Jumped Late, Landed Great! (Inspiring Stories Of People Who Switched Career After 40)

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The next category has individuals that are nothing less than Iron Man. They are the ones, I would say, who have a real heart of steel! Professionals who had a career change after 40. Here we have examples of people who were brave, passionate and crazy enough to have taken the plunge. That too at an age when responsibilities on their shoulders were the heaviest. Come let’s take a peek into their lives. Here is yet another attempt from me to inspire you. Push you to get out of your comfort zones and shoot for your dreams!

Forty & Fighting

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Believer | Insatiate | Breaker of chains | Unstoppable

Third world teenager à Mr. Universe of Body Building à Hollywood action star à Governor of California.

Alright, don’t twist your tongues in an attempt to pronounce his name correctly and still end up calling him Arnold Shivashankar. Let’s just keep it plain and simple, Arnold. The ever unsatisfied soul has thrown his net far and wide, wearing several hats in his lifetime.

Born during the aftermath of World War II, Arnold spent his childhood in Austria in a house with no proper plumbing, fridge or phone. Born to a mother who went farm to farm foraging sugar & butter and an alcoholic father whose solution to life’s misery was berating and beating his wife and kids. Our Iron-bodied Terminator was a rather small and feeble kid and his father always belittled him, called him little Cinderella.

The ten-year-old for whom life meant struggling for food, clean water, and safety from his father… was first exposed to an urban lifestyle with the glitter and glam of luxuries when he saw his first Hollywood film, and couldn’t contain his excitement as he realized that there is more to life than scavenging.

He declared to his friends that he was going to America and would become an actor in the movies. As a teenager constantly seeking ways to escape life like a rodent, he figured that Reg Park paved his way into the US through bodybuilding.

Pumping iron was his newfound passion and the walls of his room were laden with pictures of a huge topless muscular man, which confirmed his father’s doubt of him being gay. Dive into bodybuilding, win Mr. Universe, move to America, act in the movies and become a millionaire. The thirteen years old had his life all figured out.

Junior Mr. Europe at 18, and the youngest ever Mr. Olympia at 23, Arnold had moved to the US and was winning competitions back to back. By the age of 25, he was a self-made millionaire. However, his acting career was like a peacock trying to fly.

Accent too strong, name too long, for the character body a bit wrong… he was eating these excuses of denial for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Andy Warhol spotted the chisel bodied lad and offered him a modeling stint. He later introduced him to the who’s who of Hollywood and this marked the commencement of the Terminator’s career.

His Hollywood career was at the peak and he married Maria Shriver, J.F.K’s niece. He had experienced the taste of political circles and politics, and Arnold being Arnold, wanted more. He started to have a hang of US politics and made many friends who helped him cut the clutter and climb the ladder quickly.

At the age of 56, he ran for the position of Governor of California. California was then in the strong hands of the Terminator. Fans nicknamed him the ‘Governator’!

State’s financial standing was declining and after trying to the best of his potential, it still hadn’t improved. After his second term ended he decided that he had a good stint but politics wasn’t his ballgame. As in his movies, the Terminator always rises after the bad guy strikes him down. At 70 he was back in Hollywood with more hits to his name.

Take away: The courage to dream despite the current situation being far from it is what took Arnold places.

2. Boman Irani

Modest | Versatile | Never complain | Transcending dogmas | Full of life

Namkeen shopkeeper à Small time photographer à One of the most loved and versatile actors of the Indian film industry.

He has made us laugh, he has made us cry. He managed to get us to cringe upon, he managed for us to pour our hearts out to him. A great actor, even better a human being. He is here now to inspire us all by blowing a sucker punch in Nepotism’s face. More so, at an age when many start planning and saving for their retirement. Here’s his journey from just some random Boman to Dr. Asthana, Virus, Khurana and many other iconic characters.

We all hope and pray that our parents are around to guide us, support us, and watch us succeed for most parts of our lives. Boman’s father died six months before his birth. I know, I too took a minute to swallow that. His father left him a Namkeen shop, which his mother took charge of after his father’s demise.

Growing up as a Dyslexic child, Irani was never much into academics. He would skip homework, run and take refuge in his most beloved thing, Movies. Since childhood, he loved watching movies and to his huge advantage, his mother nurtured him by encouraging him to watch movies, observe and learn the art of making films.

But as life would have it, he had to be patient enough for four decades before he struck gold. During a short stint with the Taj group of hotels, he realized that he isn’t cut out for a formal hospitality profession. Never gave serious thought to acting or films as a career, he didn’t know what to do to earn his bread.

As always, parents to the rescue. He took over the operations of his father’s Namkeen shop. If you ever bought a pack of hot chips about two decades ago from Grant Road, between Novelty and Apsara mall, then probably the guy in the rugged banyan, frying and serving hot chips was Boman Irani.

He managed the shop till the age of 32. He always had a creative bent of thought. And his wife encouraged him to do something that he was good at and would enjoy. With his savings, he bought a point and shoot camera and took up small-time photography projects.

Seven years later he had managed to accumulate enough wealth to take his wife for a holiday, for the first time. They landed up in a rundown hotel in Ooty and for the first time in his life, he felt the guilt and regret that he could not provide simple pleasures to his family. Boman calls this tipping point of his life the ‘Zero number bulb moment’.

He decided to give a shot at acting as a career and set his life’s course towards becoming a theatre actor. Struggling to find work that enabled him to sustain a family, he tried his hand at writing and failed. It was then, when choreographer Shiamak Dawar spotted him as a potential talent and introduced him to Alyque Padamsee, Irani’s to-be mentor and guru. His first play had shows with empty auditoriums and nasty critic reviews.

His second play ‘I am not Bajirao’ however, enjoyed the audience’s eyeballs as well as the critics’. Following that play, he received an offer for his debut Bollywood film ‘Munna Bhai M.B.B.S’.

At 40 he entered fresh in an industry where a successful career life as an actor was considered only till the age of 35 – 40 years. Holding tight onto his courage, he blew a punch right in face Nepotism, succeeding as an actor with no film background what so ever. Since then he has been a cinematic delight for us all.

Take away: The sheer spirit of rising after every failure and striking back again without losing hope, is something we’ve all been preached, but Boman Irani shows us how it is exactly done!

3. John Grisham

Curious | Meticulous | Honours Commitments | Trusts the flow of life

Baseball Player à Underwear salesman à Successful criminal lawyer à Best-selling legal novels’ author

It is Harvey Spectre and John Grisham who have helped us build our glossary of fancy legal terms that we keep throwing around. Many lawyers have attributed their career choices to Grisham’s novels. They are so engaging, gripping and insightful that they get readers interested in law in general. They have even inspired many to pursue it as a career.

Grisham is a person who lets the events in his life shape his decisions. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that life has helped him choose well. As a young boy, Grisham loved baseball. Determined to take it up as a profession.

His novel ‘A Painted House’ has strong autobiographical elements and describes how a game where he was merely saved from serious damage by an aggressively pitched ball. Grisham quit playing after the incident.

Confused, as any teenager in late teens would be, about career choices, he took up many short-term odd jobs. He worked with a plant nursery, tried to fidget around with the tools as a plumber, even tried exploring his salesmanship skills working at a departmental store in the men’s underwear section. Life had bigger plans for him though.

Stranded in a cross gun-fire incident, he however luckily managed to flee to a safe spot.  This incident made him realize the importance of life. He got serious about college. The incident also inclined him towards criminal law and making society a safer place to live in.

He graduated from Mississippi State University and practiced law for a decade, winning elections as a Democrat to the Mississippi House of Representatives. Having a successful career as a criminal lawyer, Grisham wasn’t seeking anything much more.

It was when he overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve years old rape victim, that he became curious as to how would have the flow of events been if the father of the victim killed the rapists. Obsessed with the thought, he started writing about the idea and soon decided to write an entire novel based on the idea. Waking up at 5 am and squeezing in time to write along with his legal practice, he finished writing the story.

At the age of 39, without having ever thought of it as a career prospect, Grisham turned into an author following his whims. ‘A Time to Kill’ was published in 1988, and Grisham had discovered his newfound skill and love in writing stories with a legal backdrop. He quit his legal practice and took up writing as a full-time career. Eventually became one of the bestselling authors of his times, and still is.

He returned to the courtroom in 1996 to honor a commitment made. He won the case and that turned out to be the biggest win of his legal career.

Take away: Surrendering to the flow of life has been his guiding principle. He believed that life has bigger plans than what we humans can fathom. This is a risky ballgame though but the quality that helped him succeed was to grab opportunities that life threw his way and do them justice by working to the best of his potential.

4. Atul Khatri

Experimental | Breaking monotony | Reinventing | Cheerful & Fun-loving

CEO of a well-settled family business à One of the leading stand-up comedians India has today. No childhood dream, no passion to follow, no longing to prove himself to society… Soaked in boredom, this fellow just wanted some excitement in his professional life… in his forties!

The bubbling energy, the funny-to the-bone expressions, the perfectly on-point relatable content and of course the passionately delivered cuss words… That’s Atul Khatri for you. Khatri in the recent few years has garnered quite a bit of attention and a sizeable fan base. However, if you are still unaware of this name, jump on to YouTube and get hold of a couple of his videos. Also, you can thank me later in the comments section. (wants to use the eyes shutting Gandhiji ka Bandar emoji here… but uh, professional blog!)

Having completed his engineering and management training from Mumbai and Manchester, as a pure Sindhi, he joined his family business. (Not a fan of stereotyping, but he loves doing that. So why not take a dig!) He eventually climbed the ladder (probably just a pedestal) becoming the CEO of his family-run business, Kaytek Computers.

Struck by the mid-life crisis at 43, Khatri longed a break from the monotony of his career. He sought something that excited him, challenged him, pushed him to learn something new. Most importantly he wanted to try his luck at careers that seemed ‘cool’.

With an encouraging wife giving him the push he needed, he started exploring careers. He first thought to become a bartender, then a DJ but better sense prevailed and he realized these were too eccentric for him. In the process of figuring out what to do with his life, he periodically posted jokes on Facebook just as comic relief.

People loved his sense of humor. Liked and shared his posts as much as ‘Share this for good fortune, else suffer for a year’ posts. Looking at the response he started working on a proper comic set.

Apprehensive of taking the big step for a couple of months, he made a New Year’s resolution to participate in an open mic event. The stage was set with him standing under the spotlight and the audience ready expecting nothing, but he wasn’t.

With a trembling voice and jelly legs, he presented his set, and to his surprise, the crowd was going crazy like the MPs in the Parliament. He won the evening’s event. With increasing confidence and refined material, he participated in various open mics. He gained popularity when he won the “CEO’s Got Talent” award by Fremantle Media.

Working in association with the East India Comedy (EIC) for a couple of years, Khatri left his footprints crisp and deep in the ‘stand-up scene’ on YouTube. Today Khatri functions individually and has over 400 stints comprising comedy shows, YouTube videos, TV programs and an Amazon Special to his name.

Take away: It’s never too, not at all wrong in wanting to have some fun, bring back the excitement and reinventing oneself, when life gets dull and mundane slogging through the same profession for years, even decades!

PS: This blog is a continuation of the career change series. To read inspiring stories of people who switched careers in their 30s, click here.

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