Week 9 –Doing Time: Letting go of the Myth of Overnight Success


My dad told me, ‘It takes fifteen years to be an overnight success’, and it took me seventeen and a half years.”     –Adrien Brody (actor)

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those moments. You know the type. The type of moment where you are whining about the fact that you have been working so hard for so long and it feels like running through mud.  Yeah.  I’m not proud. What was interesting was that, within a three day span, I heard or read three different people (one each day) talking about the myth of the overnight success. It was a great wake up call. Success takes time—and you can’t fast-track it (despite what many people will try to tell you).

One of my favorite stories is about Thomas Edison. It is alleged that it took him 10,000 attempts to make the light bulb. During the entire time, Edison never felt he failed. He felt he found 9,999 to NOT make a light bulb, and one way to make a light bulb. Success is like that. It takes many attempts. And, only those who stick with it through the set-backs reach the finished line. (This great, short video by Miguel Joey Aviles captures the essence).

Here is the harsh reality. You HAVE to pay your dues. It is not possible to by-pass the “time in”. There is no instant fix or overnight success. Most of the people who appear to be overnight successes were actually working away for 10 or more years before they became popular. Like Edison, who is known as a great inventor,most successful people put in years of unrewarded, hard labour before it paid off.

Recently, a colleague of mine, and fellow coach Ed Elliott, contributed a lengthy post on Facebook that talked about this very thing. He suggested we need to “Look beyond the illusion of the seeming heroic ability that people might appear to have to change their life seemingly by magic, while they slept in their beds and woke up the next day SUCCESSFUL!!!  Because that’s all it is; it’s just an ILLUSION.” He mentioned that his “overnight success” was 15 years in the making.

If you want to be successful, you have to DO TIME. There is no way to short track it. You have to keep chipping away until one day things take off.  I understand this takes a great deal of energy and time. It’s why I think success has less to do with intelligence and more to do with stamina and resiliency.  After all, most “smart” people would have given up long before 10,000 attempts. This is why I often say, “Success relies on the combination of obsession, stamina, resiliency and blind belief in what you are doing. Compound those things over time, add opportunity, stir in preparation and you are likely to have success at whatever you are doing.”

This week’s success tip is: Do Your Time! Let go of the myth of the overnight success. If your goal or dream is really your passion or obsession the way the light bulb was Edison’s, then it is likely going to take a large portion of your lifetime to achieve. Stop trying to short-cut or fast-track. The journey is as much a part of the success as the sudden explosion in popularity. This week, be willing to do your time!


  1. Think about where you are trying to fast-track or short-cut some aspect of your life or goal.
  2. Notice how it creates a “push” or “forcing” energy and often leads to frustration and negative feelings.
  3. In your Success Log, list one (just one) area where you are going to “do your time” this week.
  4. Spend time really learning and refining your skills. Get better at what you do. “Pay your dues”. And LOVE the journey into success. The experience is as much a part of the success as the outcome.
  5. At the end of the week, use the weekly review process outlined in the About tab to review your progress.

Learn more about my friend Edward Elliott at http://edwardrecommends.com/

Learn more about Miguel Joey Aviles at http://www.migueljoeyaviles.com/


2 responses »

  1. So many people need to hear this message. Thanks for taking it and bringing it to the world! It’s time to break the myth and create the change that we know can be true for everyone to live the life of their dreams. Blessings.

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