Overnight Success Is Anything But

I receive emails and Facebook messages weekly from people looking to improve their lives and asking for a few tips on how to complete their lofty ambitions. The goal is usually a big one, often more vague than specific, and the assumption behind it is often that if the person can just take a few steps over the short term, they will reach their goal.

Here’s my issue with this: Success is a process. While a few steps in the short term will help, the real progress happens when you consistently combine a series of small steps, often many steps, outside your comfort zone and do so over an extended period of time. When you move through the process to “get better,” you build confidence and see possibilities. Yes, then you may experience success and gain some level of mastery.

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Is the common perception that success is a quick process with no obstacles?

All masters know that success and achieving meaningful results is a process and takes time. It does not come overnight. We need to condition our mind about the process. The questions are: How much time are you willing to invest and do you have the determination, drive, focus and discipline to stay the course? Anyone can get up at 5 a.m. to work out for a week, not eat sugar for two weeks or visit clients for a month. Can you commit to talking to clients throughout the year to deliver the best customer service in the industry? It is not a one-month project.

Media and our overall culture promote the illusion that success or, rather, achieving what you want is a quick process with no obstacles. We see newly crowned entrepreneurs, musicians, sports figures, CEOs and tech whizzes pictured on the covers of Forbes, People, TIME, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, but rarely is it emphasized that they worked on their project for years and countless hours. The business then gets valued or sold for a ridiculous amount of money—think Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat.

More often than not, achieving a valued outcome is because of continuous effort, hard work, overcoming past failures, and the ability to think without obstacles and be resilient. It usually looks something like this:

Having an idea that others may not see, being frustrated because the process is going too slowly, having self-doubt, contemplating quitting, experiencing failure, using passion to overcome challenges, working endless hours and enjoying wins.

By the way, David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, began learning HTML at age 11 and soon thereafter began designing websites for local businesses.

David Karp, the founder of Tumblr. Photo credit: Enrique Dans, Wikimedia Commons.

David Karp, the founder of Tumblr. Photo credit: Enrique Dans, Wikimedia Commons.

If you want success, you need to first define what success means to you. It could be different for each of us depending on our values, our age and the areas of our life we care most about.

Achieving your dreams doesn’t happen through a seven-day formula—sorry to break the news.

If you want to be a better interviewer, then practice answering the same question 100 times.

If you want to be a better public speaker, practice a two-minute speech in front of the mirror 100 times.

If you want to improve your serve in tennis, hit a bucket of balls three times a week for 20 minutes.

Our conversation around success needs to shift away from the short-term, profits, titles and first-place finishes and toward significance, pursuing heartfelt goals, effort and living in your top 1 percent as opposed to the the top 1 percent.

Yes, overnight success is possible. We just need to recondition people that the path for success takes time and looks different than we’re often lead to believe.

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