“By necessity, we late bloomers are on a different, more challenging trajectory. As we travel through life, we encounter obstacles like the push for conformity, the oppression of groupthink, and the pains of self-doubt. But . . . in all these challenges, we find our hidden treasure. We unearth our individuality. We see that a path to excellence, to reaching our true potential, is available to all of us. Within these challenges lies our true power, our covert talents and secret advantages as late bloomers.” —Rich Karlgaard, author of Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsesses with Early Achievement.
Unsurprisingly, the new book by Rich Karlgaard spoke to me and offered an abundance of reassurance and exhilaration. If the comments on IG a few weeks ago when I posted an excerpt from the book are any indication, you are or will be as well.
Especially as Americans we greatly celebrate, strive for, and thus put pressure upon ourselves, and either unconsciously or consciously, to figure out our path early, to achieve success quickly and when we don’t we make faulty assumptions about what we can contribute which can erode our self-confidence and potentially prevent the gem that resides within us all to be discovered and then shared with the world enabling us to find deep, lasting inner contentment.
Karlgaard’s new book is worth reading in-depth, from cover to cover as he delineates the obstacles that our culture currently needs to address with historical details, new studies, multiple anecdotal examples of how indeed the “late bloomer” simply needs time, patience and awareness to blossom at their own time, as well as the most difficult support to refute findings – neurology.
So while I will encourage you to read the entire book, in today’s episode/post, I wanted to share with you the characteristics that you might find yourself identifying with when it comes to being a Late Bloomer and not realizing the gift of opportunity you have given yourself to enjoy the rest of your life.
15 Characteristics of a Late Bloomer
1.Curiosity is the late bloomer’s fuel
“By its very nature, curiosity demonstrates an independence of mind.”
To keep on blooming throughout the entirity of our lives, forever remain curious.
2. We are predisposed to be compassionate
“In facing the ups and downs of life, many late bloomers gain a greater sense of compassion. They show greater reflective thinking, diminished ego-centeredness, and a deeper appreciation of others’ challenges.”
Because late bloomers have faced struggles along the way, have refrained from conforming at the expense of our social connections and acceptance into “the group”, we can more easily put ourselves into the shoes of others, we are more empathetic.
3.Better leadership skills are developed
Due to elevated compassion, workers view leaders more favorably, and combined with “authenticity and integrity”, this trifecta of skills “improves retention and employee performance”.
4. Resilience is developed and strengthened
“When it comes to developing resilience, the regulation of emotions gives mature people an advantange over the young: ‘There is a naturally learnable set of behaviors that contribute to resilience. Those are the behaviors that we gravitate to more and more as we age’.”
5. Emotion regulation is easier which cultivates a calmer demeanor which leads to more effectiveness and better relationships
“Our brains are driven to seek calmness as we age. Columnbia University social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson claims that calmness is central to happiness . . . research has long established that calm leaders are more effective”.
Late bloomers naturally develop the skills necessary to find calmness if we choose to keep exploring, learning, listening and observing what works and what does not. This is where our curiosity helps tremendously leading us to the blooming stage of our lives that is authentic and unique to each of us.
6. Extensive insight
“Our insights are the result of us drawing on our full mental library of experience, patterns, and context, yielding an idea of extraordinary value.”
Karlgaard explains that “the right hemisphere [of the brain] matures in childhood; the development of the left is consistent with the development of the prefrontal cortex, which is not fully mature until the mid-twenties”. Due to the left-side’s difference in development compared to the right, it takes time for us to see the connection of the awesome or unique events, sights and experiences of our lives and make sense of how we can utilize them in our unique way.
7. Navigation of life’s ambiguity becomes easier
“Perhaps this is the perfection defintion of wisdom: reasoning and cognition based on knowledge and experience”.
In other words, we are not born wise, but so long as we choose to be curious, continue to be life-long learners, we begin to build it. “Wisdom is the ability to see the layers of light that were harder to see when one was younger”. And consequently, we have the opportunity to hone our intuition as to how to best navigate our journey even with the unknowns that are presented.
8. More easily determine what’s important versus what’s trivial
To piggy-back onto #7, because we have acquired knowledge about the world over time and have made the conscious choice to continue to learn, we are then better at discern patterns faster and jump to logical solutions more quickly.
9. A desire to cut the apron strings with your parents
“To fully bloom, we must declare our independence from our family. That doesn’t mean we must reject their love . . . it means only that we must reach our own conclusions about what does and doesn’t support our blooming.”
Creating a healthy culture in which to bloom is analogous to the proper soil and conditions for a plant to flourish. Each plant will need different types of soil, different amounts of sunshine and shade, varying temperatures – some extreme, some moderate, and it all depends on the plant. Unlike the saying, “bloom where you are planted”, we should instead get out of the soil we have been planted in and explore to discover where we truly thrive.
10. Adult peer pressure is real, and if you’ve felt it and tried successfully or not to not succumb, you may be a late bloomer
“Some of this [peer group] influence can be healthy and positive, as when we join a hiking club or sign up for a program to quit smoking. But not every peer push leads us to a better version of ourselves; not all communities support growth and positive change.”
To break free from our peer group, even when we don’t know why it feels uncomfortable or wrong (but we know it does), is not easy and it takes great inner strength to do so. However, it does become easier because we eventually begin to feel more in tune with our true selves, we feel a burden lift, we feel our energy surge because we are no longer trying to be or do something that isn’t truly in line with what we can offer the world.
11. Societal pressure to conform is limiting to our true potential
“[Today’s media] also promote cultural, racial or gender biases, either through stereotyping roles and behaviors, or under- or overrepresentation of minorities. And repeated exposure to media content can lead viewers to begin to accept media portrayals as representations of reality.”
From the media’s portrayal of how to socially engage, what dating should look like, what children should be doing at certain ages based on their gender, the values are repeatedly shared and included in endless amounts of media such as video games, movies, television, newspapers, magazines, books and radio, and since it is a passive medium, unless we are critical thinkers questioning everything we receive, it is easy to accept what is applauded as normal and what we should adhere to regarding our life’s journey.
12. Letting go of comparisons
“Mass media ask us to compare our body shape, sex life, marriage, house, car, family and community to unattainable television versions of perfection. Social media ask us to compare our own commonplace or even boring reality against the curated accounts of how absoutely wonderful someone else’s life is — people we know!”
When we stop comparing and start celebrating, we liberate ourselves and enable the opportunity to observe our own awesomeness without the outside world’s close-minded criticism or limited acceptance.
The author shared something that I think is worth sharing here as a reminder that there are many paths to success, to reaching a goal, to attaining contentment. He writes, “There are always many ways to achieve a goal, gain expertise, or find success. In sports or music, they are easy to see . . . But it’s not as easy to see multiple paths for success in most endeavors . . . [which leads to confusion. As a result,] we default to following norms and take the road everyone else is taking”. And these paths to success have as much to do with professional “success” as well as personal “success”. Your definition of a life of contentment, as I have said many times before on the blog and in my books, will most likely be very different than mine, but that doesn’t mean we both cannot feel the contentment that is spoken about and written about that provides deep satisfaction and peace.
It is important that we all recognize that each of us will bloom at a different time.
“Each of us deserves the opportunity to bloom in our own way.”
When we do this there are many invaluable benefits:
1.We protect ourselves, and others we encourage to bloom, in our own time from the consequences of disappoitnment or failure. (this doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps along the way, but it reminds us that it takes time to understand where we are headed and why)
2.We learn how to work with self-doubt and let it be our superpower.
“To bloom, we all must learn not to fear self-doubt but to embrace it as a normally occurring opportunity for growth and improved performance . . . The key to harnessesing self-doubt starts at the very core of our individual beliefs about ourselves . . . self-efficacy”.
3. We strengthen our self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is an individual’s confidence in their ability to accomplish what they set out to do.
4. Obstacles begin to be seen as opportunities to grow rather than road-blocks
“While you may feel a general sense of self-doubt . . . [you] proceed anyway”.
5. Improved positive self-talk
“Positive self-talk can improve our performance by helping us regulate our emotions, thoughts and energy”.
When we begin to see skill-sets that render positive results, we are more likely to invest in them. For example, positive self talk leads to more confidence, a strengthening our self-efficacy and thus improved performance with whatever task is in front of us. And so we continue to practice positive self-talk and it becomes stronger with this skill rendering more positive outcomes.
6. Stronger, healthier relationships
When you bloom, gravitate toward those who celebrate your blooming, and for those who initially are not, give them a moment to understand why your blooming makes them uncomfortable. Depending upon the person, they may not realize that their discomfort with your growth is a reflection of their disappointment in what they feel they could have achieved but didn’t. This is all about them. Some will grow from this and remain in your life, others will not, and you will need to move on. But all of the skills you have acquired and applied will help lead you toward building not only healthier relationships with others, but a healthier, less critical relationship with yourself.
7. Excellence will arrive when you let your curiosity take over
“When [curiosity takes over], a sense of exploration also takes over. I get in the zone, and I go for it. I feel pulled, not pushed — pulled by a beautiful power I cannot explain.”
8. The courage to repot when necessary
“When it comes to repotting, late bloomers have a distinct advatnage over early bloomers. We’re naturally curious and resilient. We’re not afraid to follow a different path or break free of convention. We genuinely want to see what’s around the corner or over the hill. These late bloomer strengths enable —even propel— the change we need to find the right people and the right place to help us thrive.”
Once you have a clearer understanding of who you are and what cultures and communities are best suited for you to bloom, you will have strengthened, as was mentioned above in the first list, an awesome skill set. This skill set will be your bedrock for being able to repot when and if it is necessary.
“We need to give ourselves a break. We need to recognize and celebrate the fact that we’re all different, with different skill sets, developmental profiles and backgrounds and that each of us will forge a different path toward blooming.”
Being a late bloomer is most certainly something to celebrate, and when we “change our story, we can change our behavior and even our life”.
Let me leave you with this lasting thought from the book that resonately powerfully with me:
“If we’re not forced to conform to standard timetables for success, we can —and will—bloom on our own schedules. And we can do it with a deeper sense of mission and a greater feeling of contentment. What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends on our persistence, our patience, and an ability to see ourselves as we really are. Our cultural obsession with youthful talent, with early achievement, distracts us from this simple truth. . . . our late bloomer power is different. It is the power to renounce what’s supposed to happen in life and intead embrace what actually happens in life, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. It’s the power to explore and experience, to be an individual. It’s the power that comes with knowing and valuing ourselves.”
~The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
~read my review and reason for recommendation here.
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