“There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F. Scott Fizgerald. Could he have been more wrong? We here at Psychology Today are fond of stories of self-reinvention, and we recently did a cover story on how it’s never too late to refashion your personality, launch a second career, or otherwise start anew. Stories of successful second acts are everywhere. Take the geriatric rock bands like Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin who have drawn fresh strength from boomer nostalgia. Or consider entertainers whose careers have been pronounced dead, only to have new life breathed into them—John Travolta, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster were resurrected by Quentin Tarantino, Chuck Norris by Conan O'Brien. Not to mention the whole cottage industry of has-been performers who have revitalized their careers by making fun of their former personas: think Gary Coleman, Mr. T, and William Shatner.
But even more inspiring are the stories of people who ascend from oblivion to do the things they’ve always dreamed of. The corridors of history are crowded with extraordinary people who started out doing ordinary things. Elvis Costello was a computer operator. Faulkner composed most of As I Lay Dying behind his desk at the post office. Even Einstein was a patent clerk.