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The Lie of Overnight Success

The Lie of Overnight Success

Many of us seem to think that success is like living out Jack and the Beanstalk.

One night you throw a couple magic beans in the ground and the next day you’re holding a goose that can’t help but poop golden nuggets.

What could be better?

My golden goose came by the way of an article I wrote called 21 Secrets for your 20s, which became an overnight hit and led to my first book deal.

And I have the secret on how you can do the same.

You ready?

Here it is.

The Secret to Overnight Success: Work with such a tenacious consistency at something you’re passionate about that you lose all interest in becoming an overnight success.

Overnight success is a seductive lie.

Success Is Worth Working For

Success doesn’t happen in a night, it happens in the thousand nights that no one will ever write a song about.

As Eddie Cantor said, “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success.”

Because if you want to create something big, start a movement, have your name known in the music/movie/art world or whatever else, it isn’t going to happen overnight. In reality, it might not happen at all, and if you’re only in it for those things the world views as “success,” you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

There are overnight sensations, sure. Take a crazy fall off a ledge while crushing grapes or have someone auto-tune your interview and millions of people might come across you. Overnight phenomenons are an everyday thing now in the Land of the Internet.

However, just as a lottery winner ends up bankrupt in less than a year, an overnight sensation goes up quick and then falls back down at the same speed because there was no platform supporting it. An overnight sensation is like a shooting star: a brief blaze that quickly burns out.

Preparing for Success

The truth is, the moment you’ll be ready for success is the moment you don’t care about being successful.  

The moment you’ll get your first piece of fan mail is when you stop checking the mailbox hoping to find it.

Musicians, actors, artists, writers, comedians and entrepreneurs that we claim as an “overnight success” might have experienced some sort of tipping point moment, but they’ve been tirelessly and quietly building the base to sustain that “overnight success” their entire lives.

Successful people have been honing their craft, building their network, and pushing themselves way beyond the label of “successful.”

A true overnight success is someone who has carried bucket after bucket of water to fill up a well. People celebrate you the moment it all spills over, without realizing the 10,000 buckets you carried to make it happen.

Overnight Successes In History

Actor Morgan Freeman became an “overnight success” after movies like Driving Miss Daisy and Glory, when he was nearly 50 years old and had played in countless acting roles since he was 9.

Abraham Lincoln seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the nation, but he spent his entire twenties being defeated for political positions with striking regularity as he continued to grow as a lawyer, thinker, writer and speaker.

I started writing my first book on a motel room floor at 22 years old.

Then at the age of 30, after a trunk-full of “no’s, not a good fit, and try again in six months,” I saw my first book released.

It took me eight years to find “overnight success.”

Those eight years are strewn with hundreds of memories of running full speed, thinking I could see the finish line, thinking I’d finally made it, only to run head first into a brick wall, knocking me unconscious. Every time, it took me months to stand back up.

A true overnight success has simply mastered the art of staying in the game, no matter how lopsided the score.

An overnight success has stayed present so that success can be a possibility, but a long time ago success stopped being the whole point.

An overnight success learned to do good work even when there was no one there to affirm it.

The greatest people who do the greatest things don’t care one lick about being called great.

Will you have the perseverance and passion to become an overnight success?

What is something that you cannot NOT do that you are striving to make an “overnight success”?

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