Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Am I Too Old To Start?

At age 26, Picasso painted his masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Orson Welles wrote Citizen Kane at 25. And Mozart created Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-Flat-Major at the astoundingly young age of 21.

All three artists fit our idea about genius to a tee: talent burns brightly and is directly tied to the power of youth. 

Even Einstein agreed that a true genius always starts out young. “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so,” said the moustached quantum physicist.

Have you not achieved any creative breakthroughs in your teens or young adult life? 

Popular opinion says you never will.

But what do the facts say?

In the 80s, an economist named David Galenson found the top ten American poems that literary scholars rated the most highly. The poems were composed between the ages of 23 and 59.

And if you crunched the numbers, you’d find that the average age for peak poetic performance is 38.

Galenson also looked at the stats of specific poets. Roughly 42% of Robert Frost’s work was done after he turned 50. For William C. Williams 44%. And for Wallace Stevens 49%.

The notion that genius starts young is starting to break apart.

Galenson also turned to the masters of film. We already know Orson Welles struck genius in his college years. But the equally impressive Alfred Hitchcock didn’t direct his best movies until after his 56th birthday.

The most notable argument against early age brilliance is the painter Paul Cézanne.

Cézanne was born in France and knew from an early age he wanted to make it big as an artist. But he ran into a problem.

He was no good.

The art schools didn’t want to take him on. The official art exhibition of Paris refused all his submissions. And when he exhibited his work in public years later, he was ridiculed by art critics.

Cézanne continued his dream in solitude. Until one day his hands could do what his brain instructed. 

After more than 60 years of slashing his failed paintings to ribbons, Cézanne had finally found his genius. And he wouldn’t have known if Pissarro and Monet hadn’t told him.

Although Cézanne stank at art for the first half, he was eventually seen as one of the all-time greats in the last half.

Cézanne was a late bloomer. Perhaps you are too.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach