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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot
During my second year of drama school my classmates and I tackled the works of Shakespeare, Beckett, Williams, and Ibsen.
Each storyteller shared a unique vision of the world, transporting me from a drab castle in Denmark to a farm in the Mississippi Delta. Having faced obstacles more imposing than their own characters, the authors were often as inspiring as the stories themselves.
But the work of one playwright, in particular, had such an indelible influence on my 20-something self that I still reflect on his work today. His plays were bizarre, confusing, even maddening at times.
And on more than one occasion I left rehearsal in a complete daze, wondering what trauma would compel a man to write such absurd stories.
In the end, I fell in love with Eugene Ionesco’s work. I grew to appreciate his sense of humor, boldness, and wildly original take on the world.
But mostly, I admired how the man who would go on to win numerous awards from theaters around the globe and pen a total of 34 plays did not write his first until he was nearly 40.
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Today a great deal of our stress is rooted in a distorted relationship with time.
It has become the consummate bully — poking, taunting, and wrestling us into submission until we hand over the tattered dreams that failed to meet a conventional timeline.
But as someone who believes his greatest achievements have yet to come to pass, my success hinges on the belief you’re never too old to begin work that matters.
Here are 3 ways failing to make the Forbes 30 under 30 list may actually give you a leg up.
Embracing You Have Less Time
In the summer of 2013 I travelled to a small town in South Africa called Chintsa Village to volunteer as a teacher. After the program ended I rented a car and drove to Port Elizabeth.
A few minutes into the drive I turned on the radio in search of some tunes only to hear the crackle of static fill the air.
Just as I was about to shut it off, I turned the dial one last time and landed on a broadcast. I was greeted by the booming voice of a South African preacher in the middle of a sermon.
“Take my house. Take my car. You can even take all my money,” he said. “But PLEASE, do not take my time! Do not take my time because that I cannot replace!”
Seconds later the station lost reception and mysteriously faded out.
That moment changed my life.
When I returned home I began to look at my time as an investment. If a project did not help me grow, forge meaningful relationships, or give me personal fulfillment it had to go.
As a young man approaching true adulthood, I finally understood my time was finite. I was suddenly driven to go to war against distraction and sidestep work I considered frivolous.
I also limited my associations with people who criticized more than they contributed. My life was flying by. I simply did not have the time to associate with people who refused to get out of their own way and seemed hellbent on taking me down with them.
I learned to let go of the mindless rabbit holes and part with what was no longer serving me. My time became a precious currency.
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The Value of Patience
Many years ago, a young man from Seoul, Korea packed his things and set out for Paris to study filmmaking. He came from one of the rare households that could offer both the means and emotional support to make such an audacious dream possible.
A few years later his mother passed away after losing a long battle with cancer. He and his family were never quite the same, but he in particular lost a parent with whom he shared a unique bond.
But in that loss he gained clarity and the courage to admit the dream of becoming a film director was in fact never his to begin with.
With a generous loan from his aunt he spent six months traveling throughout Korea, tasting and experimenting with different ingredients. He learned about different cultural trends, the way food varied by province, and how dishes once regional had become popular throughout the country.
Not long after his culinary expedition he opened the first of a chain of wildly successful restaurants with delicious and reasonably priced dishes. Not surprisingly, his eateries proved especially popular among college students.
My cousin was nearly 50 when his dream was finally realized.
In the end, it was his late jump off the starting block that allowed him a clear view of the pack ahead. While everyone around him was sprinting for the finish line he was running a marathon.
Not having the means to open his own restaurant didn’t limit him from clarifying his vision. He understood the value of the “long-game” and the importance of staying ready.
A Smarter Kind of Hustle
Spend a few minutes on any social media platform and you’re likely to come across a hashtag followed by the words, “hustle,” or “grind.”
From entrepreneurs to athletes, there is undoubtedly a culture of “no days off” being sold. And though there is no substitute for hard work it can come at a great cost if not accompanied by a dose of self-awareness.
In my obsessive pursuit of becoming a working actor, my determination reaped many rewards but left me depleted in the “big picture” arenas of life: family, relationships, and self-care.
I chose solitude over camaraderie and competition instead of community.
Then one cold winter morning I met a man who’d flip everything I knew about hustling on its head. For the next several years he schooled me on the importance of living a life and not just a career.
Every morning, come rain, sleet, or snow he would hop on the Metro North from his home in Connecticut and commute to mid-town Manhattan. For the next ten hours he would audition, teach, or take classes.
Just before his late foray into acting he abandoned the peace of mind that comes from supporting a family on a well-paying and steady job.
Each time he saw me get worked up over a blown audition or complain about not seeing the fruits of my labor, he would remind me there was more to life than being on Law & Order.
He taught me you can want something without needing it; a realization that not only liberated me but also made the work more enjoyable.
Not surprisingly, the minute I stopped trying to bulldoze my way to the top I started to book more work.
He was undoubtedly one of the best actors in the city, but his work on stage paled in comparison to how he performed off of it. He beamed when he spoke about his children and took the work seriously but never himself.
But the greatest lesson he imparted was being satisfied while striving towards your dreams wasn’t a form of complacency. It simply meant joy couldn’t be postponed for some professional achievement.
In 2014 he booked a series regular on one of TV’s hottest shows.
He was almost 50.