Stop Climbing the Wrong Ladder: How Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling motivate the late bloomer in me

I was late getting on the train to Hogwarts. While working at Nickelodeon Networks, the head of the department was appalled that I and another co-worker had not read the Harry Potter series. So as a requirement of working in children’s television, I began reading about the boy who lived.

Harry Potter Cartoon depiction from 7-8/15-11 Special Collector's Double Issue

After reading 4,224 pages from J.K. Rowling’s imagination in about 7 months, I was exhausted and exhilarated. That woman created an entire world that was impressive and engaging. I was a Potterhead fan after book one. No holes. No contradictions. Mystery, romance, action, fantasy. She did it all in those pages.

As a budding writer myself I grabbed at anything about J.K., her writing process and her story. She is a literary role model for me. Beyond her writing skills and business prowess in the publishing world (see Pottermore news here. Gangsta!) the most encouraging thing about this author is when she started her writing career.

In this week’s Entertainment Weekly (a must read for real fans–meaning you’ve read and watched) with Daniel Radcliffe on the cover, I read something that made my heart leap:

“Rubbish.” That was the producer David Heyman’s first reaction to the long-winded title of Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone by an unknown 32-year-old author named J.K. Rowling that landed on his desk in 1997.

Isn’t that just awesome?! Do you see it? “…unknown 32-year-old author.” Whooo hoo! At 32 that chick was unknown to the world. She was a researcher, a teacher, married, divorced, a mother, poor, depressed–all before 30. Then, she completed the book that would change her life.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

30 is a great age. I feel like a veil of foolishness rose from my eyes the day after I turned 30. But in today’s world where multimillionaire celebrities are barely legal and the latest billionaire dropped out of school to find their fortune, 30 sometimes feels—not old—but too late.

Maybe not for you, but for me, at times I felt 30 was too late to change course and start over. And if you are nearing 35, 40 or 50 you may feel that more than me. Those few words in that article just reminded me that it’s never too late to get started on your purpose. After $400 billion in sales, I think it’s safe to call writing Harry Potter J.K.’s purpose. Not because she made a lot of money, but because she created something that millions of people, an entire generation of readers enjoyed.

The best part is maybe she needed that time being unknown. Would she be able to write about friendship, love and death so brilliantly straight out of high school? Now I’m not dogging young prodigies that find success before they can drive. I’m just saying, don’t let age discourage you. Never feel as if it’s too late to climb the right ladder. Even little Harry Potter had to catch up on what it meant to be a wizard and we all know how that turns out. At least we’ll know today.

The point is at 32 she was unknown. Today, I’m unknown. You’re unknown. But someday you could be the owner of a cute little business that makes the news online, the employee everyone admires because your side hustle pays for awesome vacations or the retiree that lived out a lifelong dream and inspires your community. One day, I’ll be the accomplished writer/producer who quit her enviable job in New York at 32.


Maybe I’m just saying this because I’m so excited to finally be on my right path that I want everyone I know (and don’t know, lol) to do the same. Free yourself from the fear or comfort that is keeping you at a position you know is out of line with your passion and purpose. Stop climbing the wrong ladder! If you are anything like me, you aren’t getting that far anyway. It’s not too late to find a way to make a living (or supplement your livelihood) that is fulfilling.

For some of you that means changing companies, starting your own or changing gears completely. I wrote all of this to say…I started this blog to say, doing what you love in an environment that stimulates your creativity and innovation is not a privilege of a chosen few–tech-savvy millienials or old heads in the corner office–it’s your right. You can get on the right path at any age. And more importantly, you deserve it. Develop a plan. Build your resources. Step out on faith. Do something. Just don’t stay trying to climb the wrong ladder.

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