Overnight Success? Who says it isn’t possible?
It was 1974. The Canadian Stock Exchange had just merged with the Montreal Stock Exchange and Jules Léger was sworn in as Governor General.
Thousands of miles away from Hollywood, in a small Canadian town called Newmarket, a tall, lanky 12-year-old boy laughed to himself as he mopped the floors of an old tire factory. He was reciting jokes.
The boy had dreamed of being a comedian. He practiced non-stop even as he worked 8 hour shifts every night after school. The economy was harsh that year and his dad, a trying musician and part-time accountant had just lost his job. Working as janitors and security guards at the local factory was the only way his family knew how to make ends meet.
Humor inspired him. It came naturally after years of practice. His mother had suffered from severe hypochondria and he took it upon himself to cheer her him during bouts of extreme depression.
Laughter was the only medicine he knew and he spared no effort, even if it meant bouncing off walls or throwing himself down the stairs.
It was 1975. Candian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced the creation of the Foreign Investment Review Agency.
The boy’s family relocated. They began living out of a van on a relative’s lawn.
He debuted as a comedian for the first time at Yuk Yuk’s, a comedy club in Toronto. It had taken his dad 36 hours to drive him there, and he was boo’ed off stage.
Life was hard but it had its moments. His teacher, possibly out of pity, had promised to let him perform in front of his fellow classmates, a few minutes each day before school ended. It wasn’t much but it was a start.
A chance was a chance. He would never give up.
It was 1978. The Canadian Sudbury Strike of 1978 begins.
The boy, now a teenager, was back at Yuk Yuk’s. He practiced his jokes every night while mopping floors and it had finally paid off.
He dropped out of high school. He decided to pursue a full-time career as a comedian in the city of Los Angeles.
It was progress. It could only get better.
It was 1989. USA’s unemployment rate drops to 5.0%, the lowest in 16 years.
The boy had married and his daughter was born.
He decides to turn his attention towards film and television as a comedic actor. His first major debut happens, but there was no success.
“Movie offers are out there for me, I just don’t hear them yet.”
He was cast as a regular member of a comedy television series and it was progress but not what he wanted.
He drove his old Toyota up the mountains and dreamed of his future. He wrote himself a check. $10 million dollars, “for services rendered”, dated Thanksgiving 1995.
He was relentless.
It was 1994. Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber becomes box office hits, grossing over $700 million globally.
The boy was Jim Carrey. His paycheck that year was $12.5 million dollars, $2.5 million dollars more than he had promised himself.
This is Jim Carrey’s story of overnight success. It took was 11 years of hard work and perseverance.
At one point or another, founders dream. They dream of overnight success, of creating a product used by millions, of being the next Zuckerberg.
But that’s all it is. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what they are. Dreams.
It’s easy to dream about overnight success because that’s what we’re taught. Our media romanticizes success because that’s what dreamers want. It’s entrepreneur porn and like real porn, what you only see are the good parts.
What you don’t read about are the failures that it takes to gain the experience to building a successful business. What you don’t read about is the perseverance required to overcome those failures and move on. What you don’t read about is the passion you need to fuel that perseverance.
Building a business is not easy. What appears as an overnight success is the accumulation of years and years of hard work, the thousands of hours you’ve poured into your business, the hundreds of hard decisions you’ve had to make, and the dozens of people in your life that made it possible. Business is one of the hardest, most difficult things you’ll ever do in your life. And it’s worth it.
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia, and host of #garyvee show, spent years growing his family’s wine business. He created one video a day for his video podcast called WineLibraryTV and nobody watched it for the first 18 months. Despite that, Gary was relentless. He trusted his intuition and just kept making video after video and eventually it paid off. In less than 5 years, grew WineLibrary from a $3MM to a $60MM business.
Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, had dropped out of college in 2001 to help his mom grow her marketing business. By 2005, Rand and his mother had accrued $450,000 in personal debt. Rand kept at it, eventually started the SEOmoz blog in 2007 as a place to share his thoughts on SEO. In 2013, Moz reported a $29.3MM in total gross revenue and is now one of the most widely recognized names in the SEO industry.
Ryan Hoover, CEO & founder of Product Hunt blogged about products and startups for years before it transformed into what would eventually be Product Hunt. He blogged relentlessly for 2 years, working on establishing relationships within the startup community. These relationships were key to the success of Product Hunt’s launch and those relationships had been years in the making. Product Hunt has now grown to hundred of thousands of users and recognized as one of the major contributors to many startup’s early growth success.
Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise and founder of Draft had written for years before anyone ever paid attention to his writing. Despite having given up multiple times, he would always write again. If one thing didn’t work, he would try something else until he found something that did. Draft was built in the process as a better way to write and eventually created opportunities for Nate to take over as CEO of Highrise. He’s where he is today because he continued pushing forward, engineering his own success. Draft is loved by thousands while Highrise generates multi-million dollar annual profits and is known as one of the best CRM tools.
Alex Turnbull, CEO and founder of Groove spent years building his first company, BatamLive before it was acquired. Using the experience and knowledge he had learned, he decided to build Groove. His goal was to reach $100,000 in revenue per month and he blogged about his progress which took months of prep work and outreach. It paid off. Groove currently makes over $224,000 a month is known amongst startup communities as one of the best customer help desk softwares available.
The key is finding passion for what you do. You don’t have to love what you do. Just be passionate about the problem that you’re solving, why you’re solving it, and the potential of the solution. When you build a business, you’re in it for the long haul and if you’re not passionate about what you do, you’ll give up for all the wrong reasons.
Overnight success? It’s possible. Just don’t be surprised if it takes years.
Don’t let anything deter you. Be relentless.
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