Do you realize it is never too late to start?

Today is July 16 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you realize it is never too late to start?” Those who translate their dreams into reality understand two basic principles. First, you need as many dreams as it would take you two lifetimes to achieve; that way you are always navigating the chaos on one or more at any given time. Second, it is never too late to dream nor to navigate the chaos.

One of the side effects of social media’s omnipresence today is the negative consequences it can have on one’s ability to perceive the amount of time required to navigate the chaos. For example, it is common to see teenagers who are social media influencers with millions of followers making six figures or more per year. There are entire accounts on Instagram that detail how rich you can be by the time you are 30. If all you watch are videos of people, who, in your mind, have ‘made it’ then that can have an adverse effect on your mental health. If that happens, your chances of navigating the chaos decrease substantially because your view of reality is so distorted.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology concluded there is in fact a causal link between the use of social media and negative effects on well-being, primarily depression and loneliness.

The researchers found “is if you spend less time on social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being. Prior to this, all we could say was that there is an association between using social media and having poor outcomes with well-being.”

If spending time on social media makes you depressed, anxious, or stressed because you think everyone there has figured out how to navigate the chaos, perhaps it is time to get off of social media and understand the world is filled with people who accomplished their dreams after decades of either trying or having other careers.

If you are 25 and worried that you have yet to land a job using skills learned in college…

If you are 35 and worried that you are working odd jobs just to make money for your new family…

If you are 45 and worried that you will never be able to leave that job where you have been for 10 years…

If you are 55 and worried that you are running out of time to start that new project you always wanted to…

If you are 65 and feel as you lack the energy and motivation to move forward and work on one of your dreams…

If you are 75 and are afraid you are running out of time…

Stop thinking and start doing. Regardless of your life situation, ignore those 30 Under 30 lists, disregard the social media posts telling you how rich you should be in your 20s, and remove anyone in your life who tells you it is too late.

It is never too late to begin. Here is a list of over 20 people at various ages and what they were doing when.

At 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.

At 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.

At 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

At 30 Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo.

At 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.

At 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

At 39, Julia Child released her first cookbook and got her cooking show at age 51.

At 40, Vera Wang designed her first dress.

At 40, Stan Lee released his first big comic book.

At 42, Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting.

At 42, Samuel L. Jackson got his first movie role.

At 51 Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.

At 52, Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role.

At 53 Ray Kroc bought the McDonalds franchise and took it to unprecedented levels.

At 54 Dr. Seuss wrote "The Cat in the Hat".

At 57, Kathryn Bigelow achieved global success when she made The Hurt Locker.

At 59, Kawasaki Shozo founded Kawasaki.

At 61, Charles Flint founded IBM.

At 62, Col. Harland Sanders founded KFC.

At 69 Ronald Reagan became President of the US

At 76, Grandma Moses began her painting career.

At 76 Nelson Mandela was 76 became President of South Africa

At 78, Louise Bourgeois became a famous artist.

Many of those on the list had multiple careers. Some had been fired. Some failed. It does not matter. What matters is your ability to believe that it is never too late to begin. Now some people might tell you there is not enough time for you to finish what you started. Others might tell you how difficult it will be to navigate the chaos in your later years. Still there may be some individuals who tell you not to waste your time. You decide if they are right. Here is a secret. They are all wrong. But go ahead and believe those that would belittle your dreams. You have free will after all. Enjoy going to the grave with your dreams unfulfilled. Live a miserable existence because you listened to someone instead of yourself. This entire Navigate the Chaos series is designed to increase your self-awareness. If you choose to ignore your self-awareness that is on you. Do not blame others for your inability to dream and then work on translating that dream into reality as you age. You have only yourself to blame.

American ballet dancer Misty Danielle Copeland said “You can start late. Look different. Be uncertain. And still succeed. The opportunities are out there. You just have to believe in yourself and not let anyone's words come in and define you and change your path. You are going to hear 'no' in life no matter what you do. You just have to keep pushing and persevering. And I think it's important to know that it doesn't matter what your skin color is, or your body shape is. Whatever you want to do, you should go for it.” She did. Copeland tells her story in Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. She started learning ballet at 13 years of age, much later than when most dancers start, taking her first class on a basketball court at a Boys and Girls Club. Since most dancers take up to 15 years to get the right amount of training to make it to a professional level by 17 years of age, she had to shove all of that into four years. By age 15, her mother and ballet teachers, who were serving as her custodial guardians, fought a very public custody battle over her. The 1998 legal issues involved filings for emancipation by Copeland and restraining orders by her mother. Both sides dropped legal proceedings, and Copeland moved home to begin studying under a new teacher who was a former American Ballet Theater (ABT) member.

In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After two summer workshops with ABT, she became a member of ABT's Studio Company in 2000 and its corps de ballet in 2001 and became an ABT soloist in 2007. As a soloist from 2007 to mid-2015, she was described as having matured into a more contemporary and sophisticated dancer. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history. With a non-traditional entry into ballet, Copeland has created buzz outside of that world due to her being one of the few African American performers seen in classical dance. In a meteoric rise, she has continually acknowledged the responsibility she feels to others looking to make their way in dance. Her trailblazing accomplishments have been recognized by a range of institutions, and in spring 2015 she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. How often do you feel as though you are starting too late, think you look too different, or remain uncertain?

Whatever your dreams are is, it is not too late to achieve them. Never tell yourself you are too old to make it. Never tell yourself you missed your chance. Never tell yourself that you are not good enough. As C.S. Lewis noted "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." Practicing the art of living well requires one to believe it is always possible to set another goal and dream a new dream.

  • How often do you remind yourself that you are never too old to follow your dreams?

  • Have you stopped pursuing a goal because you told yourself you were too old?

  • Has someone told you that you were too told to try something?

  • Do you have enough dreams for two lifetimes to achieve?

  • If you have trouble setting a new goal or dreaming a new dream, why do you think that is?