This past weekend I got the pleasure of meeting a man with a very interesting story. While making small talk with him he mentioned he owned a concrete recycling company. Having never heard of such a service, I was intrigued and asked him to tell me more about what they do, and exactly how they do it. He explained to me that individuals and companies that have demolished concrete drive-ways or buildings often have difficulty disposing of the old concrete and pay him to take it. He then crushes, packages and resells this recycled concrete gravel form.
What made the conversation all the more interesting is the individual said he only started this highly successful company after retiring from a blue-collar job a decade earlier. He explained that this new career started more as a small hobby to keep him busy and out of his wife’s hair since he was no longer working 9 to 5. I asked him if he ever dreamed, he would be running a business at this time in his life and he said only in America could someone like him be able to accomplish something like this.
I left this conversation filled with motivation and optimism. It served as a powerful reminder that we are only limited by our own ambition and creativity, and that it’s never too late to do something impactful.
While his story was quite amazing it is far from unique. The story of America is the story of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things against all odds. Probably the most famous example of a someone starting a business late in life was Colonial Harland Sanders who first began selling his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken while in his 60’s and living on a mere $105/month in social security benefits.
In a new movie I am looking forward to seeing called underdog a similar story is told about NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner who worked as a grocery stocker at Hy-Vee, before making his first NFL football team at almost 30 years old. While certainly still young in normal terms, in football terms he was ancient when he started playing professional football. Yet, despite the obstacles, his perseverance and determination allowed him to accomplish great things including playing in multiple Super Bowls and winning the MVP.
One final example that probably tops them all is the story of renowned artist Grandma Moses who only started painting in her late 70’s. After one of her paintings was seen by art collector Louis Caldor while hanging for sale in a local drug store, the popularity of her works exploded. She continued to paint for over twenty years with her works being displayed in museums and galleries all over the world. She was once quoted as saying “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
I don’t know about you, but too often I can fall into a defeatist attitude that our present culture sells to us. The idea that the system is rigged or the little guy will never get ahead is sometimes a difficult one to overcome.
My message to all of you this week is, it’s never too late to make a change. Whether, this be in your personal finances, in your career, or in the impact you can have on your community. Your life will be whatever you make it.
Conversations like the one I had last week serve as excellent reminders to me that the American dream is still alive and well, and with enough hard work and a feeling of empowerment, we too can accomplish more than we ever dreamed.