I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late for me to achieve something worthwhile?

Answer by A Quora admin:

When he was 32, Oskar Schindler was a balding, opportunistic Nazi who obtained a factory through his Nazi connections. He had no major artistic, oratory or athletic skills. At that point, he had no way to make history in a positive way. But, he did and with just 2 years of work.

Through his tenacity and change of nature, he helped 1200 Jews escape the Nazis. Now, a whole community of people proudly uses his name – Schindlerjuden (Shindler's Jews) and venerated highly in Israel.Schindler saw a problem and did whatever he could to solve it.

That's the way to make history, dammit!

There are millions of problems around us and if we change ourselves today, we have an opportunity to make history. Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela and scores of others we remember in history didn't really set the world on fire when they were quite young. They were not child prodigies and they were not extraordinarily skilled in any particular field. They were ordinary men who did extraordinary things.

Does that mean, you and I will be known in history? Statistically unlikely. But, that doesn't mean we don't have that opportunity. World likes to remember unlikely heroes. That's why Schindler or Gandhi are so compelling. World especially loves a story of redemption and change – called the "hero's journey" that forms the template of almost every novel and movie. Thus, if you change from someone who has wasted his first 30 years and then change to something else in a dramatic way, more people will love your story than someone who has been achieving from get-go.

One probably needs just 4-5 great years to really make a mark in history. In those years, with the momentum everything falls in place. With the right positioning, you could author a dozen literary masterpieces, take the company from zero to the top, create a political movement etc. It takes a lot of effort to get to that kind of momentum and once there you can get the ducks in line and shoot it all. You can have these great years at 20 or 50 or 80.

For instance, Steve Jobs had 3-4 great years in late 70s and late 2000s. That was enough for being a superstar in business. Rest of his life he slogged a lot without much recognition.

This is not a recipe for inaction or to sit around daydreaming. The point is not be too worked up about perceived lack of successes, and be more focused on building the strong foundation required to ace when the wind really blows your side. You might spend decades only to have your skills discovered later. At that point, you should really make the opening pay. Like a lonely music practioner who practices for years to get into the auditorium someday, you need to keep working while keeping chins up.

When the wind starts blowing on your back, just run. Keep running.

If you have these great years at 20, you have a lot of time to enjoy the pleasures of life. However, the flip side is that you build such great expectations that might crimp your room for creativity. Thus, a lot of child prodigies who achieve great things at young age fall into a bout of depression & loneliness. Mozart, Aaron Swartz, Shirley Temple and Bobby Fischer are some examples of this. They were geniuses who got secluded by their own momentum. Some prodigies like John von Neumann keep that momentum throughout life.

If you achieve these great years at 80,  you have little time to bask on the glory, but you can move to the sunset of life on a high note. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi's glorious years came when he was well past 50 and his life was very eventful until the last minute. Einstein was in the middle, starting his glorious years from late 20s.

However, there is also an element of chance here. You never know which 5 year period is going to be yours. A lot of people are not prepared enough at the start of their magnificient era and throw away the golden opportunity. To improve your odds, you have to see every year as a potential start of your own era.

Once you keep working as though every year is the start of that glorious year, someday things would fall in place. If you are really hungry, you would recognize that moment quickly.  At that point, you will level in history with that kid who had his glorious years started when he was 15. And once you get there, regardless of the age you get there, your life's destiny is fulfilled.

I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late for me to achieve something worthwhile?


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