Think Long – Tom Butler-Bowdon [Book Summary]

by Nick

Having learned about the appearance of the next billionaire child prodigy in Silicon Valley, you can come to the conclusion that only young people can achieve success and that this success itself always falls upon a person quickly and unexpectedly.

The author of Think Long, Tom Butler-Bowden, does not agree with this point of view.

He claims that real great accomplishments are a “long-cooking dish.”

It takes a long time to reach a goal, sometimes for decades.

But today, very many people finish their active work only when they are over 80.

Butler-Bowden claims that middle age is the perfect time to go on a new, adventure-filled journey in search of success.

Most of the book is devoted to stories about the fates of prominent people who became famous in those areas of activity to which they turned far from young.

This is Colonel Sanders, and Mother Teresa, and the founder of Weight Watchers, Gene Nidech, and writer Dan Brown. The author’s recommendations look more like the most general reasoning, not supported by convincing arguments or research results.

But this book does not claim to be a practical tool: it is a collection of stories about the second wind that a person opens in adulthood, about perseverance in achieving goals and how dreams come true.

That’s why revealed in a person in adulthood, about perseverance in achieving goals and how dreams come true. That’s why revealed in a person in adulthood, about perseverance in achieving goals and how dreams come true.

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Time to Break Up

We often perceive time as an enemy.

Failing to achieve our goal by a certain age, many of us experience a painful feeling: it seems to us that success has bypassed us.

But this common position does not take into account one seemingly obvious factor: achieving truly meaningful goals can be a long affair.

Books and all kinds of seminars on self-motivation rarely pay attention to this: they are mainly focused on achieving results in the shortest possible way.

The media only aggravates the situation, treating us with endless stories about those who once woke up rich and famous. In fact, the most important ingredient in success is the ability to evaluate the time and effort that you need to spend on the way to it.

“To understand that it usually takes a lot of time to“ disperse ”is not easy … but knowing this law allows us to focus on our goals, rather than lamenting how long it takes to go to them.”

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So, instead of struggling with time, make it your ally.

Give yourself enough time to accelerate – and you can achieve any, the biggest goal. Defining a broader time frame for yourself, you simply prepare your success “on low heat”, gradually mastering the true skill and knowledge of all the features of the field of activity that you have chosen.

These skills and experience will give you the opportunity to say a new word. The more time you devote to your project, the more you focus on it, the deeper you will understand, the more options for execution and new approaches you can apply to it.

A longer perspective will allow you to survive: minor setbacks and obstacles can no longer lead you astray.

“You have much more time to achieve your goals than you think.”

According to scholars such as Herbert Simon and William Chase, the optimal period to achieve real mastery in any business is 10 years.

At least that was required by most major chess players to fully master this game. Other experts name twice as long period after conducting research with the participation of outstanding athletes, scientists and representatives of creative professions.

Indeed, many successful people studied, practiced their craft and honed it for 20 years and only then achieved true heights and recognition. For example, Mozart, a classic child prodigy, polished his talent for many years.

Yes, he really created his most famous works when he was not even 30, but we should not forget that he began to study music and compose it at the age of five.

Life Got Longer

Long-term projects can scare middle-aged and older people.

You may think that all the opportunities have already been missed, that you simply don’t have time left for “long preparation” affairs. Psychologist David Schwartz calls such reasoning age-related excuses.

Biographies of prominent people vividly illustrate the fallacy of this point of view. Many of those whose achievements inspire respect for us have begun the most important projects of their lives in adulthood.

“A longer life span allows you to overcome at your own acceptable pace the preparatory period that must necessarily pass before you achieve any significant goal.”

Nowadays, people live much longer than before. In developed countries over the past 100 years, life expectancy has increased by 40%, so that many have a chance to cross the ninety-year milestone in their right mind and in reasonably good physical shape.

These changes affected mainly that part of life when a person achieves something. The career duration has increased to 60 years: having started doing some business at 20, you can well continue at 80.

If the age of fruitful work has stretched to 60 years, then today’s fifty-year-old still have half their career ahead. And this is clearly a more productive approach than lamenting “I’m already 50, it’s time to think about retirement”.

“Most of us are given not only a second but also a third and fourth chance to succeed in what we really want to do.”

Age did not stop Warwick Maine-Wilson from trying his hand at a new profession.

Until 49, he worked in the Australian diplomatic corps and then enrolled in a four-year course in landscape design.

Now he is 70; becoming a successful landscape architect, he continues to work, unlike his peers – former diplomats.

Rebirth in Adulthood

The textbook stories of many celebrities give the wrong idea that middle-aged people are too old to be truly successful.

Many worthy people in adulthood seemed to have experienced a rebirth, and it was the second half of their life that became truly whole and fruitful. Teresa’s mother, Gandhi, the founder of Weight Watchers, Gene Nidech, the fast-food king, Colonel Harland Sanders, and the artist Roy Lichtenstein, began working on the business that made them famous at around 40 years old.

The famous photo artist Julia Cameron first picked up a camera at the age of 48 years. Annie Proulx published her first storybook when she was over 50.

Quentin Crisp was widely recognized for writing an autobiography at age 60. Sometimes the second act of the play of life unfolds completely unpredictably. For example, Professor of Zoology, a specialist for bees, Alfred Kinsey at the university was offered to prepare a training course on human sexuality.

The professor was already over 40 at that time. The lack of data on the topic prompted him to start a large research project, the results of which formed the basis of the famous “Kinsey Reports”.

“One of the virtues of a person is his ability to admit that he has taken the wrong path and to choose a different path for himself.”

Psychologist Carl Jung called middle age the period of the final formation of personality.

By this time, various traits of a person’s character are formed into a single whole. By around the age of 40, people have a very realistic idea of themselves: they more clearly see the limits of what is given to them and begin to fully realize their mortality.

The collapse of old illusions about oneself is a painful process, but it can also give a person strength, paving the way for a new life, for new interests, priorities, and achievements.

By the age of 40, you most likely already clearly understand what your strengths are enough for, you can already appreciate the persistence and perseverance, and besides, it is not so important for you what impression you make on others. By the middle of your life, you have already reached a certain level of mastery in your business and acquired those skills

“Look for unusual conjectures, insights, and knowledge, and someday – when the time comes – this knowledge will open the door for you to the world of outstanding achievements and outstanding people.”

Making sense at this age is often the result of long years of focused attention to a particular problem and many thousands of hours spent searching for its solution. Even not the most pleasant life experience can be disposed of to your advantage. Just remember Bill Wilson: at 43, he took advantage of the experience of his fight against alcoholism and created the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“You should not be too upset that your current achievements do not correspond to what you, in your opinion, are capable of.”

The fate of Ray Crock, who created the McDonald’s restaurant chain, is a great example of how experience gained over the first half of life can be an impetus to outstanding achievements.

Krok began with the sale of paper cups for drinks, and by the age of 30, he became a successful distributor of milk frothing machines installed in cafes and restaurants. He could continue to move along the well-worn rut, but a visit to the restaurant, where his clients – the MacDonald brothers – prepared hamburgers for visitors, rekindled the entrepreneurial passion in his soul with renewed vigor.

He was then already over 50, and it was the look of a mature man and an experienced businessman that made it possible to see the perspective of MacDonald’s method at a completely different level. Thirty years spent in business helped him to notice the chance, and the accumulated knowledge,

“The simplest ideas and solutions often work best. What seems obvious to you, if properly executed, can have a serious impact on many people. ”

Krok’s story shows that in adulthood, new opportunities rarely arise by chance, with luck. More often, they become the result of thousands of different actions committed in the first half of life.

It doesn’t matter if the experience was successful or whether doubts and failures overshadowed it. Turning back, a person realizes that it is defeats and difficulties that temper him to the greatest degree, prepare for a breakthrough for the main success of life.

Krok himself said: “I was a veteran, scarred in countless battles of business wars … but deep down I believed that the biggest victory was yet to come.”

“The older you get, the less you are a product of education, less dependent on luck and more and more are formed under the influence of your own decisions and actions.”

Do not frame yourself. Do not say: “By this age, I should have achieved this and this.” Try to comprehend the experience, knowledge and skills at your disposal, evaluating them as a springboard for a jump to the most important achievement of life.

Proven Rules

Realizing that you have passed a very important preparatory stage, ask yourself the question of how to use the time now most effectively. Most of those who succeeded acted in accordance with several proven rules:

  • Start small. Looking at giant corporations like 3M or Microsoft, it’s hard to believe that they were once small firms. Filling a small niche is an excellent recipe for the initial stage of building your enterprise. California Cedar Products first occupied a very narrow niche, producing wooden cases for graphite pencils. Solving the issue of sawdust disposal, the company invented an innovative product – artificial logs for fireplaces. So a new market was opened, and the pioneer company, retaining its leading position as a manufacturer of pencil blanks, created a new powerful brand Duraflame, under which fuel briquettes are sold.
  • Do not hurry. We often do not realize how gentle the initial portion of the exponential growth curve is. Therefore, we are ready to give up and abandon our undertaking at an early stage. An inspirational example, in this case, could be the incredibly long growth of the Lonely Planet guidebook publisher. In 1973, passionate travel enthusiasts Tony and Maureen Wheeler, at their own expense, published 1,500 copies of the Asia Cheap Guidebook. The authors themselves even stitched the entire print run. Their plans were modest: to get so much money that was enough for the next trip. For a long time, the company developed very slowly. Every year there are several guides to exotic countries such as Sri Lanka and Burma. “The Bullseye” hit the 1981 edition, an India travel guide that became a bestseller. In 2007, the founders of the project sold the company, according to unofficial data,
  • Learn, study, study. Achieving mastery in a given business requires at least 10 years of hard work, so try to spend this time to good use, without trying to move forward too quickly. Creativity Specialist Mihai Chiksentmihayi points out that you must first learn all the rules and techniques used in a particular area of activity, and only then start to do something on your own, not in the usual way. This approach implies a focused accumulation of experience in the desire to become the best in their field and a thorough, objective assessment of their progress in comparison with the standards adopted in your profession. Take, for example, the writer Pamela Travers: she wrote articles in newspapers and magazines for 10 years and only then published the famous Mary Poppins. Thomas Edison wrote: “A genius is most often just a gifted person,
  • Think broadly. Studies by political scientist Edward Banfield show that most of the most successful members of society build their lives with a long-term perspective. These people are “future-oriented.” They are in no hurry to receive a reward as soon as possible and make current decisions based on their ideas about the future. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos showed just such an aspiration for the future when he decided to quit a reliable job as a financier to open an online store. Bezos developed for himself a “strategy to minimize regrets.” He asked himself the question: “When I am 80 years old, will I regret that I once started a new business, even if it does not bring me wealth?” If you worry about too slow progress, do not stop keep in mind long-term goals, think about what you can do,
  • Dream and get carried away. Do not give up your hobbies, even if they seem absurd to others. There are many examples of how people who were carried away by a trivial, at first glance, business, turned it into large-scale projects. Ray Kroc was simply obsessed with the idea of mass distribution of french fries, which he discovered in a MacDonald’s restaurant. “This potato has become something almost sacred to me,” he admitted. Starbucks creator Howard Schulz was equally obsessed with a passion for coffee and coffee shops in Milan.
  • Combine perseverance with a willingness to experiment. In the 1980s, Dan Brown’s musical career came to a standstill. He was already much over 30; the discs diverged very badly: only a few hundred copies of his last album were sold. But in 1994, inspired by the success of one of the thrillers Sidney Sheldon, he decided to try his hand at writing. At the age of 38, he published The Da Vinci Code, which later sold out in a total circulation of 60 million copies.
  • Do not miss the opportunity. Have you achieved success by a certain age or not, it does not matter. It is important to see and not miss your chance when he turns up. Is there any obvious problem in your life? Take a closer look: maybe it is precisely behind her that a new opportunity is hiding. The problem may seem obvious to other people when you describe it, but you still have an advantage: you first noticed it, which means you will have more time to come up with a solution for it. For example, Gene Nidech realized that in the attempts to lose weight she was very helped by the spirit of camaraderie that arose in the classes organized for those who wanted to lose weight by the New York Health Department. Gene began to think about reproducing this mutual support system on a much larger scale and began holding daily meetings for those who needed help in the difficult task of overweight. Today, around the world, thousands of Weight Watchers groups are helping dieters lose weight together.


  • Achieving your goals usually takes longer than you expected: sometimes it comes to decades.
  • Given the increase in life expectancy, in our time at almost any age it is still not too late to hit the road for new achievements and success.
  • The average length of a full working life in our time is much longer than you think. Those who are 50 today have half their career ahead.
  • Mastering a business perfectly requires at least 10 years of hard work.
  • Successful people think about the distant future and make current decisions based on their importance for achieving long-term goals.
  • And at 40, and when you are over 50, you can successfully start doing something new: you already have experience, knowledge, you have formed a character. Moreover, at this age, most people remain healthy and full of energy.
  • The road to success requires discipline, perseverance, and a willingness to experiment.
  • Many people abandon their businesses in the early stages when results are not yet visible.
  • Do not compare yourself with successful people. Try to find out how they lived and what they did before they became famous and wealthy.
  • Whether you have achieved success by a certain age or not, it does not matter. It is important to see and not miss your chance when he turns up.

Why You Should Read “Never Too Late to Be Great”

  • To start a new business
  • To start a new life
  • To become a better version of yourself

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