The world would not be the same had these young guns not dreamed huge and acted on their ambitions. Respect thy elders, but don’t be afraid to do something amazing.
1. Bring our favorite characters to life
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Jennifer Lawrence brought Katniss Everdeen and the Hunger Games trilogy to the big screen at age 21.
2. Be music to our ears
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Jimi Hendrix contributed more than a few lifetimes’ worth of musical innovation before his untimely death at age 27. Legend has it that, after seeing Hendrix play for the first time, Eric Clapton said, “You never told me he was that freaking good.”
3. Make us laugh
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Lena Dunham was only 25 when she parlayed her writing and acting talents into a hit series on HBO. Her show, Girls, just wrapped up its second season, and a third season has already been produced.
4. Make us take notice
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The never-identified Unknown Protester (aka “Tank Man”) – who famously stood his ground in Tiananmen Square against a column of approaching government tanks in 1989 – has inspired millions since making his stand twenty-five years ago. He is thought to have been a university student around twenty years-old.
5. Help us live healthier lives
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Misleading how-to’s and “studies” that purport to offer health advice crowd every corner of the internet. It was against that backdrop that Derek Flanzraich, now 27, set out to create a website to share the highest-quality wellness content on the web. His site, Greatist, links back to every academic study and source cited in its articles and has gained the trust of millions of dedicated readers.
6. Change what we talk about
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In his early twenties, Bob Dylan – by way of his sharply penned songs – sparked what might be the most important conversations about race and war in the history of the United States.
7. Change how we talk about it
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Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) and David Karp (founder of Tumblr) forever altered the way that we communicate and share ideas. Their world-changing social media platforms launched when they were just 24 at 21, respectively.
8. Refuse to be silenced
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Malala Yousafzai’s fight to protect the right of young women to education has made her the target of an assassination attempt orchestrated by the Taliban, a keynote speaker at the United Nations, and an unforgettable guest on The Daily Show. Born in 1997, this 16 year-old is just getting started.
9. Give people the chance to learn
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Adam Braun was a travelling college junior when an Indian boy told him that wanted a pencil more than anything else in the world. That encounter inspired Braun to start Pencils of Promise, an organization dedicated to bringing education to the developing world, at age 25. In its first five years, PoP has built 170 schools, with another 50 soon to be completed. Braun is sharing the story of PoP in a forthcoming book later this month.
10. Re-invent a device that saves lives
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What if you could reinvent a medical device that saves millions of lives every year? Eric and Evan Edwards set out to do just that when, in their mid-twenties, they founded medical technology company Intelliject in 2004. After years of research and refinement, their invention – a redesigned, audio-enabled epi pen called the Auvi-Q – finally launched last year.
11. Actually save lives
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While deployed in Afghanistan, Salvatore Giunta (29) and Dakota Meyer (25, not pictured), put their own lives in unthinkable danger to defend scores of fellow soldiers. Both men have since been awarded the Medal of Honor. Their stories cannot be retold too often – read more about the actions of these and other American military heroes here.
12. Be faster than the rest of us
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In case you were just rescued from a deserted island and don’t recognize him in this picture, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt – who exploded onto the world stage with a scorching, world record-breaking victory in the men’s 100 meter dash at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (he was just shy of 22 years-old at the time) – is the fastest man in the world. He plays that role with uncommon dominance.
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A 24 year-old Michael Jordan leaps from the foul line into history at the NBA’s 1988 slam dunk contest.