UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 27: DANCING WITH THE STARS THE RESULTS SHOW - "Episode 510A" -- Finale highlights included performances by fifth season cast members and their professional partners on the exciting two-part finale of "Dancing with the Stars," on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET). (Photo by Carol Kaelson/ABC via Getty Images)
Photograph by Carol Kaelson — ABC via Getty Images
By Erik Sherman
July 6, 2015

Some successful people always knew what they wanted to do and had a plan. From a young age, they methodically plotted their way up the ladder. You look at their career path, and where they started — and where they ended — makes total sense.

There are many people who have become wildly successful whose careers had unexpected, even weird starts. They may have stumbled onto their vocations. Or they always had a passion — but found a very unorthodox way of finding their routes to achieving their dreams.

Take Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who plays the “Most Interesting Man in the World” character in commercials for Dos Equis. After first moving to Los Angeles, he worked on a garbage truck, according to an NPR interview. He lied his way into westerns, pretending to know how to ride a horse, and eventually played villains, even though he had always wanted to do comedy. He finally got a chance, decades after starting acting and while trying to refresh his movie career by auditioning for a commercial by imitating his sailing buddy, Fernando Lamas.

“It only took 50 years,” Goldsmith said. “An overnight success.”

Even CEOs and power brokers have had unconventional starts. Andrew Carnegie’s first job was as a 13-year-old textile worker. John D. Rockefeller was an accountant. Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO before the acquisition by Verizon, was a teacher.

So, if you’re one of the millions of newly-minted college graduates not sure of what’s next– or the parent of one — take heart. There are many paths to business in success. Here are some of the more unusual stories of people who started in non-traditional beginnings and yet rose to high-profile positions that brought them wealth and fame.


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