Somewhere hidden in a secret library lies a book that holds the rules and guidelines of some of the most valuable information that we could ever ask for. This book holds the instructions on how to be successful in your 20s. Well, we wish.

For some reason, we have this misconception that during our 20s, we are supposed to cure cancer, solve global warming, win a presidential election, develop a nonprofit organization and be a doctor all at the same time. It can be frustrating to live up to these impossible expectations! The truth is, we don’t have to have our lives together at 25. Don’t believe me? Check out these seven extremely successful people who didn’t have their big break until waaaay after their 20s.

1. Vera Wang

Vera Wang is one of the most successful wedding dress designers in the business. However, although today her gowns can be found on runways all over the world, she wasn’t always a household name. Actually, she didn’t create her first gown until she was 40! Before that, she was training to be an Olympic figure skater. Long story short, she has been a little more successful in the world of needle and thread than ice.



“All those years of skating and dancing have carried over. I can’t design anything without thinking of how a woman’s body will look and move when she’s wearing it.” 

2. Charles Darwin

Remember that guy from school who talked about “The Survival of the Fittest”? For a man who today would be 207 years old, it’s pretty impressive that his theories are not only still around but still in high school textbooks. Well, prior to Darwin’s great gift to academia and mankind, he actually was supposed to become a doctor. However, after two year of medical school he called it quits, and went on to pursue his true passion.



“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” 

3. Julia Child

Julia Child, the famous French television cook, wasn’t always a five star chef (or French at that). In fact, she originally wanted to be a writer. Although she passionately enjoyed the art of prose, the amount of publications produced in her early life didn’t exactly reflect it. Actually, she rarely got published. It wasn’t until she was in her fifties when she published her influential Mastering the Art of French Cooking.



“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” 

4. J.K. Rowling

Yes! The one and only creator of the Wizarding World that I still wish I could live in DID NOT have everything figured out in her 20s. In fact, the manuscript for Harry Potter wasn’t even completely finished until she was 30! Prior to her amazing literary accomplishment, she was an average single mother who taught English at a university. Her first drafts of the Harry Potter series had been countless times rejected!




“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”


5. Ken Jeong

Remember that funny Kroean actor from the Hangover? Yeah? Well, he is also known as Dr. Kendrick Kang-Joh Jeong. That’s right. Before making it big in Hollywood, he was working in a biology lab. He actually attended the same medical school as my mom! While completing his residency in New Orleans, Ken Jeong followed his dream and pursued his comedic career.



“Medicine really matured me as a person because, as a physician, you’re obviously dealing with life and death issues, issues much more serious than what we’re talking about in entertainment. You can’t get more serious than life and death. And if you can handle that, you can handle anything.”


6. Martha Stewart

Who doesn’t secretly want their apartment to look like Martha Stewart designed it herself. Well, I’m not so sure her apartment looked too different than yours as a 20 something. Not only was she indecisive about her major at university, but she modeled for Chanel to pay for her schooling! Martha Stewart created her first cookbook at age 41. That’s right, 41!



“Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” 

7. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah didn’t have a typical claim to fame, either. She didn’t come from a rich family nor was it “destined” for her to be such a television success story. After graduating college, she continuously turned down offers from networks such as CBS. However, after finally working with them, she began on her path to greatness. Oprah was 32 in 1986 when she hosted her first Oprah Winfrey show.



“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

So the next time you are stressing about not getting your dream job or getting into the graduate school you’ve always wanted to go to, remember that your life isn’t over. It hasn’t even started yet.


Related Content:

Why You Need to Put Your Career Envy in Check and Start Focusing on Your Own Success

Judging Success as a 20-Something


Theresa Dickerson is a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Nonfiction Writing and Natural Sciences on a premedical track. She is originally from North Carolina and recently moved to Pittsburgh for school. She enjoy reading, exercising at Pure Barre, traveling, competing in pageants, cheerleading, and kittens! One of her favorite quotes from the great poet Maya Angelou is, "I go forth alone, I stand as ten thousand."

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