The Hyphen: It’s Never Too Late To Start

Hi friends—

Hope all is well,

“I really hate those 30 Under 30 lists,” someone said to me recently. “Why is everyone so obsessed with ‘success’ by a certain age?” For so long, a 30 under 30 list has been the shiny definition of Millennial success. But as the years roll on, more and more people openly admit their contempt for them. (I am in agreement with this opinion, and I was put on the Forbes one in 2018. Of course it was very exciting at the time but deep down, I felt strange about it.) Being young isn’t an ‘achievement’. Globally, many of these celebratory lists are also very privileged. ‘Self-made’ entrepreneurs without mentioning their famous family connections or financial help to get started. It’s not all bad, and they champion a lot of philanthropists, but it’s clear that these lists just make everyone feel a bit shitty.

I am now 31, and in many ways feel like I’m only getting properly started. ‘Success’ is not about being the youngest one in the room or getting there ‘first’ — it’s about continuing to push forward, trying new things, learning to say no, staying true to your gut instinct and reaching for whatever goal you have personally set yourself, throughout a (hopefully) long life. We all know that great things can take a long time, to grow, distill, ripen, mature, evolve — like a fine wine — or whatever the phrase is. In a world of instant gratification and ‘content’, I’m not sure we should be constantly celebrating whoever got there the quickest.

It’s never too late to start something. I interviewed Oscar-winning filmmaker Ava Duverney a while back, and didn’t realise she hadn’t picked up a camera until she was 32 years old.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t celebrate young people. Of course highlighting the work of young people is extremely important, especially when it comes to activism, amplifying voices and making change. Teenagers like Amika George, Greta Thunberg, Emma González or Malala Yousafzai to name a few. In a world that still loves to judge young people for their apparent narcissism and selfies, we really need to highlight and give a platform to brave and brilliant young voices.

New, exciting or unconventional careers are often celebrated for being novel, but long-standing careers should celebrated be too. Iris Apfel just turned 99 years old and she keeps creating, inspiring and wearing fabulous clothes. Her body of work speaks volumes and I find her such a warm presence in the world.

A few years ago, I made a mini audio documentary for the Tate, and travelled to St Ives to explore the artists who made waves in the art community and were being celebrated in the Tate St Ives. As part of this, I went looking for painter Alfred Wallis’s grave up on the Barnoon Cemetary that overlooks the beach. His grave stands out, as his friends clubbed together to give him quite an elaborate but small monument as he didn’t make much money from his work. It had beautiful painted tiles that made up a picture of a lighthouse with a person going in, symbolising the end of his life. The Tate in St Ives have celebrated his work loudly and proudly as a great renowned artist.

It wasn’t until later that I learned that he only began to take up painting in his seventies.

It is never too late to start that side project, create art, build a business or make the first step in absolutely anything you want to do. I look forward to reinventing myself as the years roll on. You can make an impact at any age.

Hope you enjoy today’s newsletter. Keep in touch,

Feel free to drop me a line with what you’d like to see more of in this newsletter at

Emma xo


What’s New on Ctrl Alt Delete Podcast?

This week on Ctrl Alt Delete is something slightly different — I am excited to share a snippet of my SABOTAGE audiobook! (Out on Sept 24th).

The book explores real-life stories of success and setbacks from leading cultural voices, and a deep dive into what's really holding us back.

Hope you enjoy and you can pre-order the audiobook now in the UK and the US! Or, the print version which is a lovely, and pocket-sized.


Things I’ve Consumed This Week:


I am really enjoying Cate Sevilla’s book How to Work Without Losing Your Mind: A Realistic Guide to the Hell of Modern Work — it’s funny, and practical. She draws on experience at both giant corporations and scrappy start-ups like The Pool (where she was Editor at the helm when it all went pear-shaped). It’s a warm-hearted helping hand from someone who’s been through it all.

I really enjoy Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast. The one with Bill Gates is definitely worth a listen. I also really enjoyed the episode with Gwyneth Paltrow. They’re quite long, so perfect if you’re on a long walk or train journey somewhere.

I was VERY excited to have received a press release from Penguin this week about Stanley Tucci’s new food memoir: Taste: My Life Through Food is coming out next year but you can pre-order now. Gotta love the Tooch.


Love books? Come & join The Hyphen Book Club!

Here are some books I’ve recommended recently:

A Toolkit for Modern Life: 53 Ways to Look After Your Mind by Dr Emma Hepburn
The Climate is Changing, Why Aren't We? by Daisy Kendrick
The Shift: How I (lost and) found myself after 40 by Sam Baker
The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer
Sad Janet by Lucie Britsh

ps Emma Dabiri’s new book What White People Can Do Next has been announced, coming in 2021. You can pre-order here.


Click here to join 55,000+ students by signing up to my Skillshare class! "5 Exercises To Build Creative Confidence"


Thanks for subscribing! I'm Emma, the person behind this newsletter. I am the bestselling author of The Multi-Hyphen Method, SABOTAGE, and my debut novel OLIVE, and creator of the hit podcast series Ctrl Alt Delete. You can also follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.

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