We all want to be successful. We all can be successful. But we can’t all be successful overnight.
The thing about success is that it doesn’t come easy; if it did, everyone would be rolling around on their beds of cash instead of hustling away behind their computers, at their desks and in their workshops.
Success is a long game, and the number one reason why entrepreneurs don’t achieve it is that they give up too soon. This amazing video from Gary Vaynerchuk about “overnight success” comes to mind—give it a watch:
We all go through phases when we feel like we’re not making progress, we’re losing ground or we’ve taken a wrong turn. The results simply aren’t coming fast enough.
Your reaction during these times is what makes the difference between success and failure—will you double down and get to work, or give up too soon? To help you make that decision, here are five important things to remember.
You’re Looking At Someone Else’s ‘Finishing Position’
You started your business because it’s something you’re passionate about, right? You didn’t start your business based on what your neighbor is passionate about or what that guy you went to high school with likes. You started it for you.
But the funny thing is, most of us gauge our success in relation to everyone else. How does that make any sense?
When you look at the success of another individual, whether it’s a colleague or an entrepreneurial icon a la Richard Branson, you’re looking at the finished product. You’re not seeing the years and years of struggle, late nights and failures that went into getting them to where they are.
Don’t compare your starting point or your middle-of-the-journey to someone else’s finishing position.
Daniel DiPiazza elaborates on this concept in a post I really love here.
Overnight Success Takes A Very Long Time
‘Overnight success’ is a funny term because it applies to our perception of a person’s success, not the actual journey.
When a person or product is suddenly popping up everywhere, we describe them as an overnight success because to us, they seem to have become popular overnight. But what we’re not seeing are the years or decades they’ve been working to achieve that very recognition.
Overnight success take a very, very long time. Martin Zwilling gives some great illustrations in this post.
Take Microsoft, for example. Many would consider Bill Gates to be an example of someone who shot to the top of his field. In reality, though, Microsoft didn’t go public until nine years after its launch. Nine years until Bill Gates saw that first big payday! Would you have stuck it out that long?
Pokemon Go is another great example. In 2016 it seemed to come out of nowhere to achieve massive popularity. The real story, though, is that its founder had been putting together the various pieces of technology needed to make Pokemon Go a reality for some twenty years before the game launched.
Rethink your definition of overnight success.
You’re Underestimating the Long Term
New business owners often experience two critical misconceptions about the time frame for success: they overestimate the short term, but underestimate the long term.
What does that mean? Well, a new entrepreneur who just quit his 9-to-5 might think, I need to become profitable within 6 months or I need to replace my full income within one year.
Both are great goals, but unfortunately, financial success doesn’t always come that quickly. He’s overestimating the short term.
On the flip side, though, many entrepreneurs grossly underestimate the amount of potential they have to see returns in the long run. Because they’re so focused on six-month or one-year profits as a measure for success, they fail to see that the financial returns could be exponentially higher three or five years down the road.
I love the personal story Steve Chou shares that demonstrates this perception flaw in this post. Definitely worth a read for new business owners.
You Can’t Do It Wrong
We all get hung up on the worry that we’re doing it wrong. That we’re going to make a fatal decision or take a wrong turn that forever dooms us to a life of failure.
But unless you do something like break the law or swindle your customers, there’s no such thing as a fatal mistake. The reality is, it’s all part of your entrepreneurial journey, and there’s no wrong way to do it.
Can you do it better? Absolutely. There’s always room to improve, grow and learn from mistakes. But those failures are how you learn. The very fact that you’re taking action toward your dreams means you’re doing it right, no matter what that path looks like for you.
The Reason You Started
Finally, when it seems like success is taking way too long, remember the reason you started in the first place. Take a look back at where you were and how far you’ve come—it’s a long way, isn’t it?
Another really sobering thing I like to remind myself of from time to time is that the years will pass anyway; wouldn’t you rather spend them on the road toward eventual success than simply whiling them away in safe but mediocre circumstances? I know I would.
What do you do to keep yourself going during the tough times? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts below.
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