It’s Never Too Late
to Achieve Success

May 28th, 2013
by George S. Crimmin

I don’t often tune in to talk radio, but recently I listened to a conversation that really caught my interest.

The discussion centered around education and its importance in helping people reach their goals and improve their lot in life in general. The host of the show emphasized how education not only teaches you how to make a living but also how to live.

The host asked a caller her age. She responded that she was 51 and that if she were to enroll in college, she would be 55 by the time she graduated. The host then asked her how old she would be in four years if she didn’t attend college. She answered the same: 55. Well, said the host, since in four years you’ll be 55 whether you attend college or not, wouldn’t you be better off having a college degree?

That’s when the real reason for the caller’s reluctance to enroll in college became apparent. She feared she was past her prime and no longer had the mental capacity to achieve academic success.

German writer, artist and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe finished his  epic work Faust in his 80s, and it was not published in full until after he died in 1832 at 82.   (Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler)

Goethe finished his epic work Faust in his 80s, and it was not published in full until after he died in 1832 at 82. (Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler)

This is a debate that has endured for centuries. Do creativity, intelligence and ingenuity belong exclusively to the young? Or, on the contrary, is youth “wasted on the young,” and is it acquired knowledge and experience that matter most?

We are not talking here about occupations that require physical strength and agility, such as professional sports. There is no denying that athletic prowess deteriorates with age. However, even in sports experience goes a long way toward achieving success.

The question is: when do people reach their maximum potential intellectually? Is there really a “magic age” for achieving success.

How many times have we said, or heard others say, “Mañana – I’ll do it tomorrow?” Sometimes people put things off because they are chronic procrastinators or just plain lazy. But some avoid doing things because they don’t think they know enough or can perform well enough.

Almost everybody knows of Isaac Newton’s legendary encounter with a falling apple and how he explained the laws of gravity and revolutionized physics and astronomy. But how many can tell you he was only 24 at the time? Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he drafted the US Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was only 26 when he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac. Charles Dickens was 24 when he began work on his Pickwick Papers and 25 when he wrote Oliver Twist.

So there is a certain danger to denying that creativity and invention belong to the young. But not so fast. The great philosopher Emmanuel Kant wrote his finest philosophical works at age 74. World-renowned composer Verdi produced Falstaff at age 80 and   the great yuletide classic Ave Maria at 85? Goethe was over 80 when he finished Faust. Tennyson was 80 when he wrote Crossing the Bar, and Michelangelo completed his greatest work at age 87. At 90, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was still writing brilliant opinions.

The fact is, there is no “magic age” at which excellence emerges (or disappears) or when quality surfaces.

My fellow Bay Islanders, let’s seize the day!  Redeem the now moments of your lives. The moment you wait for may never arrive. The moment once past will never return.

Allow me to close on a personal note. In January, I wrote an editorial critical of the Roatan Electric Company (RECO), and RECO responded with a letter in the February issue. Many of you have asked for my reaction to their rebuttal. Let me just say: I consider their indictment a badge of honor, which I wear with pride. Sometimes it’s necessary to take the wrath in order to expose the poison. Behold the turtle, he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. I have always admired the ability to bite off more than I can chew, and then chew it.

As for Chapter II, in due time.

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to Achieve Success

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