Jumped Late, Landed Great! (Inspiring Stories Of People Who Switched Career After 60)


Sixty & Seeking

If you find this blog about ‘Career switch after 60’ interesting, check the two prequels mentioned at the end.

A special shout-out to everyone mentioned/ not mentioned in this section. It takes much more than just interest or passion for a field of work to make a career jump. Especially after an age when most are cribbing and waiting to die. It takes a burning desire to constantly reinvent oneself. The tenacity to take risks at the age when your peers are sipping tea in their backyards and narrating stories to their grandchildren.

Their fingers may have crippled, but not their creativity of thoughts. They must have run out of breath now and then, but would never run out of the enthusiasm to experiment and try new things. These are the people who lived life in its full spirit without any regrets. They followed their hearts without letting age, society or self-complacency hold them back.

I have mentioned just four of such numerous inspiring examples that make us, healthy bodied & young-spirited individuals, question our will and courage to reap the bounties of life. With deep respect and an eye for inspiration for all such extraordinary seekers, let’s dive right into my favorite section! “Career switch after 60”

1. Ronald Reagan

Leader | Unwavering | Boldly Vocal | Inspiring | Altruist| Indefatigable

An actor having 53 film titles to his name à 40th President of the United States of America.

Indefatigable’, is the apt word, to sum up, this man in one word. I know that word made no sense to most of you. It didn’t make sense to me too, I just googled up a fancy word… Indefatigable: Someone who just wouldn’t get tired.

Reagan was born in a family with a modest income and multiple mouths to feed. ‘Leaders are born or are they made’? I do not have the answer to this ages-old on-going and unsettled debate. However, citing Reagan as a befitting example of a born leader would be inarguable.

He was a natural leader who led from the front and he loved being under the spotlight. At the age of 15, he worked as a Lifeguard at Lowel Park. He took charge of strengthening the overall surveillance method there. He was also saved 66 lives during his stint there.

The Student body president in school, retaining the title in college. Captain of the university football team. President of the actors’ union, President of the United States of America… Reagan dominated every place, every field he stepped into. He made his mark as an inspiring leader, always empowering his people.

At the age of 26 (1937), he enlisted himself in the Army Reserves as a private. He quickly sprinted up the ranks as the 2nd Lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps. It was there that he caught the eye of a Warner Brothers’ agent, and his journey with cinema began.

He featured in 53 films and one television film during his acting career of nearly thirty-odd years. Most acclaimed of them being ‘Knute Rockne, All American’ where he played the Notre Dame football legend, George Gipp. At the cream of his career,  the committee elected him as the President of the Screen Actors Guild for five consecutive terms. He had a notable contribution to upholding and ensuring justice for actors’ rights.

Politics was an acquired taste. His interaction with politics started back in his forties when he supported and campaigned for various Democratic political figures. At 57, he joined the Republican party and the masses elected and re-elected him for two consecutive terms as the California Governor. His pro-people ideas and actions made him a loved politician, a rare achievement in that profession.

In 1979 he announced his candidacy for the President of the nation. His motto is ‘family, work, neighborhood, and freedom’. After a failed first attempt, at 69, people elected him as the 40th President of the US. Shot in the chest in an assassination attempt, he recovered and retook charge of the office with a reputation of a hero.

Bold measures like restructuring the taxation policy, appointing the first female Justice of the Supreme court, improving the overall economic standing of the nation made him a trusted and revered figure in the eyes of the masses. They re-elected him for his second term. When most people at the age of 73 were resting in graves or flowing along the Ganga as ashes, he took up the onus of leading the most powerful nation of the world. Indefatigable!

Take away: Reagan’s altruistic (self-less and for others’ well-being) nature. His remarkable achievement wasn’t just being chosen as a leader, but being re-chosen. It depicts the sense of trust, content and a feeling of deep respect that people associated with him.

2. Harland (Colonel) Sanders

Self Belief | Enjoyed failure | Enjoyed fame | Did what it took

Conductor, Labourer, Lawyer, Insurance agent, Soldier, Ferry transporter à Founder of the KFC chain of restaurants.

Stop drooling over the thought of fried chicken wings or crispy paneer zinger. That pricey gadget in your hand isn’t water-resistant, even if it is, it’s a scam! The journey behind the ‘finger-licking good’ was ‘blood-sucking ruthless’. People have narrated Colonel Sanders’ life story time and again. Also exaggerated in blown-out proportions in an attempt to make the already so inspiring narrative even more dramatic.

In my best attempt to keep it authentic yet engrossing and inspiring, here’s my version of Colonel Sander’s extraordinary life story.

He lost his father at 5.  Being the eldest of the family of 3 hungry mouths with no one to fall back upon, young uncle KFC (just my cheap thrill with paradoxes) had seen life as the most unforgiving yet the best teacher, way too early in life.

Since his first job, uncle KFC somehow had a knack for being kicked out of every job he ever took. He proved to be a poor performer even at his short stint at matrimony. Got separated within two years of his marriage.

He joined the army as a part of the mandatory national service policy. Was later dismissed with due regard after attaining the title of a Colonel. Started a restaurant which had just begun to pick momentum, but as destined to have a much more arduous and inspiring life story, the restaurant had to be shut down as it came in way of the road broadening project of the government.

At the age of 65 when he retired, he felt his life held no meaning. He felt he could accomplish nothing in the generous life span he was provided with. Contemplated suicide a couple of times, but as an experienced failure, he failed at that too.

Unsatisfied with what he gained from life, instead of sipping coffee and waiting for the angels to arrive, he decided to keep trying to make a mark and make it big till there was a shred of life left in his body. Completely in love with his fried chicken recipe, he believed the world was missing out on one of the greatest guilty pleasures of life.

Packing a few pieces of chicken and a cooker, every day he embarked upon his journey of introducing the world to one of the best chicken recipes ever blended. Even the invention of the light bulb was a success after 1000 attempts, but introducing the world to this savory delight demanded even more grit and determination.

Legend has it that uncle KFC’s recipe was rejected by 1009 restaurants before someone agreed to bet upon it. God bless the 1010th man for providing unspeakable delight to future generations.

At the age of 82, he became a millionaire. Finally, he failed the failures and made his mark. His face branded at every KFC chain was a blow in the face to every one of his failures in life. At 90, uncle KFC passed away as a wealthy and contented man, immortalized in the logo of the much-loved brand that turned 65 years of failure into a million-dollar success.

Take away: If you try relentlessly, at some point, even failures fail at failing you.

3. Captain Krishnan Nair

Karmayogi | Influential | Visionary | Thinking big | Patriot

Freedom fighter à Aspiring Sanyasi à Army officer à Multi-million dollar textile enterprise owner à Founder of the Leela chain of luxurious hotels

Here is a story that wouldn’t be understated if titled as Rags to Riches to Richer than Riches. Imagine yourself owning a multi-million dollar business, a lavish lifestyle. Also an extremely loving and supportive wife at the age of 60. What more would you desire? Building a chain of world-class luxurious hotels, right from scratch.

That was Captain Nair’s answer. Presenting the life story of a true Karma yogi (one who worships work). Even at age 90 was a living example of the phrase ‘Work is Worship’

Born in a modest village in Kerala in 1922, Captain Nair was a fifth of his nine siblings. Swami Vivekananda and Ramkrishna Paramhamsa’s teachings inspired him as a child. Thus was a very insightful, thoughtful and patriotic kid. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a frequent visitor at his residence. Netaji had a deep impact in shaping up his psyche as a patriot and a freedom fighter.

His first stint in the movement of freedom struggle was as a civil wireless officer placed in Abbottabad, now in Pakistan. His main job then was to receive and decode messages sent by Netaji from various locations. He aspired to join the army, the Indian army and not the British Raj.

He treaded along the mountains of Hrishikesh wanting to become a Sanyasi, but a few months later his Guruji said to him that he was destined to be not a Sanyasi, but a Karmayogi. Since then work became the priority in his life, and he spent his time working, till the day his body lied motionless on the deathbed.

After independence, Captain joined the Indian army and four years later went on to take a voluntary retirement as an Army Captain, to suffice the entrepreneurial itch in him. With a vision to expand his father’s handloom business, he influenced Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to start the first handloom board in the country.

On being introduced to Lord Mountbatten, he saw an opportunity to export Indian textile, and with the thought, Leela Scottish Ltd was born, eventually becoming India’s largest textile exporter.

Leela Scottish had already become a multi-million dollar enterprise and at the age of 65, he had everything a man of his stature wanting to retire could dream of. His wife, Leela, pointed out an opportunity to use their land near the newly being built Mumbai airport and to set up a hotel there.

Till then Taj and Oberois were the only names that echoed as far as luxury hotels in India were concerned and none were located near the airport then. Hotel Leela became a huge success and with their moto Atithi Devo Bhava, Captain Nair went on to establish a chain of luxurious hotels across India at locations where the foreigners flocked. Captain Nair lived up to his Guru’s advice and was a true Karmayogi all his life. Even at the age of 90, he worked every day from 11 am to 5:30 pm.

Take Away: Apart from his entrepreneurial itch, what we should imbibe from Captian Nair’s life is his respect, determination, love and passion towards work. Spirituality through work is what he teaches us.

4. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Deep devotion | Goal-oriented | Strong headed

A religious magazine owner à Sanyasi à Founder of ISKCON

For some, successful living is to attain all the wealth, riches and fame he can. While for some, successful living is renouncing all worldly pleasures and live an austere life. This last story is about someone who went from Riches to Rags, voluntarily and considered his existence in this world was thus fulfilled.

It is not always that suddenly at a late stage in life one realizes his true calling and wants to make a jump in its pursuit. One could be aware of his dreams and goals and start on the path to attain it right away. But it is only at a very late stage in life that the dream realizes itself if it does. This is that anecdote.

He was born in 1896, and his parents named him Abhay Charan, who belonged to a wealthy Vaishnav (One who is devoted to Lord Vishnu) family. From very early on in life he had developed a liking towards devotion to Lord Krishna. So much so that as a kid he would spend hours in temples instead of playing with other kids.

He completed his education in English, Philosophy, and Economics from the Scottish Church College; however, he refused to collect his diploma supporting the on-going protest against the British Raj.

He met his guru Bhaktisiddhanta Swami Goswami in 1922 and they went on to share a deep bond. His guru asked him to spread Krishna’s message in English in the West. This became his ultimate goal in life. He spent the remaining years of his life in deep devotion towards Krishna, spreading the message of Krishna Consciousness across India.

Bhaktivedanta founded a magazine ‘Back to Godhead’ to spread the message of Krishna Consciousness. He was the sole writer, editor, publisher, and distributor of the magazine for three years. Later, Gudya Vaishnava Society recognized his efforts and assisted. At the age of 63, he took Sanyaas to devote his life to learning and spreading the teachings of the Lord. He moved to the holy city of Vrindavan and wrote Srimad Bhagwatam, which many consider being a masterpiece in religious manuscripts.

Finally at the age of 69 arrived the moment that he had been waiting for most years of his life. He got a chance to sail West. He extensively proliferated the Lord’s teachings to the westerners and at age 70, founded the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, or famously known as ISKCON in New York City.

Despite his degrading age, he continued on his path inspiring both Westerners and Indians to devote their lives to Krishna Consciousness. Today ISKCON has many centers around the globe and thousands of devotees of various origins have devoted their lives to learning and spreading the Lord’s teachings.

PS: This blog about Career switch after 60 is a continuation of the Career Change series. Please, also read inspiring stories of people who switched careers in their 30s.



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