Portrait by Sullivan & Sullivan in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Entrepreneurship, Musings

There’s No Such Thing As Overnight Success

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.There's no such thing as overnight success.

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  • Reply Laura Bronner May 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I really need to meditate more – I started doing it earlier this year but kind of fell off the bandwagon. Thanks for the pep talk as always 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      My pleasure, Laura 🙂 Meditation is SO good for the soul.

  • Reply Nikita May 4, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Another honest & thoughtful post, Leah! Honestly, more often than not, these kind of real, raw “I fail/stress/grind too” kind of posts are more inspiring than the “look at how perfect my dream life is, you can have it too” ones. Not to say I don’t also love the “I’ve made it!” posts out there (because I do!) but it’s good to see people like yourself being honest with how much effort & passion it takes to create whatever your definition of success is. It’s not easy – but it’s worth it, right? 😉

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      I’m always a little nervous writing posts like this, but it always feels so good after. It’s a very cathartic experience, and they get more positive responses than any other posts! <3 Glad you enjoyed it Nikita 🙂

  • Reply Brittany May 4, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Girl – For what it’s worth, your name gets passed back and forth in my blogger friend circle whenever we talk about our fave bloggers. The reason? Because you always seem so damn honest + relatable. It may not give you millions, but I swear it’s worth something. Keep doin’ you.

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Aw, that’s so nice to hear, Brittany! Glad my honesty is relatable because I don’t know how to turn it off haha.

  • Reply Leandra May 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

    “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.” THIS! Thanks for putting words to the struggle. I am working to be sincerely joyful for others, even when I feel like I’m treading water myself. And the truth? I’m not treading water. When I look back at the last year, I’m so much closer to my goals than I was before. Just because I haven’t reached them doesn’t mean I WON’T. As others have commented, thanks for always being an honest blogger, Leah! I always know I can come here to get the real deal.

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Aw, thank you Leandra! The struggle is real, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone 🙂

  • Reply Taivo Aarna May 6, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Thank you for being so honest and open. You are so right and I really needed to hear this.
    Taivo Aarna recently posted…Pastel dreamMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      My pleasure! Glad this post resonated with you.

  • Reply Hena Jose May 8, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Truly, Rome was not built in a Day. Patience and Perseverance with hard work helps one achieve the goal.

  • Reply shelley May 8, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Ain’t this the truth! It’s frustrating that others will see any success you have and not realize the amount of hard work that went into creating it. And on the other hand, I frequently need to remind myself to just keep on plugging and working.

    • Reply Leah Davis May 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Exactly! There is always a lot of hard work and effort behind success and we all need reminders of that from time to time 🙂

  • Reply Katherine Swain May 8, 2017 at 11:41 am

    TRUTH! Thank you for posting this!

  • Reply Nancy May 8, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    So, so good! I need to read this every dang day. Because I, too, struggle with this EVERY day! Thanks!

  • Reply Alexis @FITnancials May 10, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    I needed to hear so much. I’ve been comparing myself more than I would like, especially when I see people progressing so much faster than me. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Rhonda Swan May 12, 2017 at 8:54 am

    YES! All success takes time and passion. Keep moving forward, lovely lady, and be unstoppable!

    • Reply Leah Davis May 12, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, Rhonda! <3

  • Reply Amsterdamian May 20, 2017 at 2:05 am

    We all do that. We all struggle, and let self-pity to bite us from time to time, maybe more often than we should. It’s always good to stop, enjoy the ride – our ride, and remember why we are doing it in the first place. Thanks for the article, it’s good to “hear” this from other people from time to time 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis May 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      So glad it resonated with you! Couldn’t agree more, we all go through it.

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