Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others – especially in the new age of social media. The truth is, none of us have any way of knowing where we’ll be tomorrow or five years from now.
It doesn’t matter if we’re ahead or behind in the present moment, as long as we make moves, have goals and get somewhere on the right path eventually.
To give you some perspective, here’s a glimpse at what 20 of modern society’s most successful and iconic women were doing when they were in their 20s. Some of these icons were already absolutely killing it, some were experiencing rejection that would later serve as the bridge to breakthrough, and some were on an entirely different path from what they ended up doing – but they still got there.
1. J.K. Rowling: At age 29, J.K. Rowling completed the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. At that point in her life, she was an unemployed divorcee and a single mother on welfare who had been battling clinical depression. She was 25 years old when she came up with the idea of Harry Potter, while stuck on a delayed train. Rowling was actually fired from her job as a Secretary soon after that, for daydreaming about Harry Potter too much and using the work computer to write chapters.
2. Amy Schumer: At age 23, Amy Schumer performed standup for the first time at NYC’s Gotham Comedy Club. She actually made her debut on her 23rd birthday. Schumer told Buddy TV, “I still have that tape, and it’s really, REALLY painful to watch. But it was good, it was a good first experience to have on stage and actually Gotham Comedy Club was the first place I was ever on stage. So much has happened there, I got to shoot my first Comedy Central show there. And my audition for Last Comic was there. So Gotham is something past and present in my stand-up life.”
3. Lady Gaga: At age 20, Lady Gaga was signed to Def Jam records, only to be dropped three months later. She later described it as one of the worst days of her life but said, “If you give up after something like that, you were never destined to be an entertainer.” She was picked up by Interscope Records the following year and has since won six Grammy awards.
4. Vera Wang: At age 21, Vera Wang was a senior editor for Vogue, but left after being turned down for the editor-in-chief position that Anna Wintour has held ever since. Maintaining her passion for fashion throughout her 20s and 30s, she designed her first wedding dress at age 40.
5. Shania Twain: At age 21, Shania Twain was raising her three younger siblings by herself after her mother and stepfather died in car crash. She was able to move to Nashville, sign with a label and release her debut album after her siblings were old enough to live independently. She chose the Ojibwe name Shania as her stage name, which means “I’m on my way.”
6. Sophia Amoruso: At age 22, Sophia Amoruso started the popular online shopping website Nasty Gal after being kicked off eBay and therefore no longer able to sell her items there. Her fashion career began with her eBay store called “Nasty Gal Vintage”, where she sold vintage and designer clothing pieces. She was kicked off eBay for posting hyperlinks in messages to customers, and therefore launched Nasty Gal as its own retail site. She had no college degree or business experience, but Nasty Gal is now one of the most popular online-shopping destinations for women. At age 29, Sophia was anxiously awaiting the publication of her first book #GirlBoss, which was published when she was 30 and quickly became a best-seller.
7. Mindy Kaling: At age 22, Mindy Kaling graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in playwriting. At age 23, Kaling co-wrote and starred in an off Broadway play called Matt & Ben, which was named one of Time magazine’s “Top Ten Theatrical Events of The Year”. At age 24, she was hired as a writer for The Office – the only woman on a staff of eight.
8. Coco Chanel: At age 27, Coco Chanel opened her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon. She started selling hats, but later opened more shops and began designing clothing. Today, Chanel is one of the world’s most iconic fashion and beauty brands in the world.
9. Tina Fey: Age age 23, Tina Fey’s day job was behind the desk at the Evanston YMCA. Her mornings started at 5 AM, giving her afternoons to take classes at Chicago’s improv club Second City. Little did she know, she was a few years away from being hired as a Saturday Night Live writer.
10. Arianna Huffington: At the young age of 23, Arianna Huffington published her first book entitled The Female Woman. Who knew she would one day launch The Huffington Post, one of the most powerful online news publications in the entire world.
11. Diane von Furstenburg: At age 29, Diane von Furstenberg was on a plane when the businessman next to her asked, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing reading the Wall Street Journal?” Her response was to show him her picture on the front page. At age 29, her wrap dress had already been cemented as part of the 70’s iconic style, making her an international success.
12. Brit Morin: At age 25, Brit Morin left Google to start her own company. Today, Brit + Co is a popular creative hub for women. Brit + Co is a leading destination for the DIY generation, currently reaching over 10 million creatively-minded people each month. The company offers online classes and do-it-yourself kits to help bring out your inner creative passion.
13. Sara Blakely: At age 27, a national sales trainer named Sara Blakely started working on a little hoisery project we now know Spanx. At this point, she had tried to become a standup comedian, failed the LSAT exam for law school twice, and spent 7 years selling fax machines. Ultimately, although she experienced a sh*t load of rejection, she became the youngest ever female self-made billionaire in history. Spanx became widely popular among women all over the globe. “One of my greatest weaknesses is also one of my greatest strengths: being underestimated,” she said last year on a Forbes Women’s Summit panel.
14. Ursula Burns: At age 22, Ursula Burns was a summer intern for Xerox. 29 years later, she would become CEO of the company. This made her the first African-American woman to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the first woman to succeed another woman as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
15. Hilary Clinton: At age 27, Hillary Clinton failed the bar exam in Washington, D.C. She moved to Arkansas and still determined, continued her legal career.
16. Martha Stewart: At age 26, Martha Stewart began a career as a stock broker, years before she became known for her gourmet cooking. 26 years later she would return to Wall Street to see her company through its IPO.
17. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: At age 27, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was turned down by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter for a clerkship because of her gender. After completing a summer associateship at a firm, she did not receive a job offer because they already had a female associate in place. “Probably I would have climbed up the ladder and today I would be a retired partner. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune,” she said in an episode of Makers.
18. Katy Perry: At age 22, Katy Perry was dropped from Columbia Records. This happened before she could complete her first album. She didn’t give up hope, and signed with Capitol records the following year. The rest is history.
19. Christiane Amanpour: At age 28, Christiane Amanpour went to Eastern Europe to report on the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism in Eastern Europe for CNN’s foreign desk, beginning to earn traction as a world-class foreign correspondent.
20. Oprah Winfrey: At age 24, Oprah Winfrey got her first real start in the media world. She was recruited to co-host WJZ’s local talk show “People Are Talking” after being fired from her job hosting the evening news at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV. It wouldn’t be long before she’d find her footing and become the Queen of daytime television.
Celebrate where you’re at today, because each move you make leads to a better future. As long as you believe you’re on the right track and you’re willing to work hard, there’s no reason you can’t become the next women’s hosiery mogul, record smasher, CEO, fashion icon or Supreme Court justice.
Don’t stop, get it get it.