Overnight Success Takes Years

It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. Overnight success is a fallacy. It is preceded by a great deal of preparation. Ask any successful person how they came to this point in their lives, and they will have a story to tell.

Mark Twain

This quote resonated with me because one of my close friends and I have this conversation over and over. She says, “You give great impromptu speeches. Just wing it.” Each time, I reply “I have honestly never given an impromptu speech. It just sounds that way.” I doubt she believes me. Now that we have started this Monday with a segway, I thought this advice from Luis E Romero on the idea of overnight success was worth sharing:

“After mentoring hundreds of business executives and entrepreneurs, I have realized that one of the most common obstacles in becoming successful is the unconscious wish for overnight success and having it all. Such wishes make people impatient, shortcut-minded and capricious, all of which have devastating effects on performance and judgement. Debunking these myths is key. In essence, overnight success does not exist. At the very least, it is statistically so rare that people would have a better chance at “succeeding” by playing the lottery. In this regard, I share the following two lessons with my mentees:

1. What most people call overnight success is actually the market suddenly realizing the value of a great product or service that had been kept in obscurity for too long while its creators refused to give up.

2. There is a difference between overnight success and early success. People tend to mistake the success of young entrepreneurs for sudden success. If you are an adult with a spouse, children, a mortgage and a heavy Excel workbook to make sense of it all, you may find counterintuitive, and maybe even unfair, that someone else can become a millionaire at age 19, 21 or 25. However, there is usually a story of hard work, creativity, genius and good opportunities behind such stories. People like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook , or Justin Bieber, pop music icon, did not become successful overnight. They dedicated years to learning and perfecting their craft, during which they experienced disappointment, reinvention and, finally, success. Yes, they did not endure the decades of trial and error most of us have; yet that does not mean their success was void of effort, disappointment, struggle and the like.

In conclusion, the idea of overnight success is, by all means, a misconception.”

Here are some stories behind familiar “overnight success” stories:

Did Colonel Sanders, at age 56, become an overnight success when he founded Kentucky Fried Chicken? Hardly. His fried chicken recipe was rejected more than 1,000 times and he held a number of odd-ball jobs, from steam-engine stoker to gas-station attendant, before his entrepreneurial journey started — founding a company that manufactured acetylene lamps. It failed.

Gary Vaynerchuk took his family’s wine business from $3 million to more than $60 million in five years after finishing college. How? He worked — from early in the morning to late at night, seven days a week. He dedicated his entire existence to learning everything he could about the business and put every ounce of effort into its growth.

Have you heard of Dyson vacuum cleaners? You probably have, and there is also a good chance you have one at home. Dyson has become one of the most popular and successful vacuum manufacturers, thanks to the relentless entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, James Dyson. Dyson is personally worth $5 billion — a net worth he didn’t acquire through luck. Dyson knows a thing or two about failure — there were 5,127 failed prototypes before his first model was proven successful. This journey also took 15 years, far from an overnight success. While some entrepreneurs might have called it quits after a dozen failed prototypes and a few years of trying, Dyson didn’t give up.

George R.R. Martin, the Game of Thrones creator is enjoying plenty of success these days — the hit HBO series took home a dozen Emmys and Cinemax just purchased the rights to his 1989 work, Skin Trade. Martin has been an author for decades, and throughout the years he has built up his fan base. He didn’t wake up one day and think to himself, “I’m going to write a script and storyline and shoot it over to HBO. I should be an overnight success in the morning.” A large percentage of the millions of people that tuned in every week to watch that show probably never heard of Martin prior to the TV series becoming incredibly popular. He’s been writing for decades

All this is to say, do not let the “instant gratification” culture make you feel like you have failed because your success doesn’t or hasn’t come “fast” enough. Overnight success stories are mostly about perception rather than reality. As Leslie Jordan said “My sister was cute, she said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re an overnight success.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘this is the longest night.’ I’ve been at it since 1982.”

Here is a video of Gary Vaynerchuk commenting on people’s perception of his “overnight success.” Warning: Language

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathi Butai says:

    I enjoy reading your posts and the few I have read resonate with me. Thank you for the insightful and entertaining information. Please keep it up 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chio says:

      Thank you so much Cathi. Your comments always make me so happy. I really appreciate hearing back from you xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. DeeMuchiri says:

    Love this Chio! Excuse Gary’s language 🙆🏽‍♀️ but he does make valid points!

    Thanks for the reminder to never give up or get discouraged after a few months or years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chio says:

      His language is remarkably colourful 🙆🏾‍♀️🙈. I patiently wait for your future cookbook among many other things…

      Liked by 1 person

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