When you’re striving to make your mark on the world, but it feels like slow going, take heart: Chances are good your time will come.
The vast majority of people will experience a “hot streak” during their lives — described as “an intriguing period of outstanding performance” with “bursts” of excellence coming one right after another — a recent study published in Nature found.
Haven’t had yours yet? It’s OK: The timing can be unpredictable.
The hot streak strikes randomly, meaning it could happen in early, mid- or late career, not just when a person is 30 to 40 years old, as conventional wisdom often suggests, said Dashun Wang, the study co-author and an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
The findings should send a very hopeful message to people at any point in their lives, he added.
“Keep going. Your hot streak may be just around the corner,” Wang told TODAY. “If you feel like you’re a late bloomer, it may actually be that you are indeed a late bloomer because we know that most people do have at least one hot streak.”
For the study, researchers analyzed the careers of 3,480 artists, 6,233 film directors and 20,040 scientists. They looked at the sequence of works each person produced and the impact it had.
For artists, for example, they considered the prices their artworks fetched at auctions. For film directors, it was all about how people rated their movies. For scientists, the focus was on how many citations their papers garnered after a decade.
The analysis showed 91 percent of artists, 82 percent of film directors and 90 percent of scientists had at least one hot streak during their careers. This period typically lasted four to five years, but it was not about being more productive, Wang said.
“During the hot streak, you don’t really produce more than we would expect, but it just seems like what you produce is substantially better,” he noted. “You do your best work.”
Enjoy that “precious” time because it’s rare to have more than two hot streaks, the study found.
The authors don’t know yet what triggers a hot streak, but the key seems to be to stay in the game.
“Just keep producing and work hard on that,” advised Wang, who is 33 and is looking forward to the arrival of his own peak. “If you haven’t had your hot streak, then every work may trigger it. Keep going, don’t stop.”