They Had ‘Safe’ Careers — But They Surprised Everyone When They Did This

It's never too late.

The concept of a midlife crisis is all too familiar. There are many times passion takes a backseat to stability, like when you're busy taking care of children or family members. But just because a dream has been put on hold doesn't mean it's dead. 

It is never too late to pursue dreams and find happiness.

Here are seven people who dared to leave the safety of secure careers to define success in their own way, and ended up changing the world in the process:


1. Walt Disney

Right out of school, Disney had a difficult time finding work. His hopes of being a cartoonist for a newspaper were dashed after he was told that he didn't possess imagination or good ideas. Though he had moderate success in joint animation ventures with others, Disney didn't find true success until he went out on his own and had the freedom to explore the ideas that excited him the most. During the course of his career, Disney earned 26 Academy Awards for his innovative work.

2. Harrison Ford

He played iconic characters such as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, so it's hard to imagine a time when Harrison Ford didn't dominate in Hollywood. But after struggling to find work as an actor, Ford supported his family by working as a carpenter and as a stagehand. Unwilling to give up, he finally landed his first movie role at the age of 31.

3. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder is best known for Little House On The Prairie, a series of books that depict a fictionalized version of her life that inspired the long-running TV show of the same name. While most people are familiar with her work, it is less well known that she didn't write the series until she was much older. She spent her life working as a teacher, a journalist, and on the family farm. The first of the series, Little House In The Big Woods, was published when Wilder was 65 years old.

4. Julia Child

Though Julia Child has gone down in history as someone who made French cuisine accessible for the American masses through her exceptional work, she didn't learn to cook until she was well in her 30s. Prior to becoming one of the most prolific chefs in history, Child worked as a typist and research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services in World War II.

5. J. K. Rowling

As a young woman, J. K. Rowling worked as an English teacher in Portugal. A series of life events left her an unemployed single parent and struggling to provide for her child. Desperate, she turned to government assistance to put food on her table. It wasn't until after her 30th birthday that she published her first story about a boy wizard who lived under the stairs — and now her work is beloved by children everywhere.

6. Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli has had to fight all of his life, particularly after a soccer injury left him completely blind at age 12. As a young man, he went to law school and became a defense lawyer. Though this would qualify him as a success to many, he spent his evenings in local piano bars pursuing a passion that began in childhood: music. The tenor caught his big break in his mid-30s, and he has since gone on to become one of the most recognizable opera singers in the world.

7. Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc was a salesman in his 50s when he sold milkshake machines to the McDonald brothers for their burger joint. When Kroc entered the restaurant for the first time, he saw infinite potential for growth. He took a chance, leaving the sales world and investing in the restaurant as a partner before ultimately buying out the McDonald brothers and going on to build the largest fast food chain in the world. 

While each of these seven individuals became world-renowned for their second careers, there was no way to know where they would end up when they started the journey. They left the safe confines of the steady and familiar in order to pursue the passion in their heart, and in doing so built incredible legacies. 

By redefining what "success" looked like in their own lives, they helped change our narratives on a much larger scale — and reminded us that we too can do what we love.

Join Strayer University in the Readdress Success Movement to change Merriam-Webster's definition of success! For every signature, Strayer University will donate 50 cents to Dress For Success!


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