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Encouragement for Late Bloomers

Charles Babbage

As a late bloomer, I found this post: Babbage's heart-warming message for the middle-aged from John Graham-Cumming very encouraging.

Charles Babbage started late in life and yet managed to achieve amazing technological feats.

He invented the Difference Engine (a completely mechanical calculator) and the Analytical Engine (a completely mechanical computer) starting in 1833 at 42, right through 1871 when he died at 79.

From Graham-Cumming's post:

"You might think that designing the first computer would be a young man's game. Far from it. Charles Babbage started work on the Analytical Engine in 1833. He was 42 years old.

He kept working on designs for the Analytical Engine until 1846 when he was 55. He then stopped working on it and spent time on the Difference Engine No. 2 which was constructed by the Science Museum in the late 1980s.

Babbage returned to the Analytical Engine in the mid-1850s when he was 65 and kept working on it until his death in 1871 (aged 79)."

It's a refreshing reminder that both youth and age have pros and cons.

The young have energy, drive and can burn the candle at both ends a bit longer. Older, more experienced late-bloomers have a lifetime of successes and failures to draw on.

The Late Blooming Advantage

I used to view my late blooming as a disadvantage. I thought I was slower than everyone else because maybe there was something wrong with me. What I've come to understand is, my late blooming life is a gift to be appreciated and enjoyed.

The ability to see and understand patterns has come only with age and experience. I still make mistakes, but more often than not, I've found myself able to see what's coming and adapt to situations in a way I wouldn't have when I was younger.

I've grown to appreciate the chance I have to do work I love — every single day.

I know I'm fortunate, because not everyone is so lucky. However, I've also learned that loving what you do is up to you, whatever your work happens to be.

My most important realization? An appreciation of the process.

In the process of creating — deeply in the flow of moment — that's where the joy is for me. Even if the task is incredibly challenging, being in the middle of solving it is joyful.

Are you a late-bloomer like me?

What have you learned? What can you share?

Reader Comments (4)

Love this. It's been one of those really long days where I needed to read this.

If you haven't ever read David Galenson's stuff on Old Masters and Young Geniuses - its similar and you might like it.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Hastings

I'm a bit of a late bloomer. I spent the first seven years of my career at a financial services company coding everything from COBOL to JCL to VB to Java. Well, the problem was - not much coding.

While I appreciate the lifelong friends I made at the company, I never should have been working there. I sometimes wish my life, college- and career-wise, were shifted about 6-8 years into the future. I highly doubt I would have made the "company man" choice in today's environment of entrepreneurship and rapid open source development (thanks GitHub!). Though maybe I'm fooling myself.

BUT there are advantages. I definitely have perspective on what work life could be. I'm thankful everyday for what work life is for me now.

I have a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters (with a third on the way). They are my world and they offer me a lot of perspective. This definitely shapes the way I prioritize things. I try in every way to keep my workdays short while remaining productive. I need (and want) to support my family physically and emotionally, but I also like to make time for side projects and experimentation. This has eliminated a lot of activities that simply don't provide as much enjoyment (and value, frankly).

Do I wish I had those seven years in the corporate sand mines back, replaced by seven years of hard core coding? Sure. But this cannot be changed and I still find where I'm at just as exciting no matter how I arrived here.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Hess

Hail fellow late-bloomer! While I have occasionally lamented not being a prodigy, some advantages I've found:

1. You can enjoy an indifference to fashion. No one expects you to be in style anyway.
2. You have more of a self to bring to the work.
3. As you say, you can be so much more present in the work itself. Try stuff, see what happens. It's fun!

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Firke

@Christopher, thanks for the kind words - so glad I could encourage you. Thanks too for the David Galenson suggestion, going to check that out.

@Barry, I think it's great to see you've got your life where you want now. I think even those 7 years you want back taught you things that made you what you are today, just like the good years.

@Lisa thanks for the comments! I agree with all 3. And when you get really old, then you don't care what anyone says or thinks anymore. :-)

October 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

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