Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as an Overnight Success?

Recently I was having a discussion with some friends about the term "overnight success."

We all agreed it was a load of crap.

I mean, who really has overnight success except people in novels or movies? Most of us labor -- unknown -- in the trenches for years and years before we receive recognition for our wonderfulness from anyone except the family dog.

In the meantime, we fight off jealousy as we see others achieve what we think is instant success, and get depressed when that project we worked so hard on fails. Big time. Down-the-toilet kind of failure.

And it's equally hard to be patient when the Internet makes it seem like everything should happen at light speed. We are constantly exposed on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to other's achievements: "I landed that big account!" to "I got the promotion!" to "I've been named the new Queen of England!" can be hard to swallow with grace each and every time.

We wouldn't be human if we didn't admit that some days are hard. We want to give up. We want to throw in the towel and admit that we're just losers and the success we desire isn't coming our way.

But wait.

I think success is a state of mind. It isn't the big account and the tiara. It's knowing that each day you get up -- and despite the odds -- you continue to slug away. You continue to dream. And at the end of the day, maybe you aren't known to Diane Sawyer or Warren Buffet. Maybe your boss's boss doesn't even know your name.

But you haven't given up. And that, in my book, is success. Because others will give up, they will concede that they're not going to achieve what they desire. And that's where your perseverence will pay off.

Here are some things to get you through the tough times until you become that "overnight success":

* Create a better now. Get more sleep, exercise, eat healthier, spend more time with people who make you laugh and who believe in you.

* Keep your perspective. Did you ever stop to consider that what you have right now is a dream for someone else? I often think about this when my husband and I drive through really ritzy neighborhoods and dream about living in those homes. Then, I see someone drive through OUR neighborhood and realize they think we have the dream home. Think about what you've achieved already in this life, and don't take it for granted.

* Be patient. Think back to when you were in high school, and everything that has happened in your life since that time. Are you the same person as you were then? Of course not. You have changed and grown and only through time and different experiences have you evolved. You will continue to grow and change and learn, and that takes time.

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent with wild success. -- Steve Martin, "Born Standing Up"

What do you think about overnight success?


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Anonymous said...

I agree with you that there are no overnight successes. Even if you were to wake up one day, have a brilliant idea, and be welcomed to dinner with Bill Gates the next evening I wouldn't call that an overnight success.

You spend a lifetime becoming who you are, learning what you know, refining what you do and it's those things you've worked on and learned your whole life that make you successful. The speed with which your ideas take flight rarely indicates at all how much time it truly took you to get there.

Anita said...

Very eloquently said. I've heard lots of people 50 and older (Oprah included), say that they didn't really become who they were meant to be until later in life. Kind of wonderful to think we have so much to look forward to, instead of worrying about getting wrinkles, huh?

the communicatrix said...

Something I lecture beginning actors about all the time, which I'm sure really endears me to them.

My all-time fave quote comes from one of my all-time fave ladies, Beverly Sills: "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

And of course, once you get "there" (haha), you win the irony prize: that it's about the getting part, the living in the moment part. All that stuff you blow past in your desire to get there.

I'm guilty as charged, btw. And while I'm still a few years shy of 50 (three, to be exact), I count the "awake" part of my life as starting at 41, when a major illness forced me to sit up and pay attention. And (there's that irony hammer to the forehead again) to be grateful.

Nice post, Miss Anita. (Jeez...the last person I called "Miss Anita" was the amazing Anita O'Day. Talk about a life! You're in good company, girl.)

Anonymous said...


This article particularly struck me because I was just commenting on this with my subscribers of my blog.

For those who don't know me, they seem to think I'm an overnight success but what they don't realize is that it took years and years before I did anything I thought was newsy.

Loved those tips - especially the one about putting yourself in other people's shoes who are looking at you. You drive through a ritzy neighborhood, dreaming of owning one of their homes yet someone drives through yours and wishes the same thing.

Bottom line - don't take anything for granted - you're absolutely right.

Anita said...

I think the thought of "overnight success" is becoming more discussed because we constantly have "famous" people being put in front of us. Twenty-four hours news, constant Internet access, YouTube, etc., make it seem like everyone is a star. But, in reality, the people who do make their mark -- and stick around -- have worked hard and continue to work hard for their success. Thanks for posting.