Perhaps today more than ever, creativity is associated with youth. As this brilliant New York Times op-ed by Pagan Kennedy recounts, Mark Zuckerberg, one of the most prominent wunderkinds of his generation, once made a shockingly tone deaf statement about the value of the experienced mind. “Young people are just smarter,” he said in 2007, at age 22.
He was wrong. And we don’t need to prove it to you, but we will.
A 57-Year-Old Inventor? Good Enough.
Meet John Goodenough. You might not know who he is, but you’ve certainly used a product that he invented: the lithium ion battery. Whether it’s in your television remote or even your car, you have benefited from Goodenough’s minuscule energy packages. He invented the device in 1980, at age 57 — hardly a young pup. So you see? You don’t have to be just months past the legal drinking age to be a gr—
Wait, Goodenough invented something else?
A *94* -Year-Old Inventor?
Yes, a 57-year-old inventor is cool, but it wouldn’t even be outside of the norm. According to Kennedy’s piece, “there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that late blooming is no anomaly. A 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study found that inventors peak in their late 40s and tend to be highly productive in the last half of their careers.” Additionally, “In the United States, the average inventor sends in his or her application to the patent office at age 47, and that the highest-value patents often come from the oldest inventors — those over the age of 55.”
Thomas Edison invented modern cement in 1909 at age 62. John Goodenough expanded upon his signature invention—one of the most important of the 20th century—by inventing a brand new type of battery at age 94.
Goodenough maintains that his age was far from a liability.
“You have to draw on a fair amount of experience in order to be able to put ideas together,” he told Kennedy. And it’s true. Inspiration may come like a bolt of lightning into the cranium of a young, brilliant entrepreneur like Mark Zuckerberg. And just as likely it will churn in between your ears like some Edisonian cement until one day you realize it has hardened into something that will change the world. Aging does not close doors, it opens them. #LiveEvergreen. John Goodenough does.
“I’m old enough to know you can’t close your mind to new ideas. You have to test out every possibility if you want something new,” he said.
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