October 15, 2018

What do Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, and you (yes, you) all have in common?

Each run on their own time zones and timelines.

I’m not referring to literal time zones here. I’m talking about the timelines we all lead in life. These time zones are all unique, they’re all significant, and they all move at their own pace.

The proof is in the stories:

Ava DuVernay didn't pick up a camera until she was in her 30s. She left the PR world and made her debut film at 32 years old, in only 11 days, and with a small film budget of $50,000. Eighteen years later, she became the first African American woman to helm a film with a budget over $100 million, A Wrinkle In Time.

Oprah Winfrey didn't became a household name overnight. She was fired at age 23 from one of her first jobs as a news reporter for being too "emotionally invested" in the stories and people she was covering. She was 32 when The Oprah Winfrey Show first premiered.

Finally: Lady Gaga. She studied acting during college, but she would freeze up in the audition room and never score the role. She went on to become a successful entertainer, of course, but a chance encounter at age 32 led her to a breakout role in the critically acclaimed film, A Star Is Born. Plus: When Bradley Cooper wanted to make the film as his directorial debut, he was encouraged not to by most people. But at the age of 43, he can now say his first movie is a hit.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea of success needing to happen at a certain age or certain time in our lives. But between the people above and so many more, it’s comforting to remember that everyone moves at their own speed, no matter how fast or slow it may be.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea of success needing to happen at a certain age or certain time in our lives.
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Research adds a little proof to this concept. A new study published in Nature this year revealed that 90 perent of people will hit a “hot streak” at some point in their career, and that time period of meaningful work may kick-in at any point of your life. The study examined careers of almost 30,000 people in science and art industries. Their peaks came at random moments—and lasted for different amounts of time. There was no rhyme or reason to the results, just like in life.

How to Own Your Timeline

But even knowing all this—the stories, the research—it's still tough not to compare your pace to everyone else. We tend to compare ourselves in an upward manner—meaning we focus on those who we perceive to be more successful than us. And social media can fire up this upward comparison loop—it's an endless slideshow of big wins and hot streak highlights, which researchers have proven leads to lower self-esteem and even more comparisons.

It takes time, confidence, and faith to feel comfortable in your timeline. There's a certain saying circulating the internet that serves as the perfect reminder for whenever you catch yourself in this rabbit hole.

You're not late, you're not early—you're very much on your time.

There isn’t a certain age you have to have everything figured out.

There is no formula you can plug away at to ensure all your career goals and side-hustle dreams come true by a certain date.

And there's no sell-by date for success—it’s never too late to hit your stride.

The saying “slow and steady wins the race” can be a great mantra for certain situations, but what if we thought about life as having no race at all?

The saying 'slow and steady wins the race' can be a great mantra for certain situations, but what if we thought about life as having no race at all?
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Read next: Stuck in a Social Media Comparison Trap? Here's How to Shake It Off

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