The Myth of Overnight Success

Surfing the interwebs recently, I came across this little gem:

Back of every “Success Story” you will almost invariably find a story of hard work.  There is nothing startingly new about this observation, but it is one which can never be overlooked when you are interested in achieving recognition—and remuneration—beyond the average.  I am not denying that some people seem to get “the breaks” which push them ahead faster than others who might be just as capable and deserving, but this is the exception rather than the rule. And a lucky break never helped anyone who wasn’t prepared to make the most of it when it came. In other words, there is no such thing as overnight success.

Those words are as true for artists and performers today as they were when they first appeared in the February 1938 issue of Accordion World.

Scott Harrison built Charity: Water into a $5 million organization in less than three years.  But to do so, he relied on an e-mail list of 12,000 names he’d developed over years of working as a nightclub promoter, as noted by Chris Guillebeau in The Art of Non-Conformity.

It took Gary Vaynerchuk a mere 18 months from the launch of his site,, to get a guest appearance as a wine expert on the Conan O’Brien show.  As Vaynerchuck explains in Crush It!, he’d been working in his family’s liquor store since age 16–selling the stuff before he could even drink it himself–and spent hours training his palate to discern exotic tastes ranging from mango and papaya to sweaty socks.

Look past the public hype, and you’ll see someone who’s been at it for years.  Even the youngsters.

Tiger woods might have been, at 21, the youngest player to ever win the Masters Tournament, but by that time he’d been playing golf for 19 years.

So the next time you hear some story about the latest phenom who seems to come out of nowhere, don’t get jealous.  Okay, maybe a little jealousy can be a motivator.  But don’t fall into the trap of thinking they got there–and “if only” you could get there–without hard work.

Photo by ACME-Nollmeyer