The Myth of the Overnight Success

The Myth of The Overnight Success - People Development Network
The Myth of The Overnight Success - People Development Network

“Whenever I hear, “It can’t be done,” I know I’m close to success”

Michael Flatley

Creator of Lord of the Dance


“Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work”


Roman Poet

65 BC – 8 BC


“Success: A degree or measure of succeeding; favorable or desired outcome or results; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”

“Effort: Conscious exertion of power; hard work; a serious attempt; something produced by exertion or trying; the total work done to achieve a particular end”

There is no shortage of success schemes

These days, there is no shortage of discussions about how you can become successful, and certainly no shortage of overnight success schemes. I recently overheard people talking about how a certain person’s success was simply luck, and that luck is the route to achievement in life.

Of course, these notions misrepresent reality. Success rarely happens by accident and it certainly takes time. The old saying, “it took me 10 years to be an overnight success” applies to most people.

Effort is the currency of success, yet we live in a culture where we feel entitled to success, money, you name it. A lot of people expect success, without applying the effort success calls for. For the most part, overnight success is a myth.

Ask me how I know. Twenty years ago, I was one of those people attempting to fight the principle that time and effort precede success.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have always had an intense work ethic. But I thought I had the right to bypass the time factor in my work as a professional development specialist. I felt I did not have to wait for the 10 or 20 years of experience I needed to realize the success level I envisioned for myself.

But I was wrong. Real success takes time. Don’t buy into the idea that you can be an overnight success—that’s a lie. That’s not to say you can’t experience immediate results; just watch out for over-promise.

 I am a far better speaker, trainer, and facilitator after 2000 presentations and my writing has vastly improved after writing over 3 million words of content in 15 years.

Success is not about any single event. It represents the entire process you have walked through. The athlete who wins a Gold Medal invested a significant amount of practice prior to achieving that goal. The championship-winning team dedicated themselves to excellence over time, not just for the championship game. The parent with well-grounded and adjusted children put years of effort into shaping their characters. The list goes on.

Similarly, before a company realizes success the leader and the team put focused effort toward their goal. Rarely does luck have anything to do with a person’s level of success. When you observe successful individuals you want to model, investigate what they really did to achieve their results. Learn from their journey.

Because success requires effort, you must enjoy what you are doing. Confirm your natural talents, gifts, and interests. This way, the time and energy you’ve invested in your career will enrich you as a person.

Success is as much about the journey as the outcome or the prize. Make sure you are enjoying the process. If you aren’t, it’s time to sit down and figure out how to adjust that.

It’s also important to note that time and experience do not automatically equal increased success. Make sure you’re investing your time wisely, honing your skills and learning from your mistakes. If we aren’t improving, we’re growing stagnant.

As a society, we must acknowledge that we have to earn the right to our success. Entitlement does not produce success—only the right efforts do. Any attitude of entitlement only hinders you and your company’s road to success.

If success takes time and effort by definition, it is critical that we embrace the journey as part of our process, rather than seeing it as a burden to our fast-track achievement of a specific goal.

It’s sure to be a bumpy ride but make sure to enjoy yourself anyway.


Ken Keis
Ken Keis, Ph.D, President of CRG, is considered a global authority on the way assessment strategies increase and multiply your success rate. In 28 years, he has conducted over 3,000 presentations and invested 10,000+ hours in consulting and coaching. His latest book, The Quest for Purpose: A Self-Discovery Process To Find It and Live It! takes you on a step-by-step journey to discover your life's purpose. Ken is the author of Why Aren’t You More Like Me? - Discover the Secrets to Understanding Yourself and Others, and co-author of Deliberate Leadership - Creating Success Through Personal Style. He has also co-created CRG’s proprietary development models, written more than 3.5 million words of content for 40 business training programs, and written over 400 articles. Ken’s expertise includes assisting individuals, families, teams, and organizations to realize their full potential, and to live On Purpose!
Ken Keis
Ken Keis