At some point this week, you will inevitably read about a kid born during the Clinton administration selling an app you've never heard of to tech giants for the equivalent of the Bolivian GDP. And you will think to yourself, "Damn, what am I doing with my life?"
Get ready to feel even worse.
Because sure, there are plenty of Mark Zuckerbergs out there who have made millions before they could legally rent a car. And loads of athletes, entertainers, and talentless reality "stars" who have become celebrities before they can legally drink. But there's a big difference between wealth and celebrity and getting the highest score ever on the IQ test. Or painting a masterpiece pre-puberty. But before you start re-studying for those AP exams you took 16 years ago, get motivated by reading about some of the most successful kids in history.
Louis Braille: Developed Braille at 15
Braille lost his sight as a child (in an accident involving his father’s tools) and spent his formative years in the world’s only school for the blind. Determined to help fellow blind people read, he consulted with the French military about a system of writing they were developing (for soldiers to use on the battlefield at night) that didn’t require sight, and spent three years creating his system of communication. And he did it, of course, before the age of 15. Although, he never really explained why it’s used in parking garage elevators.
Bobby Fischer: World chess champion at 14
Before he became an international fugitive and, pretty much, the only chess player most people on the planet can name, Bobby Fischer won the World Chess Championship at the age of 14. Not content to just outshine every freshman in the world, Fisher later became the youngest grandmaster of all time at age 15. He would go on to become the highest-rated player in history and is still regarded by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.
Mary Shelley: Wrote Frankenstein at 18
In 2015, a 17-year-old who gets pregnant by an older married guy really only has one creative outlet in life. And that outlet is called The Jerry Springer Show. So it’s a good thing Springer wasn’t around two hundred years ago when Mary Shelley -- recently married and with a new baby -- penned one of the world's most classic novels, Frankenstein.
Elizabeth Benson: Scored highest-ever IQ at 8
Elizabeth Benson is the only person in history to make the IQ test her own personal bitch. Sure, at eight-years-old she notched the highest score in history with a 214+. But do you know why there’s a “plus” at the end? Because after answering EVERY SINGLE QUESTION correctly, Elizabeth was like, “That all you got?” And it was: test takers ran out of questions to ask her, tucked their tails between their legs, and went home. At 13 she wrote a novel that was reviewed by Vanity Fair, and despite going on to a rather unremarkable life after that, is still generally regarded as the best test taker in history.
Pablo Picasso: Painted a masterpiece at 14
Picasso was to art what every football player at Florida State is to sports: so good the school doesn’t even make you show up. And unbearably cocky. As a child, lil’ Pablo told his teachers he’d only go to class if they let him draw whenever he wanted. And they let him. At age 12 he was denied entrance into a children’s art exhibit because he drew too well. And by the time he was 14, he’d already painted the Portrait of Aunt Pepa, considered one of the greatest Spanish paintings in history. Picasso would go on to, among other things, teach the world how to paint people with both eyes on one side of their heads.
Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr. (aka the Wonder Girl): Translated Mother Goose into Esperanto at 5
Back before kids could become famous by refusing to eat breakfast cereal or telling Dave Coulier he’s in big trouble, children became celebrities by being smarter than everybody else. Hard to believe, right? Yes, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, child prodigies were as big of celebs as sports figures and one of the most prodigious was this little girl from Evansville, Indiana. Dubbed “The Wonder Girl," Winifred Stoner had translated Mother Goose into Esperanto by age five, and four years later crushed Stanford’s entrance exam. Winifred’s mother may also well have been history’s first child-celebrity mom, hitting the gilded-age interview circuit to offer her tips and philosophies on parenting.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Wrote a symphony at 8
Though it wasn't until age 229 that he inspired that awesome song from Falco, it only took Mozart until age eight to write his first symphony. He performed for royalty through much of his teens and by 17 was a musician in the Salzburg Court. Hard to go anywhere but down from there, no? While Mozart continued to make some of the most recognizable music in history, he never made much money. Although, probably still more than Falco.
Gregory Smith: Nominated for Nobel Prize at 12
At 12 years old, the closest most of us get to winning a Nobel Peace Prize is keeping the school bully from stealing another kid's bike. Unless you’re Gregory Smith, that is. He was nominated for his first Nobel at age 12 and now, at age 25, has three nominations under his belt. And he’s met with Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev. And spoken in front of the United Nations. Oh yea, and did we mention that he started college at 10 yet still found the time to launch International Youth Advocates, an organization dedicated to children’s rights across the world? No? Well, he did that too.