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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

The Overnight Success Myth

When it comes to success, whether it's in business or life, we have allowed ourselves, as a whole, to believe a lie. The lie is that if we simply do one or two things, find the right job, identify our purpose, sign up for the right self-help program, etc. that we will become successful ourselves. There's that mysterious "one thing" we have to find which will put us over. We are so used to a couple of minutes wait for a microwave meal, almost instant messaging, and drive-through service, we believe our whole life or career can be initiated and executed that way.

We are so obsessed with this idea, we will post our questions on Facebook, ready to receive answers from anyone, whether we know them or not, whether they know what they are talking about or not, whether they themselves have had any success at all or not. Forget the tests, I just want the answers, please!

Whether it's the movie trailer of that film we might want to see, the 4th quarter of a close game, or the career highlight film, this all contributes to something we desperately want to believe. That is this: success happens in a moment... and it can happen overnight. I don't know how many successful people you have been around, but personally, I have been around a ton of successful people over the last 41 years. A TON. And guess what? I have never encountered a single individual who ever experienced success overnight or in a single moment.

On average, it takes 15 years to become an overnight success.

The reason many people perceive it's overnight is that we don't pay any attention to the daily efforts and failures of people. We just look up one day and BOOM! There they are, seemingly, out of nowhere, enjoying a large degree of success. We didn't notice the years and days of practice and efforts and struggles; we only notice when the spotlight swings and highlights the rewards of success.

In coaching people through years of goal setting, I notice we, as human beings seem to over-estimate what we can accomplish in a year, but we under-estimate what we can accomplish in 10 years. We are much more optimistic and attuned to the short-term than we are the long-term. This is just another benefit of having a very good coach to help avoid these biases, question them, and adjust to a more appropriate results vs time length ratio for our particular success plan.

The other alternative, of course, is to stay where you are, hoping it will just happen on its own. This is another pretty common deception. Trying to maintain the status quo is nearly impossible. You will see more erosion than growth in the near term while you wait. Besides that, you will become stuck, frustrated, and afraid.

Get really focused on what you want to accomplish. What success means to you for your life and career. Get someone who can help you set up realistic milestones and timeframes for moving forward with your plan. While 15 years may seem like forever, it will happen in the blink of an eye. Put yourself in the best position possible to enjoy that span of time, because success brings its own set of unique problems and challenges and we need to be good at taking things in stride by the time our much anticipated and long-awaited success period begins.

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