They somehow came out of nowhere, didn’t they?
Right place at the right time, a matter of luck, a brilliant stroke of serendipity.
Whether it’s an athlete taking the world by storm or the latest hit smash hit single, the myth of the overnight success lies rampant in our culture.
You can thank our instant gratification culture for this phenomenon.
We’ve fallen in love with the overnight success, creating impossible pressure on ourselves, leading to endless frustration and the comparison game.
I’m here to let you know there’s another way, a deeper story that can empower you.
Once we examine these success, it becomes clear that the imagined straight line to success is a facade and this is great news for you.
Let’s dig in.
The Iceberg Effect
I’ve always loved Icebergs, dating back to high school when I didn’t pay attention in Earth Science class.
They were just so massive in size and scope, yet — you could only see a fraction of them above water.
Only 1/8th of these monumental forces of nature are above water, yet the force below stretches miles.
And hence, this metaphor:
The foundation is deep underwater, a dormant, unmovable, and unseen force.
Success, once examined deeply — is the same.
Think of the visible part of the Iceberg as one person’s external signs of success:
Singing the tune on stage, publishing a bestselling book, landing their biggest acting role yet.
Yet below this visible part lies another story, which almost always includes:
Years of failures, challenges, obstacles, doubts, intense focus, practicing mastery, showing up to do the work with zero signs of progress and so much more.
It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.
Which brings us to our first element of an overnight success: perseverance.
Perseverance, The Drive To Keep Going When Nothing Works
I remember being a kid and going to Warped Tour every single year, my version of the ideal Summer Vacation.
Don’t ask me how 95 degree heat, a bunch of teenage kids and terrible acoustics was my dream, but it was a ton of fun.
A small, unknown band was there playing their hearts out to 150 kids on a tiny side stage and they were called Fall Out Boy.
Their energy was palpable, even if they hardly knew how to play their instruments.
Four years later, after slugging around touring in vans, sleeping on floors, perfecting their craft is when the hit “Sugar, We’re Going Down” was released and everything changed, seemingly overnight.
What they had was perseverance, the first trait I noticed amongst everyone I studied.
Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
Perseverance is the continued action taken in the face of obstacle, challenge, lack of results that is deeply tied to a core belief that you’re going to make it.
Action Step: Ask yourself if you are willing to drown out the voices of doubt within your head and others in pursuit of what you want and acknowledge obstacles as tests to see how bad you truly want it.
The “I’m In This For Real” Long Game
Internet and social media has made creating an app and selling it for millions (or a billion, like Instagram) the new American dream.
This type of pressure leads people to scramble and hop from one startup to another, in hopes of hitting it big — yet never truly following through to completion.
I’ve never played Angry Birds, yet they are showing up everywhere.
It dawned on me the other day when I was looking for a movie to watch and I asked myself in disbelief…
“There’s an Angry Birds movie?”
I was stunned, but once I examined Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, I learned the power of the Long Game.
Rovio had developed 51 other games during a span of 8 years with meandering levels of success, being on the verge of bankruptcy before Angry Birds.
Tim Ferriss and his seminal work Four Hour Workweek was turned down by 26 publishers before one said yes.
There’s a part of success that innately rewards those who play the long game, instead of the dabblers looking to get in and out.
Action Step: Dig deep into the why behind what you’re doing and write down all the benefits you’re looking to achieve.
Singles Aren’t Sexy, But They Rack Up Wins
If you’ve ever been to a ballgame where a Grand Slam happened, you know what that’s like.
There’s nothing more crowd-roaring, exhilarating and powerful than a Grand Slam in baseball.
Yet, would you want to be known only as a Grand Slam hitter and more importantly, do Grand Slams help you win?
Amongst all teams, the average for a Grand Slam comes down to about 1 every 1,300 at bats.
Yet, the quiet player who goes 2 for 4 with a couple singles and drive in some runs consistently is the real winner.
Consistent singles lead to players on base, which lead to runs and many more wins.
Because, as we know, the Grand Slam Slugger is going to strike out, and strikeout hard — time and time again.
What I’ve noticed from studying overnight successes is they are committed to consistency and the concept of Kaizen — daily singles that lead to major wins.
Action Step: Set yourself up for consistency in the face of doubts and daily feelings. Use a morning routine or system to keep you on track.
Next time you see someone “make it” out of nowhere, do yourself a favor and dig deep into their story.
More often than not you’ll find components of the above which you can use to fuel your own story and your passion for what you’re striving for.
These will inspire you instead of labeling them as lucky or dimming your own light.
Using perseverance, the long game approach and hitting singles — you’ll rack up momentum and set yourself up for achieving your wildest dreams.