE BLOOMER - 5 AUGUST 2012
White Tern Inflight - Midway Island, North Pacific, File # 1009952
As I approach my 50th birthday, I consider what lays ahead for me. I think most people would consider this marker and later as the continuance of the 2nd half of life as in "it's only downhill from here!" I'm suggesting being 50 can be a marker for the next third in ones life and it's a start of something new. Those of us who become recognized for our talents in the later stages of life are termed late bloomers as if all those years before was wasted in preparation and discovery. Well, I'm going to make a point in this article that those late bloomers may be just as important to us and perhaps more than those early prodigy types we're normally used to celebrating.
I've taken an interest in how we learn, how humans learn. I think what attracts me to this subject is steeped in over-coming the challenges I wrote of in my series about creativity and organizations http://www.tom-hill.biz/Blog/2012/The-Problem-Ahead-3-May-2012/22764477_Pfbdsn#!i=1826078395&k=p4fWKhN Link to First Article). While those articles were all about creativity, the capability of a highly adaptable mind, and those organizations that embrace these concepts, what ties these together is learning. What I mean is a big influence of whether we accept the grand idea of the importance of creativity over more traditional and mundane things can all be about how we learn. Surprising even to me, our capacity to learn, the capacity for our brain to develop as we get older, is far more substantial than what most people think.
The brain is an amazing collection of cells organized in incredible ways. I won't scratch the surface of how the brain works or even hows its designed. I don't think I'll ever be that learned enough on the subject to suppose that I know anything on this. But, I can point out a couple of things that might wet your appetite for your own consideration.
Most of us already know a child's brain development is most accelerated when they're very young. Unlike other mammals, human brains are still "cooking" after being born. In our younger years the structure of the brain is being created and re-created. Some educators think because of the rapid development of the brain that this time is the brains most important opportunity for success. I mean that in this fear that if you don't have the most nourishing and positive experience during these years, the boat has sailed and all future possibility is lost. The concept of the late bloomer shows that's not true. I won't say having such a positive early experience isn't positive. But, I will say the evidence of blooming later in life allows for development long after our baby years.
There is some evidence that the brain isn't fully organized until well into adulthood. There's even evidence conduits that pass information across the brain are still being developed well into our more mature years--read 50's here. This all means the capability of your brain is constantly improving over the years until we've supposedly reached our twilight years. Yet, there is evidence this can be a new beginning--ala the late bloomer.
We all cherish child prodigies and wistfully hope our own children may reach the same abilities. The problem is not all prodigies have success in later years. While they might have tremendous success early simply because of the unique development of their brains and the circumstances of opportunity, this does not guarantee success down the road. In fact, if you consider recognized long producing geniuses like Einstein, you'll find many of them produced their best work when they were early in their careers. Einstein produced the Annus Mirabilis papers in 1905 which were by far his life's most important works. Tatum O'neal, earned the academy award at 10 yet has not matched that accomplishment. Shirley Temple was a star at 5, though probably earns late bloomer accolades for becoming an ambassador in her 50's. Then there's the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski who was an academic child prodigy with degrees from Harvard and the University of Michigan before escaping to the wilds of Idaho when he was in his late 20's. There are many more examples.
Blooming late in life should not be all that surprising if you consider all the ingredients that come together to produce great recognized things. With us knowing there are child prodigies and late bloomers you might think there are two ways to achieve achievement; inspirational and experimental.
Inspirational is a road to success that follows a beginning idea and a general direction. Along the way, the road feeds on itself to allow for more inspiration and continuing the path. When you're done with the great work and look back at how you got there, you'll see one idea based on another with seemingly few first hand experiences. This approach is simply something that seems to explode out of one's own self. The application of this road might look like being closed in a room for weeks to produce the singular great work. Time to success? Short.
The experimental road is much more difficult, challenging, and time consuming. It is the course that demands first hand experience. It's a road that allows experiences along the way to contribute to the final product. Having a lifetime of experience and perspective, the standards of quality might far exceed their talents. Learning is necessary. More life experience is required. As they constantly practice their craft on the experimental road, eventually their skills improve. There might draft after draft after draft of a concept before it sees the light of day. Even after that, it might take years of work and rework before the item is fully acknowledged and successful. Time to success? Long.
When a person is recognized at an older age for the work they're doing and perhaps called a late bloomer, you might fall into the trap they simply recently followed the inspirational track and trapped themselves in a room for weeks on end to produce their great work. You might think they just picked it up later. But, it's possible these late bloomers simply toiled at their passion for years and years before finally gaining the recognition they worked so hard to achieve.
Here's the perspective that might be missed on those enamored with the highly successful youngsters from well heeled colleges. Those late bloomers that suffered in the background for years and years have something the youngsters don't have, the experience of failure.
Knowledge and creativity are not the only traits associated with successful people. In someways the most important lesson, the most important life lesson is overcoming failure. There is a certain quality to someone that stays at a task year after year simply on the strength of their own will despite rejection after rejection that simply should not be discounted. This is a quality that allows people to overcome adversity when logic says otherwise. This is also a quality that might only be measurable in someone with years behind them.
The point in all this is if you're wondering where to bet your money on success, whether the youngster or the older fellow, the possibility is the return on investment is more likely with with the late bloomer simply because he's really not starting at a disadvantage. In many respects, the late bloomer who envelopes themselves in the task like the prodigy has more life experience and better biological brain development to succeed.
Of course, it's easy to say I'm biased. I am almost 50, after all. So, I'll concede this, the problem with older folks who aren't willingly in the task with an open perspective are just as likely fail as the prodigy with all their untested future promise. In fact, if I had a choice between a stodgy individual stuck in their ways or an untested youngster with large potential, I'll take the later. The "possibility" is what attracts me and overcomes the danger of the untested.
Being creative and adaptable are not traits usually associated with our older generation. So, I am also making a pitch that creativity is equally applicable to the success of our older folks as it is to anyone else. I mean that in the perspective that creativity and adaptability never goes out of vogue, especially as you get older. The benefits of creativity and adaptability as you get older are topics for another article.
The late bloomer is a powerful person. This is a person that purposefully chose the harder road before achieving their success. This is a person that knows adversity and how to overcome it. They know what they want and are committed to it--they're in for the long haul.
If you find a late bloomer, think about what they might have to offer you. I'm sure there's something.
White TernHawaii Oct 10