N4L 154: "Late Bloomers" by Rich Karlgaard


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By Janet Perry, Janet Perry: blogger, and Nonfiction book lover. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Giving hope to the average achiever, Rich Karlgaard shares his latest book, "Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement." He observes, “We’ve created a new system of snobbery based on IQ scores and elite university degrees. To mitigate this crisis, we must stop excessively glorifying precocious achievement and seeing human development as a ‘fast track’ on ramp for early success. Not only is it unjust to the majority of us, it’s profoundly inhumane.”

Why? Because “it ignores the natural-born gifts that we all possess. It cuts off paths of discovery for our more latent or later-blooming gifts and passions. It trivializes the value of character, experience, empathy, wisdom, reliability, tenacity, and a host of other admirable qualities that make us successful and fulfilled. And it undercuts the majority of us who are potential late bloomers.”

Karlgaard warns, “We are in danger of losing a valuable narrative about our lives: that we are capable of blooming at any age and in any stage of our lives.”


  • Don’t buy into the national obsession with high IQ/SAT/ACT test scores.
  • Nurture curiosity.
  • Resist fast-tracking.
  • Encourage gap years.
  • Give self-doubt a name; consider it a superpower.
  • Learn to reframe using positive self-talk.
  • Embrace opportunities to fail.


Why the push for early achievement?

  • “In the past, success was not about becoming rich or famous, or about achieving as much as possible as early as possible. Rather, it was about having the opportunity to live to our fullest potential. It was about being appreciated for who we are as individuals. But that’s been corrupted by the Wunderkind Ideal and our obsession with testing, ranking, and sorting young adults; by our cultural fascination with youth, particularly youthful über-achievement; and by an increasingly algorithmic economy that rewards raw synaptic speed instead of experience and wisdom.”

What are the dangers of forcing early achievement?

  • “We’re not wrong to recognize and congratulate early bloomers. Their achievements deserve acknowledgement. But our culture’s obsession with early achievement has become detrimental to the majority of the population—to the multitudes of us who develop in different ways and at different paces. It pushes the message that if you haven’t become famous, reinvented an industry, or banked seven figures while you’re still young enough to get carded, you’ve somehow made a wrong turn in life. This message, I believe, is far more dangerous than most people realize.”
  • “By forcing adolescents to practice like professionals, to strive for perfection, and to make life choices in their teens (or earlier), we’re actually harming them. We’re stunting their development, closing their pathways to discovery, and making them more fragile. Just when we should be encouraging kids to dream big, take risks, and learn from life’s inevitable failures, we’re teaching them to live in terror of making the slightest mistake. Forging kids into wunderkinds is making them brittle.”
  • “Early bloomers enjoy many advantages in affluent societies. But one huge disadvantage they face is that by dint of their youth and accomplishments, they give themselves credit for their success, more than the rest of us do.”

Why do most bloom late?

  • “Truth is, many factors can slow our blooming early in life, including delayed physical or neurological development, early childhood trauma, nonstandard learning styles, socioeconomic status, geographical restrictions, illness, addiction, career turbulence—even plain bad luck. Many of us, growing up, are unable to reach our full potential at school—and therefore fall short of our university and professional potential—because we’re fed negative messages about our learning abilities.”
  • “All of us know someone, care about someone, or love someone who seems stuck in life. The critical thing to remember is—we cannot give up on ourselves, or on others, even (and especially) if society has made it harder to catch up.”

When do people tend to bloom?

  • “A parent might jump back into the workforce after a decade of child-rearing, feeling ten years behind but being ten years wiser. Or a retiree might find a deeper meaning in life by finally pursuing a childhood dream or mentoring others. Late-blooming can happen at any age, and it can happen more than once in a person’s lifetime.”
  • “Every person needs to have the chance—multiple chances, really—to follow their unique timeline of evolving brains, talents, and passions.”

What are some characteristics of late bloomers?

  • “Many late bloomers gain a greater sense of compassion. They show greater reflective thinking, diminished ego-centeredness, and a deeper appreciation of others’ challenges—what psychologists call greater prosocial behavior.”

BUY Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement


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