How many times have you heard a story like this?
“He / she went from working at (a gas station, some really crummy company, no job at all, or _____) with only ($5, $10, a meager background, or _____), and became an overnight success story”.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “was LexION Capital an overnight success?” I would have a sizeable investment portfolio today.
We’re getting way off track here — the point is that I get asked this very frequently, and almost every person with some form of success gets asked the same exact thing.
It seems like a pretty innocent question.
But if you actually believe in fast success, it’s holding your whole life by a leash.
Ditching this myth can unlock potential that you haven’t even dreamed of.
Defining real success
I was ecstatic when I upgraded and left my first “apartment” in my 20’s — a closet with a red bunk bed that even made sardines shudder.
I was now in my personal Taj Mahal.
This “five-star” room let me stand up without bumping my head, and I could even walk around without furniture declaring an all-out war on my shins.
I was lounging in luxury, until my lovely grandmother visited for some housewarming. One of her first remarks was “this place reminds me of communist Russia!”
But still, I wasn’t going to let her bring me down, I was the queen of my castle.
After she left (rather abruptly for some reason), I was basking in my glory once again.
Until I heard some aggressive metal music blasting from downstairs. It was a sound I’d eventually get used to.
It turns out; the realtor’s initial description of a “charming neighborhood” included a tattoo parlor right below me. I guess “near Section 8 Housing” is a phrase they taught you to avoid in real estate school.
But my horrible apartment was years in the making.
It involved wearing TJ-Maxx (I still have the same chic fashion sense by the way) when everybody in the office was “casually” mentioning brands like Burberry, Prada, and Armani.
To scrounge for the increased rent, I wore suits to interviews with the tags still attached, so I could return them later for my microwave dinners. At least I had the weekends to look forward to, where I’d frequently man the line at nightclubs with a clipboard.
And what did I have to show for it?
A place where I had to flood the bathroom so the tattoo artist would finally get the message to turn the music down before my 5am wakeup call. A place where seeing someone trying to jam open my window resulted in a shoulder shrug.
It definitely wasn’t the intro reel we’d hear on a TV show. But it’s pretty comical in hindsight.
We’ve all had these “victories”. The ones where instead of popping champagne we can’t help but think “I’ve toiled so hard and now my life is slightly less awful”.
It’s not too difficult to see why these victories can bring you down, even though they should have you shouting in triumph.
There are artists like the Beatles, who took the entire US by storm after selling out the Washington Colosseum. We see inventors like Thomas Edison, who revolutionized the entire world by turning on a lightbulb at Menlo Park.
But every journey to success has a million stepping stones
We don’t hear about Thomas Edison’s victory laps when he graduated grade school and his teacher stopped calling him “too stupid to learn anything”.
And we don’t collect vinyls of the Beatles’ 8-hour straight gigs in grungy German nightclubs.
What’s your story?
It would have been pretty weird if I popped Shark Tank on my TV, dozed off with some wine, and woke up as the CEO of LexION Capital.
This didn’t happen though, because overnight success falls in the same category as Santa Claus (sorry, kids).
Instead, real success happens through your unique journey, not a marathon to make headlines.
Because there will always be someone who already crossed a finish line, no matter how quickly you run. But in the end, you’ll both be victorious.
Sure, I struggled and struggled for an apartment that was a realtor’s worst nightmare. But how would the rest of my story have gone if I had stopped there?
Your new promotion probably won’t be in the newspapers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a major victory in its own right. Because we only see peoples’ highlight reels, not their whole story.
So play that Rocky Theme Song when you get the new job title.
Nobody else will, but then again — they don’t know about your 15 year grind beforehand, or your intense struggle to afford night school.
And then, keep going. Because your success story just started.
Years later, try not to have a fit when someone asks “were you an overnight success?”