Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’

I’m reading a book published a few years ago, “What the Dog Saw”, by Malcolm Gladwell.  I love these quirky books about what makes people and society tick.  So, as I’m reading a chapter in this book about “LATE BLOOMERS” it hits me how true this is true for so many of us.  Whether or not you’re a late bloomer I believe you’ll see why I think this is so important for us ALL to know.  Changing our understanding about this could radically change the people around you… and it could radically change how you view yourself.

Let me start by introducing you to a trimmed version of the passage that got me thinking…

From “What the Dog Saw”, Part 3, “Late Bloomers”

… [Mark] Twain fiddled and dispaired and revised and gave up on Huckleberry Finn so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete.  [Like Twain and others, ] the * Cezzanne’s of the world bloom late, not as a result of some fault in character, or distractions, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error, necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.

. . .

On the road to great achievements, the late bloomer will resemble a failure. While the late bloomer is revising and dispairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all.

Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go.  Late bloomers are hard. They require forebearance and blind faith.

. . .

Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder, how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents?  [Not everyone’s talents are so quickly recognized.] If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes to see your art reach its true level.  [We need ‘guardians’, ‘protectors’, ‘coaches’, someone to believe in us.  For the late bloomer,] his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others.

. . .

Late bloomer’s stories are  invariably, “love stories”. And this may be why we have such difficulty with them. We like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to [keep supporting] what looks like ‘failure’ have nothing to do with something as rareified as genius, but sometimes genius is anything but rareified. Sometimes it’s just a thing that emerges after 20 years of working at your kitchen table.

Can you see why this stirred me so much?  I mean… how many have WE thwarted?.. given up on?… abandoned hope that things will never change… and in our own personal journey, how many times have we thwarted ourselves?… sold ourselves short… given up on our dreams?

And, did you catch the crux?… that we need “someone to see you through…“.  In each story, the book’s author describes the connecting-circle of people in the lives of not-yet-great people made the difference between obscurity and greatness, between boredom and engagement, between drudgery and creativity, between death and life. Do you see it? — Our story requires the interaction… or better yet, the intervention… of others and of God. We all need this. And, better still, we can all BE this to another.

Who are you believing in?  When all seems like ‘failure’, who are you supporting?  To whom are you a ‘guardian’, ‘protector’, ‘coach’, a believer in? 

Or, maybe you’ve given up on yourself.  Don’t.  Don’t give in to the belief that this is as good as it gets. You may be just a season away from blooming.  Do something… agree to just take one more step closer.

Learning to believe it’s never too late to bloom!



** A reference to the creative genius of Paul Cezanne, a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century


6 thoughts on “Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’

  1. I’ll tell you one thing: I have never failed to need the people who bothered to support me in a way that made sense to me. It’s not that i don’t want support, it’s that the support that I get is often from people who more-than-not interact with me in a manner that shows they **don’t** believe in me. I have been disheartened so much by such people, many of whom are successful in their goal-setting, discipline, and patience in what they pursue.

    I am a late bloomer. I am comfortable acknowledging this fact now, because I have done a ton of trial and error, especially in physical fitness and athletic goals, where my sense of failure and constant trial-and-error have always led to breaks in commitment to those dreams and visions, yet I have always found my heart leading me to pursue and re-envision those goals again, even after months or years of abandoning those activities, even while struggling to maintain relationships that can help keep me on track in a way that doesn’t feel condescending. Does that make sense to you? It’s an emotional journey of shedding all the emotional sensitivity that I’ve developed from having too many potential mentors and guides who had an edge of harshness or arrogance to them – or feeling so discouraged by feelings of inferiority toward them.

    I’m a late bloomer also in the areas of producing art and writing. I do not always know even where my writing is carrying me, but I know that I will keep having the urge to write, more and more clearly, and I have probed people and blogs such as yours in order to obtain insight.

    I am willing to resign myself to the kind of 20-year plan that vexed Twain, if this is my destiny.

    1. We all need people. (As much as we’d like to run from the fact.) It is great that you are attentive to your heart, keeping it open, and allowing yourself to move back toward your dreams and goals again and again. We will “arrive” (one day) if we can keep our perspective and welcome the realization that we are a work in progress and that “the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error, necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.” Are you finding it easier to remember this with each turn back toward your goals?

  2. Wow, don’t you just love it when someone says something that targets just where you are at the moment? We can call these serendipitous moments or God moments- I prefer the latter. Anyway, my husband and I are pretty discouraged about the lack of progress on a business venture we are trying to launch – for God’s glory too. So why all the hurdles and setbacks??? Then this quote from your post:

    “Cezzanne’s of the world bloom late, not as a result of some fault in character, or distractions, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error, necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.”

    And I realize that all our trial and error is not for naught. Not only is it necessary for the creative process of what we are trying to achieve- but more importantly becuase of the process God is working in our characters throught the trial and error. We are always His masterpeice and it is the canvas of our lives that He is interested in. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Its encouraging to read of the timing of the article and your situation. God seems to do that a lot. I, too, take great hope in the quote you mentioned. Its been a few months now, has anything broken free and moved you closer to what you’ve hoped for?

  3. Mark,
    This post really resonates with me. Just the term “late bloomer” stirs something in my heart. To be honest and for right or wrong I feel like I’m the canvas a lot of the time. I’m the piece that’s being sketched, painted, torn, put back on the easel…I still don’t know who I am most of the time. I’m a work in progress, hoping to someday be revealed. I have a deep restlessness in me and longing.
    Now, what does all that have to do with the idea of late bloomers? I don’t quiet know for sure. All I know is right now is that term stirs something in my heart and these are some of the things that I’m feeling as I think about it. Guess I have something to bring to Father tonight. Thanks for the great topic.

    1. Glad it stirred something in you. I find the whole idea of “late bloomers” immensely hopeful — we are a work in progress. And if you are to be the canvas — may Jesus paint himself upon your life.

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