There are many, many people who didn’t find their true calling right off the bat. In fact, even some of the most accomplished people you can think of have career histories riddled with failures and false starts. So try not to worry all that much if you are feeling glum over your stagnant job situation. The following are some infamous abandoned career paths that might give you some encouragement to update your resume.
Vincent Van Gogh: Master level hairstylist at the Sissy Doogenhaus Salon in Amsterdam
Prior to becoming one of the great masters of post-impressionism, Vincent was busy shearing bangs and rinsing dye out of the post-menopausal set at Sissy’s Salon. His career dissatisfaction is revealed in this letter to his brother Theo.
Martha Stewart: Food Taster for Jimmy Hoffa
Before she launched her enormously successful enterprises, Martha cut her teeth in the food and entertainment business with the lucky break she got through one of her dad’s friends at the Teamsters Union. It turned out that Jimmy Hoffa was looking for someone to test his food before he ate it to make sure that Bobby Kennedy or the Mob hadn’t poisoned it. Julia Child turned him down flat, but Martha arrived table-side faster than you could say grace. She relished her job of playing culinary roulette with suspicious dumplings and questionable parfait — never knowing when and if the “soup bowl would toll for her.” She managed to live through the position and get her own show up and running, continuing to demonstrate the kind of guts it takes to be a first-class businesswoman.
Albert Einstein: Relief Pitcher, New York Giants
New York Giants spring training, 1908. Albert Einstein was working as a water-boy for the New York Giants and on his scientific theories in the off-season. During practice one day, he noticed the blatant inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics as expressed in the pitching motion of rookie hopeful, Birdie Smoot — a gifted athlete who batted righty, but threw with his left foot. Albert observed that his curveball was having the same mechanical problems that his theory of special relativity was having. He reasoned that if the question of Birdie’s erratic curveball could be solved, then the elusive mathematical equations he sought would also fall into place. He pondered and pondered this problem until in a lucid dream one night, Albert had a vision of baseball molecules being “time-spanked” for an extended period, allowing too much friction within the time-space continuum. He awoke with this epiphany still fresh in his mind and ran to find Birdie so he could demonstrate the secret to a proper curveball. When management caught a glimpse of Albert’s superb pitching ability, they immediately promoted him from water-boy to relief pitcher.
Benito Mussolini: Aspiring Painter
Like his Axis power counterpart Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini’s first crack at notoriety was in the artistic realm before deciding to give being a brutal dictator a whirl. His penchant for painting sad waifs with big, big eyes was unique by my grandmother’s standards and his proprietary paint formula made from political dissidents’ sweat gave him unparalleled control over the medium’s viscosity. In spite of these stylistic and technical innovations, Il Duce couldn’t find an audience for his paintings. It seemed the bigger he made the eyes, the more the critics and public closed theirs. At the same time, he was suffering through a protracted law suit with Hitler, who claimed that he was the true originator of the ‘big-eyed’ style, (both men also laid claim to the invention of the phrase ‘see ya later alligator’). Benny finally decided to back out of the painting career due to lack of commercial success and his legal troubles with Hitler. Plus, once he saw that fascism was looking like an excellent career option that totally matched up with his Myers-Briggs personality type, he bid those artistic ambitions arrivederci and said hello to a pair of thigh-high goose steppin’ boots.
Mahatma Gandhi: Lead Singer for ’80s Heavy Metal Hair Band
Some people decide mid-career that maybe there is something else they really should be doing. Mahatma Gandhi, after all the many years of peace activism in India was simply burned out. Multiple hunger strikes, bouts of self-immolation, imprisonment and just way too much curry left him wondering if there wasn’t another way of life out there that could bring him closer to the spiritual liberation he sought. As Karma, Dharma or Artha (one of them) would have it, Gandhi happened to notice an advertisement in the newspaper that Van Halen was looking for a lead singer to replace David Lee Roth who was in rehab. This seemed just the kind of change that might refresh his tired soul and get him out of the samsara rat race of trying to get India and Pakistan to be friends. (Who needs that shit!) So he packed his bags and headed for the west coast with little more than a toothbrush and a couple rupees in his pocket. The rest is history — Gandhi rocked the world with his memorable cover versions of “We are the World” and “Cum on Hear the Noize” and “I Don’t Like to Eat Meat, But for You I Will Make an Exception”. Throngs of fans followed him wherever he went and worshipped him like a god, waiting in line for hours and packing stadiums just to get a glimpse of his yoga-toned body. And although he also quite enjoyed the fringe benefits that came along with being in an 80s hair band: free cocaine, loose women and all the coffee you can drink at the Radisson continental breakfast bar, he began to miss his people back in India. ‘His Peeps’ as they liked to call themselves in the small princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the Indian Empire. Besides, his band-mates were finally starting to notice that Mr. Gandhi was in fact bald. Bald as a cue ball. So really, being in a hair band was out of the question. So in December of 1985, just 2 months after joining the band, Gandhi and his band-mates parted on the most peaceable of terms and he returned to his old gig in India. But, not before he tried a stint as a Wall Street yuppie hedge fund manager.