For the millennial generation, it can feel almost impossible to stay fit and healthy, maintain a social life, and have your career sorted by the time you hit your 20s.
It’s easy to look at the most successful people in the world and wonder how on earth they got there.
However, while some famous icons knew what they wanted to do and achieved success early on, others took a longer, more twisted journey to get to that point.
They may be rich, famous, or powerful now, but at the age of 20, things — for most — looked a little different.
Scroll down to see how 15 highly successful people got to where they are now, and what life looked for them in their late teenage years and early 20s. You might find you relate to some of their journeys.
J. K. Rowling went to Elephant Fayre festival.
JK Rowling is best known as the genius behind the “Harry Potter” series, but she didn’t come up with the idea for Harry, Ron, and Hermione until she was 25. She struggled to get the book published at first, and couldn’t focus at work, which led to her being fired from Amnesty International.
According the The Daily Mail, Rowling spent her teenage years going to festivals and hitch-hiking around the UK.
Bill Gates was busy writing computer code.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates discovered his love of computers at age 13 while at a prep school in Seattle. There, he wrote computer code for a version of tic-tac-toe, and then met and went into business with Paul Allen, his Microsoft cofounder, according to Biography.com.
Gates attended Harvard University, but then dropped out at age 20 in 1975 to focus on Microsoft, which then made him the world’s richest self-made billionaire.
Jeff Bezos was flipping burgers.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, started his professional career in McDonald’s when he was a teenager. According to Cody Teets, author of “Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That Began at McDonald’s,” he wasn’t very good at it.
Bezos told Teets: “My first week on the job, a five-gallon, wall-mounted ketchup dispenser got stuck open in the kitchen and dumped a prodigious quantity of ketchup into every hard-to-reach kitchen crevice.”
“Since I was the new guy, they handed me the cleaning solution and said, ‘Get going!’ I was a grill man and never worked the cash registers. The most challenging thing was keeping everything going at the right pace during a rush.”
Tina Fey worked at the YMCA.
Tina Fey, the brains behind “Mean Girls” and “30 Rock,” was really into theatre at college, but she didn’t get into comedy writing until years after she graduated.
First, Fey moved to Chicago so she could hang around acting workshops, and in her early 20s she worked as the childcare registrar at a YMCA.
She then joined the improv troupe Second City because she “knew it was where a lot of SNL people started,” according to The New Yorker. She was hired by “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels as a writer in 1997.
Warren Buffett was rejected from Harvard.
By the time the world’s most famous investor was 16, he had earned today’s equivalent of $53,000 (£41,000) according to the biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder. One of Buffett’s first jobs was being a paperboy delivering The Washington Post. He also sold golf balls and stamps, buffed cars, and set up pinball machines in barbershops.
He was rejected from Harvard Business School, but then attended Columbia Business School and worked as an investment salesman, securities analyst, and stockbroker.
Oprah Winfrey worked for a local radio station.
Oprah Winfrey is now one if the most famous talk show hosts, actresses, and producers in the world, but she realised she loved media at age 14 when she moved to Nashville. She found her first job at 16 as a broadcaster for WVOL, a Nashville radio station.
At age 19, as a sophomore at Tennessee State University, Winfrey left school to start her media career. However, she had a bumpy ride into fame after being fired from hosting the 6 p.m. news on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV in 1977.
“I had no idea what I was in for or that this was going to be the greatest growing period of my adult life,” Winfrey told the Baltimore Sun. “It shook me to my very core, and I didn’t even know at the time that I was being shaken.”
Jay-Z was on the rap scene.
Jay Z adopted his rapper name at age 20, but was born as Shawn Corey Carter. He chose the name partly because it was similar to his nickname “Jazzy,” partly as a tribute to his mentor, rapper Jaz-O, and also as a reference to the J/Z subway station near his home in Brooklyn.
For a few years Jay Z was performing alongside other rappers, but he remained fairly anonymous according to Biography.com. Afrizap claims he even sold CDs out of his car. He and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded Roc-a-Fella Records in 1996, which is when Jay Z started to be recognised as an emerging rap star.
Barack Obama went to Harvard Law School.
The former president lived in Honolulu for most of his childhood. At school he was skilled at basketball, and graduated in 1979 at age 18 with academic honors. He was one of only three black students at the school, Punahou Academy, which is where he became particularly aware of racism and what it meant to be African-American, according to Biography.com.
He then went to Harvard Law School, where he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
Arianna Huffington was president of the Cambridge Union.
In her 20s, co-founder of The Huffington Post and businesswoman Arianna Huffington was studying economics at the University of Cambridge. There, she became the first foreign, and third female, President of the Cambridge Union.
At age 21 she met British journalist Henry Bernard Levin while on a panel for a quiz show. He became her mentor while she wrote “The Female Woman,” which was published when she was 23. She and Levin then travelled the world for a few years together, attending music festivals.
Morgan Freeman was a struggling artist.
Now, Morgan Freeman is one of the most famous and sought after actors in Hollywood. However, it wasn’t always the case. Freeman worked very hard to get to where he is now.
According to Biography.com, he joined the Air Force after high school to become a fighter pilot. Though he loved acting, it wasn’t easy breaking into the industry, and Freeman spent much of his 20s struggling to find anything more than limited success.
Arguably, his career-changing role was in “Driving Miss Daisy,” which he was cast in at 52 years old.
Mark Zuckerberg was building computer programs.
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg got into building computer programs at a young age. At age 12 he used Atari BASIC — a programming language — to create a messaging program that he called “Zucknet.” In his early teens at high school, Zuckerberg built another program called Synapse which learned your music taste, according to Funders & Founders. Microsoft offered to buy it for $1 million (£772,857), but he declined the offer.
At high school he also learned to read Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, before he was accepted into Harvard University. This is where Facebook was born, after he was approached by the Winklevosse brothers, which Zuckerberg built in a week. He dropped out in his sophomore year to commit all his time to Facebook.
Richard Branson started his first business.
Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group, which owns over 200 companies in more than 30 countries worldwide. He started his first company when he was just 17 years old after dropping out of school at age 16, according to Biography.com.
He struggled with academia, but not with business, and founded youth culture magazine “Student” which sold $8,000 (£6,183) worth of advertising in its first edition.
Two years later, Branson started selling records via mail, which turned into a record store, which then turned into a recording studio called Virgin Records.
Hillary Clinton was at Yale Law School.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was destined for big things from an early age. She gave the commencement address at her graduation from Wellesley College in 1969 at the age of 22, and later attended Yale Law School.
At University, Clinton worked at the Yale Child Study Center where she took on cases of child abuse at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She also volunteered at New Haven Legal Services which provided legal advice to people who couldn’t afford it.
At 23, she started dating Bill Clinton, and went on to become First Lady of the United States of America.
Andy Murray was doing what he does best.
At age 18, current tennis world number one Andy Murray rose 287 places in the world rankings. He was also starting to grow his hair very long.
“At the start of the year, I said I would be in the top 100 and a lot of people didn’t think I could do it, ” he said at the time, according to The Herald. “But I always thought I would. So I’ve proved a lot of people wrong. Now I’ve been home for a while, I’ve had the chance to look around and see what’s been happening these past few months. I’ve been pretty impressed, and I just hope I can continue that next year.”
Elon Musk was making his own video games.
At age 12, the PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk had written code for a space-based video game called Blastar. In 2015, a software engineer at Google turned it into a working game, according to The Verge.
At age 17, Musk moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University, but then moved to the University of Pennsylvania to study business and physics. After this he pursued a PhD at Stanford University in energy physics, but he dropped out after just two days to become part of the “internet boom” in the 90s.
This story originally appeared on Business Insider.