A late bloomer sprout pokes up from weathered tree rings
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Leadership with Passion through Kokorozashi

The key ingredient to success? Passion.

Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

Everybody loves a prodigy. It’s the go-to Hollywood narrative: a young hero finds their calling and pursues it to success despite overwhelming odds. Whether it’s conquering the world like Alexander the Great or mastering your magical skill as the Chosen One, people love stories about knowing what you want and getting it.

But what if Mr. The Great got halfway to Greece only to realize his true passion was goat herding? Or, better yet, what if he hadn’t realized how good he was at conquering until the age of forty-five? Would it have been too late?

Nowadays, there’s huge pressure from society to succeed early. By the end of high school, we’re meant to know what we want to study, get into a good university, and start down “the path.” People who don’t are called “lost,” even “losers.” These aren’t just hurtful and unfair—they’re downright wrong.

If you’ve ever looked around and felt like your life was moving slower than everyone else’s, here’s some good news: You might be a late bloomer. And here’s some better news: It can actually be a good thing to be late finding your passion.

What Is an Opsimath?

The middle-aged cashier at the drive-through who’s back in school for his nursing degree, the empty-nester who just took up painting, and the car salesman who just quit to open a carpentry business—these people have something in common.

They’re all opsimaths.

Opsimaths are late bloomers, people who begin to learn late in life. And they exist not because of laziness or lack of intelligence, but because society’s expectations are stacked against them.

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5 Career Advantages Unique to Late Bloomers

Rich Karlgaard, author of Late Bloomers: The Hidden Strengths of Learning and Succeeding at Your Own Pace, says our society overly relies on the “early achievement conveyer belt.” Standardized testing and formulaic advancement, he says in an interview with Wharton, is “a system that will reveal the strengths of some people: your rapid-algorithmic giftedness, your ability to focus, your determination . . . But there are so many gifts that go undiscovered.”

Does that mean late bloomers are inevitably left behind, doomed to have low-paying jobs and live paycheck to paycheck?

No. There are plenty of famous late bloomers, from Lucille Ball to Sir James Dyson. And there’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that good things come to those who wait.

Here are five things that gives late bloomers meaning as they emerge as opsimaths.

Late bloomers know what they like (and what they don’t).

Finding your personal mission, whether it’s early or later in life, starts with passion. Late bloomers have a clear advantage in this area: They’ve been around longer and tried more things.

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Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

While young people launching straight into a career might feel excited about their chosen path, late bloomers have gone through a lot of trial and error. They’ve learned not to take things face value, and they’ve learned how to read people. With such skills behind them, the path forward (once it’s found) is often much clearer.

Late bloomers know lots of things.

People who don’t get started on a single career path often end up with an unexpected superpower: general skills.

While there’s nothing wrong with being a specialist, specialization can narrow your view of the world. A person who takes time to find their calling has likely been a lot of things: a secretary, a sous chef, a parking attendant, a cashier, a dog walker. During that time, their specialist counterpart has done an internship, an apprenticeship, and scored an entry-level job, all in a single field.

When late bloomers do find their callings, they bring a plethora of skills and big-picture value to the companies that hire them. While there may be a hurdle at the interview stage, they can quickly prove themselves indispensable to an employer and bring diversity of thought to a team.

Hand holds up a clock over a desk with a laptop
Are you wasting time? Or biding time to bloom? | iStock/HAKINMHAN

Late bloomers have more developed brains. (Yes, really.)

The human prefrontal cortex starts developing in adolescence, but it’s not done until you’re about twenty-five—that’s three years after the average “convey belt” student graduates university.

What’s so great about a fully developed prefrontal cortex? Only that it enables some of the most sought-after soft skills at companies.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, “The top skills and skill groups . . . in the lead up to 2025 include groups such as critical thinking and analysis, as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.”

Critical Thinking: Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is a central business skill, and yet it's the one many people struggle with most. This course will show you how to apply critical thinking techniques to common business examples, avoid misunderstandings, and get at the root of any problem.

Translation: employers want a fully functioning prefrontal cortex. So if you’re a late bloomer just finding motivation, rest assured Mother Nature has set you up for success.

Late bloomers are trained innovators—thanks to failure.

Because opsimaths have tried a lot of things, they’ve naturally failed at a lot of things. They’ve gotten used to a world with no patience for their growth, and they’ve struggled against a system that doesn’t work for them.

That kind of training, however unwelcome, breeds incredible resilience. Desensitization to failure, paired with that fully developed frontal cortex, can make late bloomers excellent problem solvers. When something doesn’t work, they don’t seek out the “right answer”—they look for another way.

Another word for that is innovation.

Many of those famous late bloomers were innovators. Julia Child not only brought French cooking into US homes, but she helped invent the very concept of a televised cooking show. And she did the latter as a woman in her fifties—in 1960s America.

Late bloomers can go far at the right time.

As the old saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Early achievements aren’t everything, though we often push ourselves as if they are. While that sometimes leads to success, it just as often leads to burnout. At worst, it can lead to achievements that later prove to be ill-conceived and scandalous, even tainting a legacy.

Mark Zuckerberg was the guy to beat when Facebook was in its heyday—he had a brilliant mind, a brilliant idea, and a product everybody wanted. But fast forward a few years, and Facebook (now Meta) is the poster child for a social media platform that played much too fast and loose with privacy.

If you’re a late bloomer, all of your skills, tendencies, experiences, and physical advantages set you up with an analytical perspective for good choices.

It remains up to you, of course, to make them.

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