Incredibly successful people who had no luck straight away

Many people by the time they’re 30 start to become seriously worried about what they see as their lack of success. The thought gets stuck in their head that they’ve never achieved anything significant and probably never will. They think the only thing they can do is try to come to terms with their ‘failure’.

But this just isn’t the case. Here are ten people who became incredibly successful later in life. It’s never too late to achieve your dreams!


Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s

Sold paper cups until he was 52

‘In 1954 I was 52 years old. I was a diabetic and I had arthritis. My gallbladder and most of my thyroid gland had to be removed in an operation. But I believed in the future.’ This is what Ray Kroc had to say about the fateful moment when got acquainted with the McDonalds brothers.

Kroc was also partially deaf and not very rich. He was a well-known businessman, but most of his projects had failed. When he needed $15,000 to buy an advertising license for McDonald’s, not a single bank was willing to lend to him. He had to remortgage his house. But then he went on to earn $600 million over the next 30 years.


Harland David Sanders, KFC

Lived to 40 before he came up with the idea for his brand

The founder of this now globally recognised fast food chain has an interesting biography. He lost his father early in life, and since his mother had to work a lot, he was left in charge of cooking at home. He started working when he was 10, trying many different things, and at 12 he left home because of a bad relationship with his stepfather. Colonel Sanders is in some ways the embodiment of the American dream.


J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter

Lived as a single mother without work until she was 31

The idea for her globally successful books came to J. K Rowling in 1990. Over the next seven years, she couldn’t find work and got divorced from her husband. She lived in poverty until she published the first volume in 1997. Now, she’s sold more books than anyone else in Britain.


Amancio Ortega, owner of Zara

Worked as a shop assistant until he was 37

Amancio was too poor to even finish secondary school, and from the time he was 13 he began to work in a clothes shop. When he was 37, he opened his own clothes factory. In the beginning, he sewed together dressing gowns, night shirts and female underwear in his own living room together with his wife. On one occasion, they decided to sell their products through their own efforts after a client cancelled a large order. In 1975, they opened their own shop, Zorba, when Amancio was 40. In 2012, he had become the richest man in Europe, as the owner of such brands as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull & Bear, Zara Home, and Stradivarius.


Harrison Ford, actor and producer

He was a carpenter until he was 30

In 1968, Harrison Ford played a role in the film Zabriskie Point, but all his scenes were cut out of the final version. He decided to give up acting and became a carpenter. This was until he had a chance meeting with George Lucas, who invited him to the film set ofAmerican Graffiti. Ford at this time was already 30.


Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay

Worked as a commercial agent until she was 45

Mary Kay Ash worked as a commercial agent for 25 years without getting any kind of promotion. She was 45 when she decided to resign and a book about women in business. The book turned into a business plan, and she started selling skincare products. In 1963, Mary Kay Ash founded Mary Kay Cosmetics with her husband.

Henry Ford, creator of the Ford Motor Company

Founded his company when was 40

Born into a family of Irish immigrants, Henry Ford ran away from home in his youth and went to work in Detroit. Until the age of 36, he worked as an engineer and mechanic for the Edison company. He built his first car when he was 30, and founded his own company ten years later. He was 45 when his company released the famous Ford T model in 1908 which would make him one of the most influential businessmen of the 20th century.

Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox

Had a junior position in Xerox until she was 32

Ursula Burns was born in a poor neighbourhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She took a junior position in the Xerox company in 1980. In 2009, she became the company’s CEO and the first black woman to head an American corporation.


Sheldon Adelson, founder of Las Vegas Sands

Sold shampoo until he was 30

Sheldon Adelson gave up school at the age of 12. He took a wide variety of jobs – he sold newspapers; sold soap, shampoo and paper towels to hotels, founded the De-Ice-It company with his brother, which sold de-icing sprays for cars, and worked as an insurance broker. In 1988, he founded the Las Vegas Sands company – now the largest casino-operating in the world. At this time, he was 55.


Manoj Bhargava, creator of 5-Hour Energy

Lived as a monk in a mountain monastery in India until he was 30

After spending decades isolated from the rest of the world as a simple monk, Manoj Bhargava emigrated to the USA and founded the energy drink company 5-Hour Energy. There probably isn’t a single other human being in the world who went on such a dramatic journey from a complete recluse with no possessions to a billionaire.


Andrea Bocelli, singer

Played the piano in bars until he was 33

By the time he was 12, Andrea Bocelli was completely blind. But he dreamed of becoming an opera singer. To achieve his dream he moved to Turin, where he took singing lessons. In the evenings he earned money teaching people to play the piano. In 1992, Andrea successfully passed an audition with famous Italian rock star Zucchero. His demo track then fell into the hands of Luciano Pavarotti, and his career lifted off.


Ang Lee, director

Unemployed until he was 36

Ang Lee studied film production in the USA and shot a couple of successful pieces when he was still a student. But then his luck ran out, and he spent six years out of work. It was only in 1990, when Lee was 36, that he won a competition with one of his scripts and his directing career took off. Now, he’s famous all over the world.


So, never despair and never give up. Always look for a way out of your situation. You can achieve whatever you want – you just have to have patience.

Diagram: fundersandfounders

You may also like...