Measures of Success and The Forbes 30 Under 30 List

The Forbes 30 Under 30 List has just been unveiled and it’s no surprise that the starlets on it are as gifted as they come. 

This year, actresses like Sabrina Carpenter, Lana Condor, and Camila Mendes have been named for gracing the world with their storytelling talent on and off the screen. Musicians like Doja Cat, Ava Max, and Bea Miller have also been chosen for pioneering emotion and excitement through their music, and the truth is, they deserve it. 

With years of experience under their belts and countless hours spent perfecting their crafts, there is no doubt that these incredibly successful, hardworking, stars should be recognized for their efforts, but does it do anything for anyone to acknowledge their youth?

Winning an Oscar, charting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, landing a role in a film that went #1 at the box office are all breathtaking accomplishments for people who haven’t even celebrated their 30th birthday, but what about everyone who has achieved the same success and did hit thirty… or forty, or fifty years old?

The Forbes 30 Under 30 list highlights “the next generation of talent,” but it also solidifies the idea that, in western culture, your career defines your life. The way our work lives are built, it’s often easy to think that our careers will define our lives, our legacies, and what we leave behind, but in all honesty, that isn’t true. A list like this puts pressure on young people to achieve simply for society to think of them as successful at an acceptable age, and if you take that same outlook and apply it to everyone who has hit thirty, are they then just viewed as unsuccessful or less accomplished?

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging success. In fact, we love to see it, but once you place an age limit on it, it becomes, well – toxic.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be celebrating the hard work, trials, tribulations, and endeavors of these successful, young champions. We should, especially when it comes to entrepreneurs outside of the entertainment industry that aren’t often in the spotlight like Joanna Smith, founder of AllHere Education, Maddie Hall, a co-founder of Living Carbon who is fighting for climate change, and Jamesa Bailey, Associate Director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Those are all incredible people, and I beg of more news outlets to talk about people like that instead of the next thing a celebrity wears on their way to take out the trash. Hard work should be recognized, but for anyone who isn’t younger than thirty, The Forbes 30 Under 30 List can be disheartening.

It’s never too late to change your career or pursue your dreams. That will always be true, but western culture has always prioritized work over life. That’s why the 9-5 workday even exists. You don’t have to let your career define your life because it doesn’t. So many people tie who they are to their job occupation and that can many times be an amazing thing. If you’re an artist, you are an artist, but for some people, assuming the identity of your occupation isn’t healthy. If you fail at achieving something in your career, your whole identity feels like a failure which shouldn’t be true. Your life isn’t what you’ve accomplished. Life is when you open your eyes in the morning and see sunlight coming through your window. Life is the book you’ve always wanted to read in the spare time you’ve always wanted to have. Life is holding your daughter’s hand in your own. Life is seeing your best friend find happiness. Life is listening to that song that makes you feel like you’re fifteen again, and life can also be the amazing things you did while you were out pursuing a career and contributing to society — but it doesn’t have to be.

Our culture tells us we have to be something. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is what they ask children as early as five years old in Kindergarten. They tell you’ve gotta have it figured before you leave college. You’ve got to get married before you’re too old, and despite it being wonderful to celebrate the accomplishments of the young, it is still undeniably implied by lists like The Forbes 30 Under 30 that if you don’t achieve what you wanted by thirty years of age, then you’re never going to make it.

That isn’t true because there isn’t a time limit for when you need to achieve your goals.

Each step you take from the second you get out of bed in the morning to pursue your next thing is you making it. Keep taking those steps, no matter how long it takes.