Late Bloomers | Rich Karlgaard

Summary of: Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement
By: Rich Karlgaard


In a world that celebrates early achievers and wunderkinds, Late Bloomers by Rich Karlgaard offers a refreshing perspective on the power of patience and the vast potential in each of us, regardless of age. The book summary explores the cultural obsession with early achievement and its impact on young people’s mental health. It reveals how our brains mature at different rates, and why it’s crucial to embrace a growth mindset that allows for ’emerging adulthood’ – a period of self-discovery and cognitive development. Late Bloomers delves into the benefits of cultivating new skills and strengths throughout life, and the importance of redefining career paths to allow for continuous growth and reinvention.

The Cult of Early Achievement

Jonah Lehrer’s rise to success as a neuroscience major and successful author at a young age marked the entry of the ‘early bloomer’ or wunderkind as a cultural hero. The media is obsessed with this ideal, encouraging young people to believe that if they don’t achieve greatness by 30, they’ve failed. However, this message is damaging and fails to recognize that everyone develops at different rates.

The High Cost of Achieving Early

The pressure to achieve early affects young people’s mental health. The US has seen a mental-health crisis as depression rates rise and suicide rates soar among adolescents. This change in societal goals from intrinsic to extrinsic goals has been the cause. Test scores and college rank dictate status, resulting in an arms race for college admissions. The pressure-cooker environment has driven the test preparation industry, with some tutors charging more than $1,000 an hour. While families pay the price, young people have to bear the added stress.

The Power of Brain Maturity

At the age of 25, the author felt stuck in his career while others like Steve Jobs were making groundbreaking moves in their respective industries. However, emerging research suggests that young adults’ brains are not fully matured until the age of 25 or later. This knowledge can ease the pressure to achieve early success and encourage individuals to take their time to discover their talents and interests, leading to long-term happiness and success.

Embracing Emerging Adulthood

Young people today are taking longer to finish school, become financially independent, and start a family compared to previous generations. Jeffrey Arnett, a psychology professor, coined the term “emerging adulthood” to define this period between adolescence and young adulthood, where young adults embark on adventures, travels, and relationships with a sense of freedom they may never feel again. Prolonging the period of emerging adulthood through cognitively stimulating and demanding activities can help maintain brain plasticity, foster independent thinking, and boost motivation and drive. Embracing emerging adulthood is crucial for self-actualization.

The Cognitive Advantages of Aging

Contrary to popular belief, the human brain continues to develop and enhance its cognitive abilities as we age. Scientists have found that different cognitive skills peak at different times in life, leading to cognitive gain in some areas despite cognitive decline in others. The Seattle Longitudinal Study shows how our brains can continue to adapt and rewire themselves, making it possible for us to experience cognitive peaks throughout our lives. So, if you invest in your health, education, and remaining curious about the world, you can continue to uncover new skills and strengths well into your golden years.

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