When a series involving young characters skips ahead to the future it will rarely be more than a few years into the future (unless Time Travel is involved of course), which keeps the characters fairly close to the people we know, and saves on the age makeup. Such is the temptation to show where the character ends up however, that many writers show the character already well established and very successful in their chosen career, even if only a few short years have passed and logic would suggest they should still be somewhere at the bottom, working their way up.
In extreme cases the character, who has barely started out a particular path before the time skip is at the very pinnacle of their profession when we rejoin him four years later. Compare Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome. It can be justified if the future self was using Time Travel for Fun and Profit.
- Kind of approached from the other direction in Night Watch. Vimes, a happily married man awaiting the birth of his first child, an alcoholic who has very successfully quit drinking, one of the richest people in Ankh-Morpork, a duke, at the top of his profession and one of the most powerful people in the city, goes back in time thirty years, meets his eighteen-year-old self and realises what an idiot he was.
- Brooke Davis of One Tree Hill has become a millionaire leader in the fashion world by four years after graduating high school. She runs her ultra successful clothing line, magazine and tv channel at the ripe old age of twenty two.
- Dawson Leary of Dawson's Creek is the creator of a hit television series based on his life by the age of twenty-four or twenty-five.
- Nathan Petrelli of Heroes will make it from newly elected Congressman to President in less than five years. Even given the example of the previous holder of the office that rapid a rise seems a little bit of a stretch, no matter how many (pot) pies Linderman has his fingers in. But perhaps not so much of a stretch as:
- In Charmed (episode 2 season 2), the sisters travel 10 years to their future selves for a day, and Prue finds herself the super rich owner of numerous big successful auction houses over the word. Subverted because they change that future from happening, and later made impossible because of Prue's early death.
- One episode of Boy Meets World had a Flash Forward to seven years in the future in which Jack has become a "captain of industry" despite the fact that he would only be 27 or 28 at that point. However, this sequence is not canon and is implied to be an extended Imagine Spot in Eric's head.
- In the sequel series, Jack has succeeded in becoming a captain of industry.
- Bones is extremely successful without time travel, but at her high school reunion she just can't do her usual thing of casually bringing up the fact that she's very sexually attractive/intelligent/wealthy/famous despite (or perhaps because of) Booth's coaching.
- The Grand Finale of Desperate Housewives gives this type of ending to each of the main characters (except Susan, whose fate is left unstated): Lynette becomes CEO of a multimillion-dollar company in New York and buys an apartment overlooking Central Park, Bree moves to Kentucky and is elected to the state legislature, and Gabrielle starts her own fashion website and TV show, moves to California with Carlos, and buys a mansion.
- A season 7 episode of How I Met Your Mother features flash forwards within several flashbacks. Ted and Marshall formed a pact during their college days that they will watch the original Star Wars trilogy every three years while envisioning how their lives will be in three years. Barney eventually joined the pact a few years before the series starts. Ted imagines himself being a successful architect who had designed multiple skyscrapers and is married to a woman who resembles Robin, has a name starting with R, and is from another country. Marshall imagines himself with a mustache, married to Lily, and a successful lawyer with a family of five children. Barney's is always the same, being with another woman before pushing her out of the apartment. And in each of their imaginations, Ted and Marshall somehow developed a thick British accent.
- Done twice with the player character in Grim Fandango. First, Manny arrives in the port town of Rubacava and takes a job sweeping up in a nightclub, which he owns a year later. Then he leaves and begins washing decks on a ship. After another year, he's the ship's captain. We have no idea how he managed to accomplish both, apart from a missable line near the beginning of the game:
Manny: I wonder if I would be happier on a ship? Then again, I'm so competitive I wouldn't rest until I became captain.
- Before either of those, he was once a very successful Reaper (before the game's conspiracy set in). Throughout the game, Manny has proven himself to be quite the Guile Hero. He just took what he learned and applied it well.
- Subverted in Sluggy Freelance when Torg starts acting all smart and educated after some information a Time Traveler left behind indicates he becomes a world famous professor in the future.
Riff: Actually he's destined to play "The Professor" in a musical version of Gilligan's Island and the Demon is going to force the world to watch. (shudder) I just didn't have the heart to tell him.
- Rayne from Least I Could Do witnesses a great future for himself during a hallucination - he takes over the company after Marcy, has a mansion shaped like Minas Tirith, lives with his favorite niece, still has all his friends, and grows a beard worthy of Sean Connery. It's a justifiable exaggeration as it's his fantasy.
- Ben of Ben 10 runs into two version of his future self, Ben 10,000, from different timelines, one in the original series and one in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Both versions have a Badass Beard, are quite buff and good-looking, respected as heroes throughout the universe and can wield their shape-changing devices to their full potential. Justified in that Ben is already working towards achieving such a future even before meeting his future self.
- One of his future self also hints that his cousin Gwen became President of Earth.
- The Simpsons:
- Lisa Simpson was President of the US at the age of 38 in a glimpse of the future (having succeeded Donald Trump). She is a genius, but that is still five years younger than Kennedy, the youngest person ever elected President, and he was a war hero. Lisa was an unmarried, vegetarian Buddhist. She must have had one heck of a campaign manager. This is then played with as it turns out that though she is extremely competent, her presidency may be seen as a failure because the policies of her predecessor were so disastrous. The episode does end on a hopeful note, as Bart manages to talk the US's creditor nations into delaying payment demands.
- Bart's future career path in the several flashfoward episodes goes from a garage band member to unemployed stoner to demolition man to law school student to (down the road) Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Apparently the Simpsons become the next Kennedy family.
- Maggie Simpson in "Holidays of Future Past" becomes an ultra-successful rock star, with one poster talking about her as "the voice of her generation".
- In the American Dad! episode "The Unincludeds" has Steve and the boys holding a party for unpopular children. This event somehow causes Steve and Snot's future selves to come and warn them not to become popular in the party or else their friendship will end. Steve accidentally ends up becoming popular, causing their friendship to end...at the expense of Steve's future self becoming so ripped and successful that he has had sex with girls almost nonstop. Snot's, on the other hand, keeps on slipping and slipping to the point he becomes some strange monster fusion gone wrong.
- In the Danny Phantom episode "The Ultimate Enemy", we learn that—at the age of about twenty-four—Danny is now an evil half-Vlad, half-Danny mutant who has taken over Amity Park and rules it with an iron fist. And by "rules," of course, we mean "punches." Hell, as the movie starts, it's heavily implied that Amity Park is the only place he hasn't taken over. Managing that is merely his Establishing Character Moment.
- In "A Sitch in Time", Kim Possible villain Shego has taken over the entire world at the ripe young age of about thirty-five or forty (possibly). It helped that she used time travel to amass a fortune and break up Team Possible.
- Accidentally subverted by Cartman himself in South Park. A successful and healthy man appears, claiming to be the future Cartman, and tells his younger self that he's just started on the path to wealth, success, and happiness as long as he becomes nicer, goes on a diet, works hard, and stays away from drugs. However, because the episode focused on parents trying to scare their kids with actors posing as Future Loser versions of themselves, Cartman doesn't believe a word of it and says he'll start acting even worse and do drugs just to spite him. The instant Cartman walks away, the future Cartman transforms into a poor, fat slovenly mechanic.
- In Rocket Power, Reggie flashed ahead about ten years and was a publishing mogul living on top of a skyscraper—at about 22. Which becomes Hilarious in Hindsight as, judging by the original air date, her imagined success coincides with the decline of the magazine industry.
- One episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron involves the main characters viewing their themselves in the future: Jimmy's won the Nobel Prize in every category, Carl's a professional llama breeder whose llamas can breathe underwater and talk, and Sheen's a fashion model so popular that (according to Jimmy) it's headline news whenever he changes his socks. Then they screw up the future by giving Libby a plant that turns her into an Evil Overlord and them into Future Losers, and the rest of the episode if them trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- The Codename: Kids Next Door Distant Finale (with Flashbacks) revealed that Number 4—Book Dumb to the point of near illiteracy during the present—becomes a successful doctor who had graduated with honors from Harvard University while Numbuh 3 (who Numbuh 4 marries) becomes a successful businesswoman, even becoming the head of the Rainbow Monkey-corporation.
- In Meet the Robinsons, Heartwarming Orphan and unsuccessful inventor Lewis actually travels to the future, which has become a Utopian place thanks to the inventions of scientific genius Cornelius Robinson. Later we find out that Cornelius is actually Lewis' future self.
- The title characters of Phineas and Ferb don't actually meet their counterparts when they go twenty years into the future, because Phineas is in Sweden "for the awards ceremony"note while Ferb is at Camp Davidnote Given what the pair can accomplish in an afternoon, this is hardly surprising.
- Also, Stacy is President of Uruguay. Interestingly, Word of God says they came up with an explanation for how this happened when somebody at the studio asked them about it, but didn't reveal what.
- It's possible that Ferb didn't actually become the president—assuming that he does actually work for the US-government, he could be a presidential adviser or something.
- Oddly enough, averted for both the title characters in "Act Your Age," which takes place ten years after the events of the show proper; they're just ordinary kids with college plans, although, as might be expected, they have a lot of acceptance letters to choose from. (The original plan for the episode played this trope completely straight with Ferb by depicting him on the verge of Zuckerberg-esque success with an Internet company and therefore about to jump straight into business without a degree, but the subplot was axed due to time constraints.) More successful are Candace, a highly promising young lawyer who has managed to blow everyone away with her dissertation on "modern investigative techniques for establishing proof of guilt with or without physical evidence" despite its apparent baselessness, and Baljeet, who, while his peers are heading off to college, is already a college professor.
- Played for Drama for Doofenshmirtz, because...
- ...in Milo Murphy's Law it's revealed that Doofenshmirtz will one day change his name to "Professor Time" and invent time travel, and be regarded as a hero. And he's aware of all this in the present, and he has no idea how he's going to do all that, and he feels a lot of pressure out of having to measure himself to his future self. He vents this in song with Orton Mahlson, who was taken from 1965 right as the pilot of his TV Show "The Dr. Zone Files" has started shooting, and is feeling a lot of pressure from knowing his creation will be far greater than what he has planned, and far more popular than he has expected.
- The Invader Zim episode "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" has Dib, after receiving superpowers from alien shoes, defeat and imprison his Arch-Enemy, expose every single secret supernatural creature, single-handedly repel an alien invasion, and receive the "Greatest Person Ever To Live" award, all within ten years of his childhood. Subverted when it's revealed this is nothing more than an illusion crafted by Zim's Lotus-Eater Machine.
- The kids' Imagine Spots on Arthur are often Flash Forwards to their adult lives, and they're almost always a professional at whatever their current hobby is (Arthur is a virtuosic piano player, Muffy is a successful fashion designer, etc.). In addition, pretty much every kid in the main cast has had at least one Flash Forward to being the President of the United States, to the point where it could probably be part of a Drinking Game.
- Regular Show: Most of the main casts' futures in the Distant Finale are rather modest: Skip and Benson still work at the park decades later while Muscle Man and Rigby are just show raising families. However, Mordecai goes from a slacker working a dead-end job at a park to fully realizing his dream of being an artist, even getting his own exhibit. Hi-Five Ghost becomes a DJ popular enough to tour Europe. Of course, pretty much anything they could do pales in comparison to their accomplishments as the Park Crew, having saved the entire universe from destruction.
- Duckman had an episode similar to the American Dad! episode above known as "The Once and Future Duck" where Duckman meets his future self who is extremely successful. Unfortunately, he also discovers that the slightest change can radically alter his future and keeps finding new versions of himself with each action he takes.
- In Ferpect Crime, the main antagonist becomes a rich designer in just enough time for the main character to grow his beard. He unbelievably falls for her then.