Every day, I fall into the same trap.
I look around, see what others are doing, and wonder how they accomplished so much, so fast. Wonder how they’ve skyrocketed past me while seemingly taking the same steps.
“I’m miles behind them now,” I think to myself as I choke on the dust of their success and surrender to yet another counterproductive downward spiral of self-pity.
Ah, the self-pity. It’s suffocating on the good days and utterly paralyzing on the bad ones. It holds me down with the weight of the thousand mistakes I’ve made along the way.
But what my self-pity doesn’t know is that it’s entirely unjustified. That the basis of its existence is entirely fabricated from the darkest thoughts found in the darkest recesses of my mind.
Those thoughts–or assumptions, rather–are lies.
And they are only brought to light when my attention strays from my own path. When I look around me and create stories about what I THINK others are doing.
The truth of the matter?
No one achieves success overnight.
‘Overnight success’ is a farce, plain and simple.
Success is built on a solid foundation of hard work, adaptability, and persistence, held together by the underlying dream that set you on your path in the first place.
Success doesn’t mean wealth or notoriety to most of us, anyway–that’s certainly not what success means to me. My true self knows this, but my thinking mind knows how to get my attention.
It fools me into believing in ‘overnight success’ day after day. Overrides my definition of success with images of money and material things.
My mind is tricky like that, and my ego fragile. I want ‘overnight success’ to be real so I can go on believing that it might one day happen to me. So I can go on believing that my hard work will pay off in the form of instant fame and instant money in the bank.
Most of us would rather believe the lie of ‘overnight success’ than accept the far more likely scenario in which we toil diligently for decades to reach our goals, because where’s the glamor in that?
Smoke and Mirrors
Then there are the people who know we cling to the idea of overnight success, and they prey on our weakness. They prey on our hopes and dreams, our impatience, and our fragile egos.
We’ve all seen the businesses that appear out of thin air, boasting of the kind of success we’ve only dreamed of–they spew enough hot air to once again trick us into believing that we’re doing it all wrong. That perseverance isn’t actually the answer–the answer is to give them our money so they can teach us all their secrets and we, too, can live the dream.
But one thing I’ve noticed in this day and age is that, more often than not, the people who toot their own horns the loudest are simply the ones most adept at fakin’ it til’ they make it. Of convincing others they’ve discovered the formula for success so they can sell a dream, not a plan.
And you know those stories about 20-somethings who became millionaires while living out of a van? Those stories are interesting precisely because they are extremely rare.
And they’re usually not telling you the whole story, either. People rarely do.
Those 20-something millionaires did work diligently for years, dedicating themselves to one and only cause, driven by a purpose you and I will never understand. They’re no better than anyone else; they were just given different opportunities, a different skill set, and were meant for a different path.
But those dark thoughts–the comparisons, the pity, the “When’s-it-gonna-be-me?”–they’re powerful, and they’re ever-present.
All we can do is be real about our struggles, honest about our insecurities, and accepting of exactly where we are on our own journey toward our own definition of success.
We can be the ones who sell the whole dream, not just the highlights. We can share the highs, and let people learn from our lows.
If I said the entrepreneurial path I’ve chosen was easy, or perfect, or glamorous, I’d be lying. It’s rarely easy, it’s far from perfect, and glamorous? HA! Don’t make me laugh.
If I had a dollar for every time I cried out of frustration, well, let’s just say I’ve already made an extra ten bucks this week.
I still have months where I worry I won’t make enough to pay rent.
I still worry that the investments I make in my business won’t be the right ones and I’ll be sending money down the drain.
I see friends doing great things, and it still takes me a minute to be happy for them–I’m always a little bit jealous first.
So don’t look at my path and assume that I’ve achieved your definition of success, or even my own definition of success.
Learn from others and let them inspire you, but never base your worth on your achievements relative to theirs.
Embrace the Struggle
The struggle is beautiful, because that’s where we learn. And without the struggle, what would success be, anyway? Would we feel we’ve earned it? Feel we deserve it?
My guess is no.
So push toward those goals with fire and focus, embrace the pain, and be honest about your obstacles. Celebrate every little milestone as you inch ever closer. Remind yourself that failure is all part of the process, and be kind to yourself when you make mistakes.
Meditate every day and put that thinking mind to rest; create space to remember what success truly means to you.
But above all else, ignore those around you who appear to be achieving ‘overnight success.’
It’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Featured image by Sullivan & Sullivan.