Albert Einstein published five papers that revolutionized physics when he was all of 26. Orson Welles made Citizen Kane aged 25. Bill Gates was 31 when he made his first billion. Mark Zuckerberg beat him to three commas by eight years.
When we think of genius, we tend to think of these types of stories. Immensely gifted individuals who shoot to meteoric success before they even become full adults. And there is truth to this pattern. Lots of creative breakthroughs do cluster among those in their 20s.
But science shows this is only half the story. There’s a whole other kind of creativity, and on average it doesn’t reveal its genius until someone is well into middle age.
Conceptualists vs. Experimentalists
The Pablo Picassos of the world, who explode into greatness in their 20s, make for the most romantic stories, but there are plenty of quieter examples of world-changing geniuses