Yesterday, I learned that Sir Nick Faldo first picked up a golf club in 1971, aged 14, after watching Jack Nicklaus win The Masters on TV. Within six years, Faldo had become a professional golfer, finished in the Top 10 of the European Tour and defeated his hero, Nicklaus, in the Ryder Cup. In a glittering career, he went on to win six major championships, nine PGA tournaments and 30 European Tour trophies.

Richard Bland was 23 years old when he became a professional golfer in 1996. It took him a further six years before he was sufficiently successful to gain a place on the European Tour. After 19 more years of what can only be described as a ‘journeyman’ career, Bland finally won his first European Tour trophy last year, aged 48, at his 478th attempt.

In fact, many very successful people have pursued a career curve that has more in common with Bland than with Faldo. Alan Rickman was in his 40s before he got his big break in Die Hard, Vera Wang didn’t begin designing clothes until she was 39, while Ray Kroc, a machine salesman, was 51 when he came across, joined and expanded a small chain of hamburger stands called McDonald’s. And Peter Drucker, the doyen of management gurus and consultants, was in his sixties and seventies when he wrote his most influential books.

Most people set off on their careers expecting to follow the Faldo Curve, seamlessly moving from success to even bigger success before reaching ‘the top’. Unfortunately, careers don’t tend to go that way, and while the Bland Curve may be an extreme, it is likely that your career is characterised by both ups and downs, as well as by periods of ‘journeyman’ performance.

The lessons I take from this are (1) having clear aims and goals, (2) understanding and using your strengths, (3) endlessly developing and improving your skills and capabilities, (4) being proactive and (5) making the most of the opportunities that come your way.

That’s certainly the path that Richard Bland has taken. Since winning his first golf title last May, Bland has had his most successful year ever, and, for the first time, has become one of the world’s Top 50 golfers.

Off The Record: That’s Life by Frank Sinatra

That’s life, that’s what the people say

You’re riding high in April, shot down in May

But I know I’m going to change that tune

When I’m back on top, back on top in June

Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon