It’s not too late to follow your dreams

How many people out there missed opportunities or a chance to change the world just because they set an unrealistic limit on themselves, asks Manar Al Hinai.

I have some weird habits when I get bored and have to come clean about one of them – I find it enjoyable to search online for the latest job posts in Abu Dhabi. This is out of pure curiosity to find out what the market is looking for. But what I often find is that the really cool, tempting jobs require at least 15 years’ experience.

So, what does that mean? After all, that number of years has not been chosen randomly. What that figure equates to is knowledge, and most importantly wisdom; wisdom that the potential candidates have enough expertise to handle any situation that may arise. They would know how to deal with different business aspects, difficult clients and be able to solve all sorts of problems.

But those same people – with the acquired wisdom, expertise and knowledge – might also find it hard to follow their dreams. Perhaps, even, it is just too late for them.

I was sitting with one of my relatives recently, someone who has acquired great experience in the financial industry and is also an avid writer. We were discussing dreams. I argued that there is no specific deadline to follow one’s dreams and that was one of life’s beauties. He smiled and said for him it was too late to follow his passions, that he does not have the energy to fail and start over, and that he was too old for that. I failed to convince him. That belief was deeply rooted in his brain.

What bothers me most is that I often hear similar comments from people who are barely 30 years old. An acquaintance of mine, who is 28, said it is too late for her to chase her passions in life because she was not 18 any more. Instead she would stick with her job. She said if she had the option to go back in time, she would pursue a different major in university and work in a different sector.

When and who set a deadline for pursuing life’s goals? When were the restrictions made? Last time I checked, life provided us with opportunities to achieve every moment.

I find it ironic that some people have no problem advancing their career and moving from one job post to the next until they are 60 or 70 – yet they find it unacceptable to pursue an entrepreneurial venture that comes to mind later in life.

Is that restriction cultural or psychological? I believe those limits are set by us to stop ourselves from pursuing our goals. If you provide people with two career options, one that was guaranteed in terms of a steady flow of income and one that had a 50 per cent chance of success or failure, many would choose the first. As humans we do not take to risk or uncertainty and we often care what others think or say about us. We strive to fit in, and only a number of us have the guts to stand out.

But pursuing a long-held ambition later in life is not unheard of. In fact many out there – people we might consider as idols – have followed their dreams later in life. I find that idea refreshing as it shows you can pursue your goals at any age. It also shows that hard work, experience and the confidence that comes with age can help take a career to the next level.

Vera Wang, the renowned international wedding dress designer, did not start designing until she was 40. She was a figure skater who failed to make it on to the US Olympic team. She then became an editor at Vogue magazine and was later passed over for the editor-in-chief position. Wang then decided to take matters into her own hands and follow her passion; today she is one of the best out there.

Take JK Rowling as another example. She published her first Harry Potter novel when she was 32. The series has now sold more than 400 million copies and is one of the most beloved franchises out there. Rowling, who started adult life struggling with her finances, rose to become a billionaire.

Just imagine if those same people refused to follow their dreams because they thought they were too old or it was too late. How many people out there missed opportunities or a chance to change the world just because they set an unrealistic limit on themselves?

The first step towards achieving an entrepreneurial dream begins with one belief – there is no deadline, and there is no age limit. Start now.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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Published: December 20, 2014 04:00 AM


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