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The Sobering Truth About ‘30 Under 30’ Lists

Spoiler alert: you don't have to conquer the world by the age of 30 to be successful

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Ah, yes. It’s that time of year again: the time when Forbes Magazine releases their annual highly anticipated ’30 Under 30′ lists. But it’s also that time of year when many often feel overlooked, rejected, depressed and unworthy.

While those who were awarded the moniker of being a ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ are, no doubt, exemplary individuals who deserve to be recognized for their outstanding achievements, isn’t it time society starts having healthier, more meaningful conversations about the timeframe and age limit society has put on achieving such prosperity?

This time last year, I was nominated for 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝗯𝗲𝘀 𝗠𝗮𝗴𝗮𝘇𝗶𝗻𝗲’𝘀 ‘𝟯𝟬 𝗨𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝟯𝟬’ for media. However, I learned that I didn’t make the coveted list of 30 people for my career field, which felt like a crushing, demoralizing defeat at the time.

Although I was initially bummed upon receiving the news, fast forward to a year later, and the experience of being ‘rejected’ from such a list has me now, well, laughing.

Society tricks us into believing that young folks who achieve great success at an early age are otherworldly, unique or magical in some way, shape or form. But the truth is, the vast majority achieve success much later in life, and their journey isn’t always easy, but often a long, grueling one. While some might be ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, others might be ringing the ‘cancer-free’ bell.

Working as a national TV journalist, I’ve had the fortune of meeting entrepreneurs, celebrities, world-class athletes, business leaders and disruptors from all walks of life, both young and old. Some achieve success with ease from the start, while others overcame incredible odds, including battling depression, a life-threatening illness, PTSD, the death of a loved one, infertility, divorce, financial troubles, mental and other health issues.

Rather than feeling sorry for myself on the anniversary of such a rejection, I’ve instead decided to pivot my focus to what truly matters – time and the beautiful gift it is to reach success at any age.

We should never regret growing older, because in these fragile and unpredictable times, aging is a privilege denied to many amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Notwithstanding these troubled times, society continues to put an exorbitant amount of emphasis on “lists,” while ignoring the detrimental impact it might have on one’s personal self-worth.

Where are the Forbes lists recognizing:

  • The single mom who is pursuing a law degree while working two jobs just to put food on the table for her kids?
  • The single dad of three over the age of 50 who is currently unemployed due to unforeseen circumstances caused by the global pandemic?
  • Sexual assault survivors who turned their pain into power by helping fellow victims find their voice?
  • First-responders and health care workers who put their lives on the line every single day working around the clock?
  • Essential grocery workers, mail carriers and garbage collectors amid the global pandemic?

Regardless of how long it took you to start your career, each of us are on a unique path, and that is your superpower. I recently appeared on my friend Rich Bracken’s “Enrich Your Soul” podcast, who is an inspirational keynote speaker and emotional intelligence expert. He asked me about my journey into the world of television and how I managed to accomplish considerable strides in journalism at such a young age.

My answer was quite simple: pave your own path and know your worth. Don’t take criticism from people you would never go to for advice, and don’t base important life decisions on advice from people who haven’t been where you are going.

There is no “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” strategy to achieving your goals. Instead, dare to define “success” on your own terms.

Whether it took you five years or 50 years, I want to say to the single mom with three kids, to the guy saddled with student debt with big entrepreneurial dreams, and to the woman who reinvented herself at age 70, that it is never too late.

In Oprah Winfrey’s book “What I Know For Sure,” one particular thought resonated with me. It reads,

“Anyone who has ever come close to death can tell you that at the end of your life, you probably won’t be reminiscing about how many all-nighters you pulled at the office, or how much your mutual fund is worth. The thoughts that linger are the “if only” questions, like Who could I have become if I had finally done the things I always wanted to do?

Oprah Winfrey| What I Know For Sure

I can assure you that agonizing over not making a certain “list” will not be one of your final thoughts. Eight years ago, I packed my bags and moved to New York City with a dream. I barely knew anyone in the city, and my first apartment was a tiny studio walk-up on the Upper West Side. I was anxious, overwhelmed, and even called “crazy” for not going the local news route straight out of college. Fast forward to today, I am still so grateful that I listened to my inner voice.

To those certain bummed-out individuals who feel overlooked, worthless and rejected after not making any ’30 Under 30′ list this year, remember that you are worthy beyond measure at any age.

Never put a timeframe or an age limit on success; don’t fall into that toxic societal trap. Focus on doing what makes you happy and always find a way to work with people who are smarter and different than you.

That will take you farther in life than any “list.” 

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