What 24 Of The World’s Most Influential People Wanted To Be When They Were Kids

Thankfully, almost none of them achieved their goals.

by Aaminah Khan
Originally Published: 

No parent wants to limit their child’s ambitions … until your kindergartener’s classmates start talking about how they plan to save the world and yours announces, “I’m going to be a dinosaur!” When that happens, refer back to this list. You might recognize a few names — business moguls, Oscar winners, billionaire entrepreneurs, and even a President. Turns out, the Oracle of Omaha actually was an oracle, but most of these folks wound up pretty far from where their childhood self intended to go and the world was better for it. All of which is to say that “dinosaur” is a perfectly reasonable thing for your kindergartener to want to be when they grow up.

Oprah Winfrey

Wanted To Be: An Actress

Technically this one came true, although everyone knows where Oprah really made her money in beekeeping.

Jeff Bezos

Wanted To Be: An Archeologist

Then an astronaut. Then a physicist. Then a computer programmer. Figures, Mr. Amazon wanted it all. A new career is about the only thing you can’t buy from Bezos on a drunken whim. Yet.

Mitt Romney

Noble aspirations, indeed. You think he would’ve added, “President” if he’d known the other 2 would definitely happen? At the very least he probably would have thrown in, “Guy with a better name than ‘Mitt.'”

Warren Buffett

Really, Warren? You couldn’t have at least said, “Astronaut” for a couple of years? Just to give everyone else a shot?

Goldie Hawn

She may not have originated this quote (maybe it was John Lennon, maybe it was Linus, nobody really knows), but Goldie definitely said it once. At least according to Goldie. Quotes are confusing.

James Earl Jones

He’s not one, but he has played one on TV! And in the movies.

Bela Fleck

Fleck chose music in high school when his boss at the library reacted to his time off request for a gig with a career ultimatum: music or library shelving. The rest is jam band history.

Ted Turner

He settled for starting cable news, creating superstations, and basically running TV. Plus, there was that time he was married to Jane Fonda. But sure, the Navy would have been good, too.

Denzel Washington

Presumably a celebrity journalist, like Perez Hilton, who always portrays Denzel and his contemporaries kindly. Denzel, care to confirm?

Jennifer Lawrence

Just how difficult is it to become a doctor? J-Law would rather try to survive the Hunger Games than medical school.

Will Ferrell

Wanted To Be: A Sports Broadcaster

Which begs the question, did Ferrell really want to be Champ Kindand not Ron Burgundy?

Kareem-Abdul Jabbar

Kareem didn’t quite achieve his goal, but it was eventually fulfilled by fellow freakishly tall human Randy Johnson. Meanwhile, things worked out ok for Jabbar on the sports front, too.

Jimmy Carter

And he was. And then he was in charge of all of them. And all the guys in the other branches, too. Incidentally, nobody has ever answered this question with, “Peanut Farmer.”

Bill Gates

So ironic, then, that he runs the largest non-profit in history, instead.

Mark Zuckerberg

Nailed it, although let’s put to bed this notion that he coded the original Facebook in 2 weeks. Nobody’s first Facebook binge ends that quickly.

Kerry Washington

Washington even studied marine biology in high school until AP biology class convinced her to pick the stage over Sea World. Solid choice — always opt for the fictional Scandal.

George Clooney

He even tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. Must have seen Derek Jeter coming. Although “Sexiest Man Alive” isn’t a bad Plan B when “Most Eligible Bachelor In Sports” is unavailable.

Matthew McConaughey

Does it count that he’s most famous for drawling like a southern lawyer?

George Lucas

Until a near-fatal accident got him off that path right quick. He still managed to make his way to light speed eventually.

Martha Stewart

You could say this one came true. Martha sure has taught people a lot over the years, like how to make a pretty radish rose or how to decorate the whole prison camp for Christmas with just $50.

Mike Wallace

He still interrogates people, but people actually like him. Win win, Mr. Wallace.

Francis Ford Coppola

It was either science or stories, and Coppola chose stories. Silvioand the guys say, “Thanks.”

Amy Tan

If reading is therapy, Tan achieved her goal to some extent. If reading puts you to sleep immediately, Tan still appreciates you buying her books.

John Grisham

Wanted To Be: A Baseball Player

He settled for using the millions made from bestselling novels to buildbuild a college baseball power so a bunch of other kids could live out his dream.

Read More

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So, You Know What Your Kid Wants To Be When They Grow Up — Now What?

Methodology and Resources

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