Late Bloomers by Rich Karlgaard [Book Summary – Review]

Our world cares extremely about early success – we should acquire straight A’s at school, be accepted by prestigious universities, and when we are 25, we should start working in our dream professions. However, the majority of the people do not begin being extraordinary; rather, we find our abilities and capabilities at a progressive speed.

Rich Karlgaard experienced just this. He did not obtain stellar grades at Stanford University and he worked at weird jobs while he was in his twenties. Only after years, he found a high-technology magazine in Silicon Valley and ultimately be the publisher of the magazine Forbes.

In this review, you will learn the science behind the reasons why some of us bloom afterward in our lives, and the advantages you can obtain if you focus on attaining your purposes.

Throughout this review, you will discover

  • why the obsession with early success is harmful to teenagers’ mental health;
  • how culture impacts our definition of achievement; and
  • things to do when reaching a sticking point.

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Chapter 1 – The emergence of the wunderkind defined a criterion of early success for millennials.

Let’s start with a tale of an early achiever – an individual who developed faster than normal.

Jonah Lehrer, a pop-neuroscience author, was born and grew up in Los Angeles and started his trip to achievement when he earned a thousand-dollar reward for a NASDAQ-sponsored composition competition when he was 15 years old. Then, he went to Columbia University where he studied neuroscience and became the co-writer of an article about Down Syndrome’s genetic roots.

However, Lehrer was not only a science master; his writing was great as well. In his 31, he had three books published – and even listed in the New York Times best-seller list. His success was one of a type that people the same age would extremely desire for themselves.

With his radio shows and TV appearances, Lehrer started to make lots of money with his side profession as a paid speaker. For one hour of talking, he was getting up to $40,000. In the end, he could afford a million-dollar house in the Hills of Hollywood.

Lehrer’s spring up from an excellent student to a media marvel initiated the concept of a cultural champion: the early bloomer, in other words, wunderkind – that exactly meant “wonder child”.

The typical wunderkind advances early and arrives at the peak of their selected discipline quicker than everybody else. They also tend to get wealthy and renowned as they proceed. This is frequently because of their extraordinary capability – like being gifted in mathematics or technology – or since they have good family networks that allow them to navigate.

These early bloomers are all around the world – from actors such as Margot Robbie and Adam Driver to musicians such as Jacob Collier and Beyoncé. The media also loves the early bloomer archetypal. For instance, every big magazine publishes an annual issue formed on a list of early bloomers, like the 30 Under 30 list of Forbes magazine consisting of stellar entrepreneurs.

The issue here is, our world’s love of the early achiever archetypal forces a hazardous message: if you have not transformed an industry, started a billion-dollar company, or had seven figures around your 30s, you are failed. As we will observe in the following chapters, this message is harmful to teenagers, all of whom advance in distinct ways and at different paces.

Chapter 2 – The stress to become successful early is impacting teenagers’ mental health.

In the mid-twentieth century, the United States started to transform from an aristocracy to a meritocracy – in which everyone could achieve based on skill, instead of money or social class. In answer to this, students, families, and employers started to give extreme importance to test scores and university rankings.

Currently, it is extremely normal for young people to enter fundamental exams like the SAT more than once in their junior and senior years to show their academic talent to universities. However, they pay a price.

Families give thousands of dollars for costly tutors and classes every year for their children to get ready for exams, hoping this will aid them in their way to an Ivy League college. In the meantime, the cost for students is the price plus all the stress.

The test preparation business makes approximately $1 billion annually, having come tutors such as New York-based Anthony James Green that has an hourly price of $1,000. These exaggerated prices demonstrate how students and parents care about university admissions “arms race”, for which people make war, and sometimes deceive, to make one’s way.

This nerve-racking condition causes a mental health problem in the US. World Health Organization stated in a survey conducted in 2014 that depression is the top reason for sickness in adolescents. This is why suicide rates are increasing.

For instance, three skilled students at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California found dead because of suicide between 2014 and 2015. During these times, 42 students were hospitalized or cured for suicidal opinions.

Jean M. Twenge, the writer of more than 140 scientific articles and books about young people, constructed a theory about the reasons for the decreasing mental health of teenagers. Her study attributes the rise in depression to an alteration from intrinsic goals to extrinsic goals.

Intrinsic goals are about our self-advancement as a person and involve things like getting able to do specific activities or developing a powerful perception of sense. Extrinsic goals, however, are about tangible earnings and other evaluations of status involving perfect grades, great salary, and nice appearance.

Twenge thinks that our world appreciates the extrinsic goals of richness and academic achievement over intrinsic goals of cultivating self-knowledge – or just happiness. Of course, teenagers would struggle.

Chapter 3 – Teenagers develop at different paces, according to the time their brains mature.

The author was struggling when he was 25 years old. He had graduated from university with moderate grades and had few professional expectations, thus, he became a security guard.

One night, he realized something staggering while guarding a truck rental yard. The security guard who was guarding the neighborhood lumberyard was not a teenager like him, rather it was an aggressive Rottweiler barking at everyone who passes nearby.

That was the moment he recognized that his job was pointless – specifically because it could be done by a dog in a better way. At the same time, Steve Jobs, who was also 25 years old, was in the ballpark of opening Apple to the public and change the computer business eternally. How would a teenager ever keep up with?

During his late twenties, the author attained a key moment in his professional life. It was at that moment that he sensed like his brain had all of a sudden “awaken”.

He could understand New York Times rather than watching the news on TV. He could also find venture ideas and pen complicated professional proposals, although he could hardly write a meaningful phrase before.

Why was this abrupt awakening?

The arising research states that the majority of the people aged between 18 and 25 are not complete adults. They are in the stage named post-adolescence in which they lack some cognitive processes that fully operating adult brains possess.

In teenage brains, the prefrontal cortex – liable for preparation, organization, and problem-solving – is the latest section that evolves. We can understand that adolescents are not quite ready to bloom until later in their lives.

For evidence, look at the findings of theNational Institute of Mental Health-sponsored research of longitudinal brain advancement. The researchers observed 5,000 children aged 3 to 16 until their adulthood and discovered that their brains were not fully developed until they were 25 or more years old.

Therefore, young people’s urge to attain early success is meaningless. Furthermore, it is meaningless for the families to anticipate their children to be extraordinary cognitive wise at the times their brains have not completely established yet.

Rather, kids and young adults should be told that they can be successful at any time. Having time to find out what their skills and likes are vital for permanent happiness and achievement.

Chapter 4 – A significant time for self-realization is “emerging adulthood”.

Today, the conventional road to find a job and marry is different. Teenagers are spending more time graduating, gaining independence financially, and forming a family. Rather, lots of them choose to be uncommitted to romantic others or stable homes.

Huge national research that is done in the US since the late 1970s discovered that currently the people at 25 years old are twice more tend to attend school than their parents, and 50 percent are more tend to be aided financially by their families.

Therefore, what we frequently named “adulthood” is occurring later than ever. However, this is not a pitiful thing.

A Clark University psychology professor, Jeffrey Arnett, believes that social and monetary shifts have caused a requirement for a new life period between adolescence and young adulthood. He named this stage “emerging adulthood”, and this occurs when people are approximately aged between 18 and 30.

The cultural shift that caused this phenomenon contains fewer jobs for new graduates, the requirement for more education, and a slow pace among teenagers to establish a family.

Arnett, being a late bloomer, thinks that our twenties are a significant time for exploration – where we jump on adventures, trips, and relationships with a feeling of freedom that we may not own afterward. He also thinks that extending the time for emerging adulthood has lots of advantages for the brain.

For example, giving a break for one or two years during or after university may benefit brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to rewire itself by forming new wires. It may also nourish free-thinking and new abilities, in addition to enhancement of motivation and impetus.

Extending the time for emerging adulthood does not mean just not doing anything and watching the world pass by. It is about doing cognitively inducing and challenging tasks.

For instance, the Mormon religion always motivates teenagers to take two years off from college to go on missions. Therefore, lots of them finish college when they are 24 rather than 22 like the majority.

In neurological meaning, they are near to full adulty potential before they look for jobs, study at graduate school, or form a family. If other 20-somethings applied this model, they might be more ready for the hardships and liabilities of adulthood.

Chapter 5 – We form new abilities and discover new capacities as we grow.

There comes a moment in life when it is easier to forget things or make stupid errors. This age is generally considered as the time people “left their first days behind”.

Still, the idea that we reach a cognitive peak in our youth and slowly lose it afterward is not entirely true. Scientific research has demonstrated that we are getting more intelligent and more inventive as time passes.

Researchers Laura Germine and Joshua Hartshorne found out something sweeping in 2015. By evaluating the cognitive abilities of approximately 50,000 participants with digital brain tests, they discovered that various cognitive abilities develop at various times.

For instance, the pace at which we handle information tops during our late teens, while our short-term memory proceeds to get better until the age of 25 before going down for another 10 years.

The skill to measure complicated motives – containing others’ emotional conditions – tops at the ages of 40s or 50s. Furthermore, the crystallized wit of ours – our collected information of realities and experiences during our whole life – only tops around the ages of late 60s or early 70s.

Therefore, with age, we go through some cognitive drops in some aspects, however, we also obtain new cognitive abilities in other aspects. This can be seen brightly when you think of the discoveries of the Seattle Longitudinal Study from the University of Washington, a study that started in the 1950s and proceeds to reveal how flexible our brains are.

Sherry Wills, today’s leader of the research, lately found that air-traffic controllers are inclined to decrease in the pace of cognitive processing and short-term memory as years go by, however, their performance continues at the same level. The reason for this is that the two abilities that are significant for air-traffic controllers, spatial reasoning and emotional calm, advance during middle age.

The adult brain can do a lot more than we believe it can. By gathering and connecting years of knowledge and actions, it can re-adapt to middle age. For instance, a new study demonstrates that the middle-aged brain is more restful, less disturbed, and can better handle social circumstances.

These are all happy news for late bloomers. As long as you care about your health, education, and the world, you can benefit from lots of cognitive tops you will reach in life.

Chapter 6 – There is a requirement for a new career path that empowers continuous blooming.

As a child, how would you dream of your future career to be?

Maybe you imagined flying across the world, encountering amazing people, or founding a business that would shake the ground.

Unfortunately, not a lot of people can attain such aims. The reason for this is that the prevention of the standard career path.

As a teenager, we are raised with the idea that we need to find an occupation and stay on that for a long time to increase the payment. Increase in the experience? Only wasting time.

Furthermore, we are raised with the idea that it is normal that when 60 years old, people retire. Although this idea might be meaningful once, that should alter.

In the majority of firms, good workers are prized with better titles, more control, and more payment – until when this does not function.

Once employees reached their maximum skills and their desire to work longer hours, firms cannot continue increasing their payment; it is expensive and blocks younger workers to promote. This is the reason firms leave people when they attained their top point – an exercise named in law and accounting firms as “up-and-out”.

Although this is meaningful from some perspective, it is devastation of human resources. Lots of people who are fired at the standard age of retirement are still skillful, knowledgeable workers who can contribute greatly.

The author thinks that our world should change this mentality. Rather than considering careers as lines through the “up-and-out” path, we should consider those as an arc, or multiple arcs, that every employee that “past their peak” can contribute a lot.

How is this career arc? Initially, there is no defined age for retiring but payment increases would cease and decreases might occur. Furthermore, titles would stop getting better in the end – for instance, a vice president might turn out to be a senior consultant.

Everybody is worthy of the chance to advance and establish their path. This is why today we need to realize and honor that we are distinct from each other. Also, owing to our distinct backgrounds and capabilities, all of us can develop a distinct way to bloom.

Chapter 7 – Isolating ourselves from cultural impacts would assist us in developing our ways.

As he is raised, Erik Wahl was told to obtain stellar grades, earn a place in a top university and find an occupation that would bring him a fortune. This mindset functioned for a while.

He started his career at an agency that arranged keynote and recreation speakers. In a year, he was a partner of the company.

Then the economic downturn of 2008 occurred. Organizations quit reserving entertainers for commercial exhibitions, and in days, what Wahl was working for disappeared. However, he did not know he was near to earn more than he imagined.

Since the past mindset he was raised with was useless from then on, Wahl discovered another way. He began meeting with artists – who he had always loved their mindset – and started acquiring skills in painting.

In the beginning, he was not good at that. However, as he practiced, he improved. Ultimately, he could earn more as a performance artist than he could as an investor and businessman.

When we carefully think, we can see that we are impacted by a culture that is created by our family, friends, and society. This culture impacts our ambitions and how we see ourselves, and can frequently bring us to places that are not suitable for us, such as Wahl’s stress to fit made him lose sight of his artistic capabilities.

Therefore, if you could not have the opportunity to bloom, observe the cultural impacts that make you stay behind. 

For instance, if your parents are forcing you to have a job that is not suitable for you, it might be the moment to notify your independence from their thoughts. This should not be denying your love or revolting against their anticipations; this should be just selecting the way that would make you bloom.

It should be noted that notifying independence is not simple, specifically if you are talking about your loved ones. This is the reason that in the following chapter, we will talk about the ways to get rid of the cultural impacts that prevent you to bloom – and begin developing your destiny.

Chapter 8 – Late bloomers should recreate themselves to attain the fullest of themselves.

Have you ever sensed that you cannot get rid of a past, antiquated version of yourself?

For instance, in high school, maybe you were “Katy the band nerd”. However, 20 years later, your peers still tell you this name although you have matured, had kids, and not playing clarinet anymore.

This type of condition shows itself in the workplace as well, and late bloomers frequently encounter that. It does not matter how you work to upgrade yourself, your manager will try to press you not to improve. If this is the situation, you should break free.

If a growing rose is getting bigger than its container, it has to be taken up from the roots and the container should be changed. If you are a late bloomer that could not find an opportunity to advance, you should do the same.

This means you should “re-pot” yourself to attain your best version. This might contain meeting with similar-minded individuals, changing your occupation, or even moving from your place to another place. Yes, changing your environment in this way may sound harsh, but it is beneficial.

Let’s examine the late-blooming author Kimberly Harrington. As a copywriter and creative manager of advertising firms, she had always dreamt of writing long essays and books. However, life in Los Angeles was not suitable for creativity.

She was acquainted with everybody in the professional life, there was always rivalry around, conditions were too demanding, and it was expensive to socialize and always be “cool”. Therefore, she removed her roots and moved to rural Vermont, where she was encircled by scholars, environmentalists, and people who were truly concerned about the world.

It did not take long for her perspective to start to widen. Doing her freelance profession away from the stressful environment of the advertising world, she found space to create and write her first book when she was 50 years old.

With the courage to re-create herself, Harrington discovered how to bloom. All late bloomers can achieve this; they just need to be bold to quit the societies that try to press them down and begin developing a new individual in their way.

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard Book Review

It is not incorrect or weird to discover your path later as you live. In reality, if you give yourself more time to be successful, you can establish a brighter understanding of yourself and the place you desire to be. On your way, you will encounter new people, establish new abilities, quit your concerns, and discover new perspectives for life. Therefore, rather than considering yourself as a used-up potential, quit your concerns and let yourself bloom.

Quit things when you feel you should.

Nowadays, “quitting” is a banned word. Quitting your occupation is equal to your weakness in dealing with stress and quitting a relationship is equal to an unwillingness to find a middle way. However, if it pushes you to follow something greater, quitting is beneficial in attaining your aims. Therefore, if you cannot move forward in an occupation, a relationship, or a society that is not suitable for you, boldly quit it. You will be grateful for that!

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Savaş Ateş

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