Never Too Late To Be Great | Tom Butler-Bowdon

Summary of: Never Too Late To Be Great: The Power of Thinking Long
By: Tom Butler-Bowdon


Why do many people view time as their enemy in the pursuit of success? This erroneous mindset often discounts the crucial fact that achieving greatness can take a long time. In ‘Never Too Late To Be Great: The Power of Thinking Long’, Tom Butler-Bowdon dispels the myth of overnight success and instead encourages us to embrace the law of lead time. By focusing on the importance of perseverance, thinking in longer time frames, and recognizing that mastery requires considerable time and effort, this book offers valuable insights and empowering stories that emphasize it’s never too late to achieve one’s goals.

The Long Path to Success

Many people view time as their enemy in the pursuit of success, believing that if they haven’t achieved their goals in a certain time frame, they have missed their chance. However, by accepting the law of lead time and making time an ally, individuals can attain almost any big goal. The optimal lead time for gaining real mastery is at least 10 years, according to researchers Herbert Simon and William Chase. Many successful people studied, practiced, and refined their work for up to 20 years before achieving success. By thinking in longer time frames, individuals can gradually achieve mastery over their field’s skills and rules, enabling them to reshape those rules into something new and persevere through setbacks and obstacles. Appreciating success’s long lead time is an essential ingredient in recipe for achievement.

Age is just a Number

Don’t let age deter you from pursuing your dreams and passions, as having a longer time horizon can provide ample opportunities in life.

Psychologist David J. Schwartz emphasized that age should not be used as an excuse for not pursuing a long-term project, which is commonly referred to as “age excusitis.” The lives of many successful people indicate that you can achieve greatness even if you start later in life. Having a longer time horizon is advantageous, as it allows you to navigate through the lead times and obstacles that lie ahead before making a mark. Moreover, people today live much longer than they used to, which indicates that you can live life to the fullest even at a later age.

In today’s world, life expectancy has greatly increased over the past century, and it’s not uncommon for a person to live well into their 90s in good health. This increase in life expectancy can multiply your productive working years, extending your career from age 20 to age 80. Therefore, it’s never too late to achieve something that you’re passionate about. If a person’s productive life can last 60 years, then those in their 50s still have 50% of their productive years ahead. Thus, it’s critical to avoid thinking negatively and instead look at the opportunities ahead.

Warwick Mayne-Wilson is a perfect example of someone who didn’t allow age to deter him from pursuing his passion. He started his career as a landscape architect at the age of 49, after enjoying a successful career in the Australian diplomatic service. Even in his 70s, he’s still a respected landscape architect, actively working instead of being retired.

In conclusion, age is just a number, and it should not be used as an excuse for not pursuing your dreams and passions. Having a longer time horizon can provide ample opportunities in life, and it’s never too late to embark on a new journey of discovery and success.

Achieving Success in Midlife

Many successful people achieved great things in their middle age, debunking the myth that it’s too late to succeed in life. Psychologist Carl Jung defines this stage as “individuation,” where one’s personality components integrate into a cohesive whole. By midlife, people have a more realistic view of themselves, embracing their limitations, and gaining appreciation for their mortality. This liberates energy, leading to new interests, priorities, and achievements. Previous life experiences, both positive and negative, serve as a ‘raw material’ for something remarkable, as exemplified by successful people such as Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, who used his accumulated skills, knowledge, and contacts to turn his vision into reality. By midlife, people have accumulated enough experience to master their profession and implement the products of their imagination. The summary encourages people not to begin fretting over what they have not achieved but appreciate the warm-up for their ultimate contribution in life.

Turning Time into an Ally

Successful individuals understand the significance of a lengthy preparation time and leverage it to their advantage. Instead of perceiving time as an enemy, they ask themselves how to make the best use of it. Based on research, these individuals commonly adopt specific practices that facilitate their success.

Nurturing Niche Growth

California Cedar Products, a leading pencil slat maker, discovered a new market by recycling sawdust as artificial fire logs. Starting in a narrow niche can be a powerful way of building an enterprise, even for behemoths like Microsoft or 3M.

The Power of Gradual Growth

Lonely Planet, one of the most popular travel guide publishers, started with small and humble beginnings. In 1973, Tony and Maureen Wheeler self-produced only 1,500 copies of their first guidebook, Across Asia on the Cheap, with the simple goal of earning enough money to fund another trip. Slowly, they published a few more guidebooks each year and eventually hit the jackpot in 1981 with the release of their India guidebook. Despite a gradual start, Lonely Planet became a highly successful company and was eventually sold for a whopping $250 million in 2007. Never underestimate the power of gradual growth.

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