The Myth Of The Overnight Success
“To the extent that we believe we can skip steps, avoid the process, magically gain power through political connections or easy formulas, or depend on our natural talents, we move against this grain and reverse our natural powers.
We become slaves to time — as it passes, we grow weaker, less capable, trapped in some dead end career. We become captive to the opinions and fears of others.
Masters are able to withstand the pain of the process — the self-doubts, the tedious hours of practice and study, the inevitable setbacks, the endless barbs from the envious. They develop a resiliency and confidence that others lack.”
– Mastery, Robert Greene
Why Am I Not There Yet?
We all experience this question at one point in our lives. Or sometimes, a million points. I did the same thing.
I can remember being a kid and my Dad goes:
“Do what makes you happy — but if you get rich, don’t forget the old man and us poor people.”
Not much pressure for an 8 year old, yeah?
Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about and he was kidding (I think). But, as I grew older, it started to make sense.
Ever since we were kids, we’ve been told: become successful at something.
And yet, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. It becomes this weird unspoken race. We tell ourselves:
“I’m not there yet, but that other guy didn’t become successful until his 50’s. I’ve got plenty of time.”
And so we wait, and wait for the perfect storm of idea/motivation/plan to do something about it. And that storm never comes.
We read the stories about how someone came up with a pet rock idea and became multi-millionaires. That question pops back up again — why am I not there yet?
If only I could create the next Facebook app, or some invention. We start reaching for grandiose ideas without understanding that grandiose ideas start as small ideas.
While these stories do exist, it’s never what you think. There is a whole backstory which includes, in someway, the same setbacks you experience on a daily basis.
As musicians, it’s much worse. We look at X star and get upset. HOW did that happen? I know I’m better than that.
We even read our Facebook and see “X friend does something cool in another country.”
If we aren’t prepared to ignore this, most of us will lose confidence.
Eventually, instead of focusing on a company, we invest in lottery tickets. Instead of creating a masterpiece album, we focus on a hit song. As a result, most musicians begin copying others and focusing on shortcuts.
They start formulating out their songs to mimic what everyone else is doing, because in their minds, if they can just follow that formula, then they’ll be successful.
If I just had ONE hit song, everything would be perfect — we tell ourselves. Or, my company could viral, yeah, that’s the ticket.
The ones who can’t break away and form their own image, respect the process, and overcome the doubts that accompany any new venture, are the ones who eventually fall behind.
You can see this when they start promoting their new single:
Click here for a new song! I’ve worked really hard it!
And to be honest, it’s lazy (if you want to know why, at HTBAMS, we teach a totally different method to market your music), but there is a reason behind this.
We hear that so-and-so artist just threw it up randomly and it took off. In the hopes of duplicating this story, we do the same thing. Once it doesn’t work out, we go:
“Ah, well, I tried. Takes luck to make it anyways, right?”
Even worse, the desire for the success bullet doesn’t come out directly. It filters into our daily behaviors until it overtakes our habits.
Sometimes, we go home, and instead of working on our company or music, we watch TV, drink beer, and do anything to distract our minds from the inevitable reality that we’re wasting time.We begin to wait for overnight success.
All I need is an idea — we tell ourselves. But dig deeper — is it really the idea that we’re missing?
If the idea were the real issue, you can go to Google right now and type in
“Ideas to be famous, ideas for a company, ideas for songs, ideas to make money, blah blah etc.”
If it’s not ideas, some will say “not enough time.” Or money, or they look ugly, or their family is weird, or whatever. You name it, it all underlies the same issue: fear.
There is a difference in attaining success and falling into success, there’s no doubt about that and some people truly are lucky.
But, every person you see that is wealthy or successful and maintains this level of success, did so by following an ugly truth: you have to work hard, fail your way to success, and keep pushing.
Through hours and hours of practice, you WILL surpass the ordinary, the good, the great, until you reach a special VIP section of the human population — the successful and the happy. And it’s completely worth it.
Respect The Process
When we see massive success with anyone, our first response is to go “Psh — lucky for him. I tried it — it’s all a scam anyways.”
In reality, what you see is the culmination of thousands of hours of tedious work, frustration, and uncertainty.
Whenever we want to become great at something and we try it for the first time, we suck at it. This is what most people do:
- Get an idea
- Feel super motivated
- Do some excited research
- Announce it boldly to family/friends
- Theorize/plan the best course of action
- Pace around, do more research
- Strategize/get advice from Joe Schmo
- Application of our first idea, half-assing it
- No one sees anything/does anything/and someone calls us an idiot.
- We give up/call our grandmothers/mothers for comfort.
Stemming from childhood, we’ve been embedded with deep insecurities. As a result, we constantly look at others and compare our stuff to their stuff, regardless of which phase of the process we’re at.
As we grow older, our need for certainty increases. We grow dependent on stable habits, stable income, and stable lifestyles.
The more you begin to relax and become complacent, this is where things take a wrong turn.
Your mind atrophies and loses that child-like spirit that makes you unique.
Once you experience prolonged stability, you begin to feel that urge to do something radical, take a chance, or go for it. We have to create something in order to re-connect to that unique feeling.
But just like childbirth, the art of creation is a messy, nasty, and painful experience that no one’s prepared for.
The task that you do choose comes from an intense passion sculpted over thousands of hours of testing and learning.
This passion usually combines 2 or 3 deep seeded talents that we subconsciously gravitated towards when we were kids and is a combination of advice, dreams, and failures.
After trial and error, we begin to mold this intense passion that translates into a common form that others can relate to.
Not only do we see ourselves in the work, but we begin to find overall clarity through action, instead of thought or some book.
As we learn our new skill/idea, we begin to see our first initial resistance. You’ll know if you’re on the right path when it stirs controversy and you have a desire to stand behind it i.e. I need to show the world X.
This source of passion will override any amount of criticism and will give you an angle that others aren’t attacking. You must overcome pure boredom, distractions, self sabotage, and lonely friends looking to waste time.
As we follow this process, our first initial response is to try and cheat the process.
We think we can beat it and this causes us to act out of tune with the moment or being out of character. It just feels off.
If by some luck you do reach the top overnight, you will fall because your processes and mind are not trained enough to handle this. Just as you can be unprepared for failures, you can be unprepared for success.
By respecting the process, you give credit and proper respect to time.
By rushing and pushing your way to the top, you will inevitably miss the years of hard work, errors, and toils that created the foundation that you’re currently comparing yourself to. Stay calm, reasonable, and diligent.
How They Did It
Mark Cuban used to be completely broke. At one point (ages 22–26), he slept on his friend’s couch, had a pile of laundry in the corner of his room, and mostly partied with his friends.
At the time, he went through about 20 something careers, from selling franchises, to selling milk. After deciding to focus on a career, he landed a job selling computer software.
After devouring the computer language, he knew everything about accounting software because he actually read the manual (and who the hell does that?).
Within a few short months, Mark became the top software salesman in his store and built a nice clientele base from scratch.
During one evening, a customer asked Mark to close on a sale, but this would require him to miss work the next day and miss opening the store.
Mark’s boss had a big issue with this and flat out said — “If you close that sale, you’re fired.” (Isn’t that crazy, a business turning down a sale?)
After being declined by his boss to close the deal, and being threatened he would lose his job, Mark still went his own way and didn’t really care. Never turn your back on a sale.
Mark disobeyed his boss’s orders, closed the sale and was immediately fired as you can imagine.
At the time, it seemed crazy. He had a stable job, made decent money, and was building a foundation. Why would he do that?
As the innovative thinkers we are, there’s a small voice that creeps in and says:
Go for it, take a risk, who cares.
And that’s what he did. He started Microsolutions after that with $500 dollars in his pocket, worked on it for 10 years, and sold it for about 7 million dollars.
Take Mike Tyson for example. Mike will go down as a legend in boxing, but his start was even more legendary.
At the height of Mike Tyson’s success, his daily routine was:
Get up, run, eat oatmeal, sleep, train, workout, train, lunch, train, dinner, film, bed before 9:00pm.
Pretty boring, yeah? And I can barely wake up at 8am.
Before becoming a boxing machine, he was a street thug.
Before he was even 13 years old, he had been arrested over 30 times, raised in the ghetto with his mom, zero supervision, and a life destined for jail-time.
How did a boy go from a life littered with failure to becoming a boxing legend?
Fortunately, after a juvenile stint, one of the members recommended him to Cus D’amato, the legendary boxing trainer.
Cus immediately saw massive potential in Mike and decided to make him his son.
Since Cus is a brilliant trainer, Mike turned from an ordinary boy to an adult killing machine in just a few short years.
Cus taught Tyson consistent patience, hard practice, and tedious work. Every detail counted, from the the way he stepped in the ring, to the direction of his punches.
Everything had to be perfect and constantly getting better. The goal wasn’t to knock out the other person, the goal was to have the perfect boxing match.
Every night after the film sessions, Mike was mentally conditioned into BELIEVING he was the champion before any fight.
Because of this routine, Mike Tyson won every fight in his career months before he even stepped into the ring.
Mozart started playing the piano at age 3 (When I was 3, I was just trying to figure out what my hands actually did.)
At such an early age, Mozart had a deep fascination with music.
He had an ease to not only play what he read, but play from memory. Having near perfect musical memory, he routinely mimicked his older sister as she played difficult pieces on the piano.
This gift seemed to appear out of nowhere, but, a majority of it was the result of his obsession with music and piano. Every night, Mozart had to be ripped away from the piano to go to bed, as he would never leave it’s side.
As word spread around town of some prodigy kid, Mozart’s father began sending him and his sister on music tours, touting his genius prodigious talent along the courtyards. They had to pay the rent and his Dad saw dollar signs.
After soon surpassing even the most advanced players in a short period of time, Mozart felt bored. His father noticed his passive aggressive resentment and after learning of his desire to go on a solo music career, his father vehemently declined.
Mozart was the bread and butter of the family and they needed to play the pop music that everyone liked, not what HE wanted to write.
No matter how much he tried, this inner force to create his own style of music would not leave. He no longer cared if it was pop music or courtyard music, he wanted to do Mozart’s music.
After suffering a near mental breakdown and severe illness, Mozart decided to ignore his father. He moved to Salzburg, focused on his own music and the rest was history.
What we see from these masters are three things:
- Choose one area of study
- Immersion through practice
- Cultivating their own identity
As you choose your area of study, you will face rejection and turmoil. It’s the name of the game.
But, as you immerse yourself in hard work and consistent practice, you will eventually cultivate your own identity and become like them, masters in your field and legends of history.
What’s ONE small thing you can do today to get started on the path to success?
William Tait is the Founder and CEO of How To Be A Music Success which teaches musicians marketing, sales, and entrepreneurship. If you enjoyed this article, you can read more here, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org