The Truth Behind Overnight Success

Speak with the vast majority of people and what you will quickly discover is that they share a common belief about how success happens. It is a belief that has been frequently perpetuated by newspapers, magazine, television and more recently, social media. What all of these purveyors of information, these pillars of wisdom, these distributors of knowledge lead us to believe is that when success comes it comes rapidly, virtually overnight. With little effort, with little resistance and with little to no setbacks or obstacles.

Why is this belief so dangerous? Because it conditions people to believe that if they try something and they are not instantly successful there must be something wrong. Therefore, they give up and quit far too soon.

In reality, success rarely if ever happens overnight. It took Thomas Edison more than 10,000 experiments before he was able to make the first light bulb glow. It took James Dyson 14 years and 5,127 prototypes before he was able to perfect his revolutionary vacuum cleaner. Henry Ford went broke five times in the process of launching the Ford Motor Company. Orville and Wilbur Wright built and tested more than 12,000 different wing designs before they perfected the one that actually was capable of lifting an airplane into the sky. Abraham Lincoln failed in business and lost in 7 elections before he was finally voted in as the 16th president of the United States.

When looking at the most successful people, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they were just geniuses who discovered a smooth pathway that rapidly led to their incredible accomplishments. However, when you study history, in almost every instance of great success, you will find that there was pathway filled with setbacks, defeats and obstacles that had to be overcome.

As a society, we celebrate individuals only once they have become an undeniable success. What we fail to do is highlight the tumultuous journey that they had to follow in order to seemingly emerge from nowhere overnight and awaken at the pinnacle of success. Not only do we not highlight the hardships, we also frequently ridicule, criticize and undermine those people who are striving to accomplish something of magnitude. They are the dreamers, detached from reality, with their head in the clouds. Why don’t they get a real job, something that will give them a steady paycheck, a viable income? These are the questions that are all too frequently asked.

So on your journey to success, recognize, you will stumble. You will have setbacks? There will be times when you will be tempted to throw in the towel, to give up and quit. There will be countless opportunities to take the easy way out and no shortage of people who will try to convince you to do so. Realize, with every setback, every mistake, every time you fall and skin your knee, you are rewarded with a priceless learning opportunity. A reporter once asked inventor Thomas Edison why he didn’t give up after he at failed at thousands of attempts to invent a working light bulb. Edison gave the reporter a perplexed look and simply replied, “I haven’t failed once in my attempts to create the light bulb, I have just discovered thousands of ways that it won’t work.”

Lionel Messi, the Argentine professional soccer play, a man who has been called the best soccer player who has ever lived, summed it best when he said: “I started early, and stayed late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.”

Willingly pay the dues, suffer through the defeats, weather the setbacks and you too might wake one day to find yourself – an overnight success.

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David Naylor is Executive Vice President of Global Learning and Development at 2logical, an industry leader in the Training and Development field. At 2logical, we help organizations fix their people problems by shifting employee mindsets. Two decades ago, we pioneered a transformative approach to developing peak performing employees. Far transcending the traditional means of closing skill gaps, 2logical perfected a method of closing the underlying belief gaps that are the root cause of virtually every employee performance issue. Forward thinking, industry leaders at many of the world's most recognized companies have embraced this strategy to develop their Leadership and Sales talent.

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