40 Amazing Things People Have Accomplished After 40
Definitive proof that it's never too late to strike gold
Age is but a number, especially when it comes to success. In fact, many people would argue that being older actually helps you thrive, as you have more experience under your belt and have already learned from your past mistakes.
For instance, the founders of both Walmart and Costco had several businesses under their belts before creating their respective retail behemoths. Or if you look at the literary sphere, George R. R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t strike fantasy gold until their fifth decades, either. And don’t even get us started about fashion. (Apparently, there’s something about turning 40 that awakens the sartorial mind’s eye…) Herein, we’ve rounded up some of the most impressive things people have accomplished after 40. It’s definitive proof that you’re never, ever too old to make a difference. And for ways to age gracefully, don’t miss the 40 Ways to Make Your 40s Your Healthiest Decade.
Stan Lee created the Marvel universe.
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a world without Iron Man and the other Avengers. But Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee didn’t actually create the first Marvel superheroes—The Fantastic Four—until 1961, when he was 40 years old.
Vera Wang started her own company.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, Vera Wang was immediately hired on as an editor at Vogue. She stayed in the fashion and media industry for 19 years—but at 40, she quit her job at Ralph Lauren to become a fashion designer. Today, Wang is one of the best-known designers in the wedding gown industry, having dressed such celebrities as Alicia Keys and Khloe Kardashian. And for more ways to be inspired as you age, don’t miss the 40 Amazing Ways to Feel Younger After 40.
Henry Ford revolutionized the car industry.
Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, will always be regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of automobiles. But it wasn’t until Ford was 45 years old that he invented the Model T, which is now regarded as the car that made travel affordable for the common person.
Momofuku Ando created instant ramen.
Ah, instant ramen. The staple of every college student’s diet. And believe it or not, this meal in a cup was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando when he was already well into his 40s.
Julia Child wrote her first cookbook.
Every good chef has Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking somewhere in the kitchen. But the quirky television personality didn’t actually write her first cookbook until she was 50 years old, thus launching a cooking career that popularized cultural cuisine in the average household.
The Zagats became the authority in restaurant reviews.
Forty-year-olds Tim and Nina Zagat were just your everyday corporate lawyers until they moved to Paris. While there, they began to compile a list of restaurants with pros and cons, which eventually led to the creation of the Zagat Guide in 1982. And if you’re in the market for some restaurant recommendations, don’t miss The 9 Restaurants in America That Serve Real Kobe Beef.
Ray Kroc turned McDonalds into an empire.
Ray Kroc was 52 years old in 1954 when he came upon the McDonald brothers’ restaurant in San Bernardino, California, and decided to buy it. Within four years, the McDonald’s franchise had already sold 100 million hamburgers.
Sam Walton opened the first Walmart.
As an adolescent, Sam Walton tried—and failed—many times to open a profitable retail store. But when he was 44 years old, Walton finally found success in what is now Walmart. And because he never gave up, this late bloomer’s family is now one of the 25 Richest Families in the World.
Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote.
Miguel de Cervantes published his first novel at 38, but it wasn’t until he was 58 years old that he penned his most famous novel, Don Quixote. Today, de Cervantes’ late work has been translated into more languages than any other novel save for the Bible. And if you’re interested in brushing up on your literary history, read up on The 30 Best-Selling Novels of All Time.
Peter Mark Roget wrote the first thesaurus.
After retiring from his scientific and medical studies in 1840 at the age of 61, Peter Mark Roget began his work on a book that was to organize words based on their definitions. In 1852, when Roget was 73 years old, the first English-language thesaurus was published.
Chip Wilson changed the athletic wear industry.
The idea for an athletic wear company came to Chip Wilson during a yoga class. He kicked off the Lululemon empire when he was 42 years old, and is now widely credited with singlehandedly creating the “athleisure” trend.
The Fishers opened the first Gap store.
With no experience whatsoever in fashion or retail, 40-year-old Donald Fisher and his 38-year-old wife Doris opened the first Gap store in 1969. Despite their lack of expertise, their well-fitting denim and other high-quality clothing quickly became popular, and today their company is, according to Forbes, worth an estimated $11.4 billion.
Toni Morrison wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison didn’t publish her first novel, The Bluest Eye, until she was 40 years old. And some of her most notable works—like Beloved and Song of Solomon—weren’t published until the author was well into her 40s and 50s.
Bram Stoker created Dracula.
Dracula wasn’t Bram Stoker‘s first novel, but it’s certainly his most famous—and the author didn’t pen his magnum opus until he was 50 years old, just going to show that you can strike it rich at any time.
Colonel Sanders sold KFC.
During the Great Depression, Colonel Harland Sanders began to sell fried chicken from his roadside establishment in Kentucky and patented his method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer. He quickly began to franchise and, in 1964, at 73 years old, the Colonel sold his company for $2 million.
Robin Chase founded a hugely successful car-sharing company.
While taking time away from work to be with her family, 40-year-old Robin Chase and business partner, Antje Danielson,concocted the idea for a company that makes car-sharing easy and accessible. And in 2000, Zipcar was born.
Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Price.
Today, Mother Teresa is a symbol of all that is good and charitable, but she didn’t found the Missionaries of Charity congregation until after her 40th birthday. And at the ripe age of 69, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Price for her efforts with this charitable organization.
Lucille Ball starred in her own wildly popular show.
Actress Lucille Ball always wanted to make it big, but for years, she was known around Hollywood as the “Queen of the B’s” because of how many second-rate movies she starred in. But at 40 years old, Ball finally got her big break when CBS asked her to develop a television show, which everyone knows today as the huge hit I Love Lucy. Her eponymous character is, to this day, one of the 30 Funniest Sitcom Characters Of All Time.
Jack Cover changed the police force forever.
Having worked as a scientist for NASA, IBM, and Hughes Aircraft, Jack Cover was no stranger to brilliant breakthroughs. But it wasn’t until he was 50 years old that Cover came up with the idea for the taser gun, thereby revolutionizing how police forces operate.
Martha Stewart became the go-to source for entertaining.
Martha Stewart wasn’t always the queen of home entertaining. Once upon a time, the media mogul worked as a stockbroker—but at the age of 41, she published her first book, Entertaining, and the rest, as they say, is history. And if you want to entertain like Stewart, try these 20 Creative Ways to Turn Your Backyard into an Amazing Party Space.
Arthur Fry helped make paper sticky.
Arthur Fry was just your everyday product developer at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now known as 3M) until he and coworker Spencer Silver came up with the idea to use a temporary adhesive on the back of paper. In 1974, when Fry was 43 years old, the post-it note was born. (Another inventor, Alan Amron, sued Fry and Silver’s parent company for allegedly stealing his invention, but the two 3M scientists are most widely credited for inventing and popularizing the office supply.)
Bernie Marcus made home improvement easier.
In April 1978, 49-year-olds Bernie Marcus and Arthur Black were let go from their jobs at now-defunct home improvement chain Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers. Rather than finding other jobs, the two former co-workers decided to open a home improvement chain of their own, thus starting the Home Depot business, which is now worth billions of dollars.
Taikichiro Mori became one of the richest people in the world.
Billionaires aren’t made overnight. In fact, if Taikichiro Mori is any indication, then billionaires can take decades to bloom. Mori didn’t become a real estate investor until he was 51 years old, but his investments quickly made him the richest man in the world in 1992 with a net worth of $13 billion. And if you want to make your way to your first million, get halfway there like that by learning The Best Way to Earn $500,000 in Your Spare Time.
Gladys Burrill completed the Honolulu Marathon…
…at 92 years old. The “Gladyator,” as she became known, now holds the world record for oldest female to complete a marathon. And if you want to be as fit as Gladys, use these 20 Healthy Living Rules You Should Live By.
George R. R. Martin published a bestselling series.
George R. R. Martin has been writing science fiction since he was 21, but it wasn’t until he was 43 years old that he published the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Even if you haven’t read the books, you’ve likely heard of the series, as it serves as the inspiration for HBO’s wildly popular Game of Thrones.
Mark Twain brought Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to life.
Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, has always made a living through his words. But it wasn’t until the author was 41 that he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, thus creating two of the most iconic characters in all of American literature.
John Pemberton gave us the ultimate soft drink.
John Pemberton spent most of his life as a pharmacist, but in 1886, at 55 years old, he struck gold when he came up with the recipe for what is now Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, Pemberton only got to enjoy his success for a few years though, as he died of cancer in 1888.
Ian Fleming created James Bond
Author Ian Fleming didn’t write the first James Bond novel until he was 44 years old. Perhaps that’s because he was too busy living the reality of his novel’s protagonist, as he worked for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division and grew up in a well-connected family.
Nelson Mandela became an icon for change.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re too old to change the world. After serving 20 years in prison, Nelson Mandela helped negotiate the end of apartheid and in 1994, at 76 years old, he became the first president of South Africa. And for more eye-opening trivia, don’t miss the 30 Amazing Facts That Will Change the Way You View the World.
Suzanne Collins created the world of Panem.
The Hunger Games became a huge hit when the first book of the series was published in 2008. And its author, Suzanne Collins, was 46 years old when the first of the trilogy hit the shelves, catapulting the author into an entirely new realm of success.
Christian Dior made his everlasting mark in fashion.
Christian Dior always had a passion for fashion, but his dreams were put on the back-burner when he was drafted by the army. When his service ended at the age of 37, he returned to his true calling, and, at 41 years old, he founded the House of Dior in Paris.
Jeffrey Brotman made it easier to buy in bulk.
After running two relatively successful fashion companies, 40-year-old Jeffrey Brotman hit the jackpot when he co-founded wholesale chain Costco with business partner Jim Sinegal. Like they say, third time’s the charm!
John Warnock invented the PDF.
Businessman and computer geek John Warnock didn’t found Adobe until he was 42 years old. And at 50, Warnock outlined a file type that is, today, used in every office, every day: the Portable Document Format, or PDF.
Joseph A. Campbell brought the world’s favorite cold cure to the shelves.
Where would every sick kid (and Andy Warhol) be without Campbell’s soup? Today, Campbell’s is a pantry staple across the United States, but Joseph A. Campbell didn’t start his canned goods company until he was 52 years old. Before that, he was just a fruit merchant looking to sell canned tomatoes and jellies. In fact, the company didn’t even sell its first soup until Campbell was 78 years old.
Giorgio Armani became a worldwide name in fashion.
Surprisingly, Giorgio Armani studied medicine before he enlisted in the army. But after returning from war, Armani got a job in the fashion industry and, at 41 years old, founded his own company. And as an Italian designer, Armani would agree that Italian craftsmanship is utterly inimitable.
Ralph Roberts built the largest cable TV network in the country.
At 43 years old, Ralph Roberts bought a small cable service in Tupelo, Mississippi, and grew it into Comcast, the largest cable television network in the United States.
Leo Goodwin made geckos talk.
After years of working for other people in the insurance industry, 50-year-old Leo Goodwin decided to venture off on his own and start his own business with lower premiums. And that business, GEICO, brought in over $25 billion in revenue in 2017 alone.
J. R. R. Tolkien brought hobbits to life.
Literary wizard J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t publish his first novel, The Hobbit, until he was 45 years old. And because he was called to duty during the Second World War, he didn’t finish The Lord of the Rings until he was 56.
Steve Carell found his voice in comedy.
Before he turned 40, Steve Carell scored some minor commercial gigs and even served as a correspondent on the Daily Show, but it wasn’t until he was 41 years old that he found his big break as Brick Tamland, the lovably clueless news correspondent in Anchorman.
Simon Cowell became a staple in the reality TV circuit.
Simon Cowell was always relatively well-known in England, but it wasn’t until American Idol premiered in 2002 that the record producer became a household name worldwide. By then, Cowell was already 43 years old. And believe it or not, the American Idol judge is one of the 20 Celebs Who Were Once Game Show Contestants!
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