The myth of the overnight success
The Overnight Success
is a myth
After 57 years of riding the roller coaster of high hopes, dashed dreams, and hairpin career curves, I find myself "an overnight success." I cannot tell you how many friends and acquaintances have wished me well and offered congratulations following my recent professional appointment. Some of these folks I have not heard from in years. Some I never expected I would hear from again. I am grateful for their kind words.
One friend and a former manager of mine said to me in a private message,
"VP, huh? Nice! Guess you went the right direction after your cube at Progress!"
Not so long ago, I was in a cubicle at Progress Residential, managing the maintenance and repair of a couple thousand rent homes in the Dallas area. The fellow in question was the Director to whom I answered. I left that gig for much greener pastures and a larger role at rival Tricon American Homes. A couple years later, I returned "home" to Mid-America Catastrophe Services to act as Storm Manager, Account Manager, Communications Manager, and perform assorted other duties.
Last month, owners Zack Meadows and Stacy Story asked me to assume a Vice President role. I happily accepted. That is when the congratulations began rolling in.
What I did not say to my friend who made the cubicle-to-VP observation was, "You don't know how high I had risen or how hard I had fallen before you found me in the cubicle."
I do not have to think that hard to remember times when I was the toast of the town. Nor do I have to squint to see back to the times when my entire world was shattered to bits, to when I cried acid tears of regret and coughed the dust of self-pity from my burdened chest.
The fact is there are no overnight successes. Twenty years ago no one knew who Jeff Bezos was and no one was predicting he would become the world's richest human. I promise you his story did not start with the explosion of Amazon, the purchase of Whole Foods, or the pullout from building HQ2 in New York City. His was a tale of scrapping, scraping, and fighting, of winning and losing.
There are no winners who never lost. There are no successes who never failed. There are no pleasures if there are no pains. There are no delights if there are no defeats. We know what feels good because we know what feels bad.
There are no sinless saints either. The best of us stands on feet of clay. We are prone to wander, apt to stray.
Some say the fundamental difference between success and failure is luck. Some say it is timing. I say it is something more controllable than all that. I say the fundamental difference between losers and winners, between failure and success is perseverance. Winners are losers who wouldn't quit. Successes are failures who wouldn't stop failing no matter how painful, humiliating, or disheartening it may have been.
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.
Overnight successes are forged in the shadows and by candlelight in the deep of sleepless night. Then they are discovered and celebrated in the light by those who never saw the burning of the midnight oil, who never sat with the victor in the dark night of his (her) most devastating defeats.
Overnight success is a myth.
My first great "success" was taking the mound as the starting pitcher for the West All-Stars in the Mineral Wells Little League All-Star Game in the Summer of 1972. I was 11 years old. It was a night I will never forget. I pitched four innings of a seven-inning game and threw a no-hitter for that span. Nobody got a hit. Nobody even got to first base. It was a glorious night.
But if you had seen me a couple months earlier crying tears of frustration in the dugout because coach had to pull me after I hit six or seven batters, you would have seen the failure that led to success. I remember Coach Blundell saying something like this, "Son, you can quit pitching right now and go back to first base and forget it or you can go strike out the next batter you face. All you did tonight was put the fear of God in every batter in this town. They are gonna be hitting the dirt while you are pounding the mitt."
And that is how an All-Star Little League pitcher was made.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
Do you want to quit? Throw in the towel? Fine. That is the surest way to avoid the pain, sacrifice, and disappointment that accompanies success. It is also the most certain path to defeat.
Or...you can just not quit and keep fighting and keep going and wake up one day celebrated as an overnight success.