What does it take to become an overnight success? Is this pure luck, the product of hard work, or is something else involved?
The truth is overnight success doesn’t happen as fast as most people think. Instead, it’s the byproduct of years of hard work (often 10 years or more). Then, something clicks. The hard-work compounds. Other notice and momentum build fast!
For most people, the road to becoming an overnight success is a long one. If you want to know how to become an overnight success, (the real, honest truth) then keep reading, This post is for you!
The Meaning of Overnight Success
Overnight success is when someone rapidly goes from unknown to known. This transition happens so fast, it appears to occur overnight. In it’s purest form, overnight success is accomplished with little effort.
In most people’s minds, an overnight success impulsively jumps on stage at a karaoke bar. She picks up a mic and sings for the first time. The crowd goes wild, and the singer is just as shocked by this newfound ability as her friends are. The initial performance creates chants for a karaoke encore. This ignites a television appearance. Next, comes a record contract, and finally, a world tour.
Viola, that is a true overnight success!
However, this rarely happens. What’s far more common is the long road to overnight success. This road is paved with hard work, thousands of hours of practice, and serious intention. After years of arduous momentum-building that goes mostly unnoticed, finally, the big breakthrough occurs.
Is this true overnight success? Well, maybe…
The truth is that most people who are viewed as overnight successes were actually on the 10-year overnight success plan. Keep reading, and I’ll explain more.
The Long Path to Overnight Success
This year, I’ve been reading the life stories of my favorite authors, bloggers, and speakers. Many of these amazing men and women are known for achieving overnight success. But this is mostly a myth. While their rise to fame happened quickly from an outsider’s perspective, there were massive amounts of work involved from their point of view.
A common thread running through each of these overnight success stories is a relentless commitment to hard work and a gradual building of momentum. When the effort finally compounded, it created the illusion of a rapid rise to fame. Studying the lives of these high-level achievers feels like hearing the same story over and over again.
Each individual worked hard, failed, picked himself back up again, studied what went wrong, and tried again. These hard-workers learned from mistakes, then repeated the process. Only after years of relentless struggle, did others take notice.
How to Succeed
My takeaways from this are as follows.
- Don’t be afraid to dive in and try something new.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes either. Often failure is a stepping stone to success. So fail fast, fail forward, and fail often. Just be sure to learn and grow from your mistakes.
- Keep pressing forward. Study, learn, grow, and build momentum over time.
- If you keep this process up, you too could eventually achieve overnight success. After all, the phrase “it takes 10 years to become an overnight success” is around for a reason.
Overnight Success and the 10,000 Hour Rule
In his national bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explains the 10,000-hour rule. This rule states that everyone–including musicians, athletes, students, writers–demonstrates a dramatic increase in proficiency after accumulating 10,000 hours of practice. If someone is naturally gifted in an area, putting in 10,000 hours of work will make them a star. Even if someones natural talent is lacking, 10,000 hours of labor will be sufficient to make that person an expert in his or her field.
True overnight success is mostly a myth. Overnight success occurs when someone who has natural talent also logs their 10,000 hours of intense practice. Eventually, the effort is recognized by others.
[Tweet “What looks like an overnight success, is really the result of many hours of unnoticed, focused effort.”]
How to Become an Overnight Success
The key to overnight success is to keep going. So, don’t let failure hold you back. When you fail, get up, dust yourself off, learn from the experience, and try again. In fact, some of the best advice on success comes from the fictional boxing legend, Rocky Balboa, when he stated,
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”― Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa.
An Authentic Overnight Success Story
As a die-hard Rock fan, it was fun to discover that Sylvester Stallone’s real-life, overnight success story is just as amazing as the character he plays. You can read about Stallone’s painful and heartwarming journey here.
The short story is that Stalone was broke, homeless for a time, and at his lowest point, even sold his beloved dog, because he couldn’t afford to feed it. A few weeks later, Sylvester watched a botching match between Mohammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. That match inspired him to write the script for the first Rocky movie. Stalone was so energized that he finished the script in a mere 20 hours!
When the studio saw the script, they offered him $125,000 for it. Then, they raised their offer to $250,000, and $350,000. Stalone refused each time because he didn’t want to just sell his script. He wanted to star in his movie! Finally, the studio relented and paid Stalone a mere $35,000 for the script while also offering him the lead role.
After accepting, Stalone repurchased his dog. However, his beloved companion that he sold for a mere $25 a few weeks earlier had to be bought back for a whopping $15,000. Why? Because that was the only price, his dog’s new owner would agree to. Wow, what a rough start!
Hard is Normal
Stalone’s story gives me hope. When it comes to overnight success, hard is normal. My hope is that this post is a reminder to have fun and enjoy the ride. And who knows, after five to ten years of failing-forward, and growing from every obstacle that life sends your way, you too may wake-up an overnight success. This is the success journey I’m on.
Can you relate?
Continue the Conversation
Let’s keep the conversation going. Here are some questions for further reflection and discussion. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments below.
- What thoughts about becoming an overnight success resonated with you?
- How would you describe your own success journey? Was it difficult, or were you a true overnight success? Good, bad, or ugly, we’d love to hear about your journey.
- What other overnight success stories do you know?
- What do you think of the 10 year plan to overnight success? In your opinion, is this accurate?
- What ideas on overnight success would you add to this post?
I wish you an incredible week as you grow toward becoming an expert in your field!