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How often do you recognize the overnight success myth?


Today is July 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you recognize the overnight success myth?” If you are navigating the chaos get off social media and stop paying attention to the 18-year-old billionaire. Just stop. Stop comparing yourself. Stop believing that everyone navigated the chaos in one night’s time. Stop believing everyone else mastered the art of living well in some 30-, 60-, or 90-day program.


No one did. Repeat after me: no one became successful in one night. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear on this, the overnight success is a myth. It took most people years, and in some cases, decades, to navigate the chaos. Celebrate the journey not the time it takes to translate your dreams into reality!


People who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well understand what Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson noted in their best-selling book Rework: “You know those overnight-success stories you’ve heard about? It’s not the whole story. Dig deeper and you’ll usually find people who have busted their asses for years to get into a position where things could take off. You have to do it for a long time before the right people notice.”


Retired Irish professional mixed martial artist Conor Anthony McGregor, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight champion, was even more direct about the overnight success myth when he said: "There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist; we are all equal as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that [is] that. I am not talented, I am obsessed."


Edwin Albert Link, Jr. knows all too well that being an overnight success is just a myth. Link created the first flight simulator but his road to success was far from a smooth non-stop flight. Born in 1904, Link was 16 years old when he fell in love with flying and took his first lesson. Over the next seven years his fascination with flying grew and he eventually purchased a four seat Cessna. Since he had been working in his father’s piano and organ factory Link used pumps and other parts to build a devise that compressed the key elements of a plane the size of a bathtub.


He named his device the Link Aviation Trainer and advertised that he could teach pilots regular flying and instrument flying. For seven years no one wanted to use his device. By the early 1930s he was reduced to hauling one of his trainers on a flatbed truck to county fairgrounds, charging 25 cents a ride. In 1934, however, 14 years after he discovered flying and 7 years after he created his simulator, the U.S. government finally purchased simulators to help improve the training of Air Corps pilots.


Perhaps no more understands the need to believe in the marathon approach to navigating the chaos then Rodney Dangerfield (formerly Jacob Cohen). He was born on November 22, 1921, in Babylon, New York and to escape a difficult childhood, Dangerfield started writing jokes and doing stand-up routines and landed his first big gig telling jokes at a resort in upstate New York when he was 18 and performed for ten weeks. He earned $12 a week, plus room and board.


Though he continued to land jobs at various comedy clubs, Dangerfield began driving delivery trucks and working as a singing waiter to make extra money, but he still struggled financially. In 1951, after meeting singer Joyce Indig, Dangerfield decided to give up show business. He and Indig married, moved to New Jersey, and had two children. To provide for his new family, Dangerfield became an aluminum siding salesman.


Dangerfield continued to write jokes for the next decade, however, even as he was gripped by clinical depression. His marriage also deteriorated and, by 1962, the couple finally divorced. They remarried again in 1963, but after years of struggle the relationship dissolved permanently in 1970. Dangerfield finally got his big break in the early 1970s, when The Ed Sullivan Show asked him to perform. His act was a hit with audiences, and his "No Respect" bit became his signature. This led to regular appearances on the late-night show circuit, including performances on The Dean Martin Show and the Tonight Show throughout 1972 and 1973. After Dangerfield's former wife died in the early 70s, the comedian opened the comedy club Dangerfield's in Manhattan to be closer to his children.


He would go on to launch an acting career starting in the comedy Caddyshack (1980), starring Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. The hit film led to starring roles for Dangerfield, including the lead in Easy Money (1983) and Back to School (1986), for which he also wrote the screenplays. Dangerfield also expanded his reach to include Broadway shows, starring in Rodney Dangerfield on Broadway! Despite battling health issues, Dangerfield continued performing in the early 2000s and published his autobiography It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs in 2004.

  • How often do you fall prey to the overnight success myth?

  • How often do you tell yourself you have the endurance, discipline, and grit to endure the years, even decades, needed to translate your dreams into reality?

  • How often do you prevent yourself from taking the first step towards a dream because you think someone else was an overnight success?

  • How often have you given up on a dream because you failed to succeed in a short amount of time?

  • How often do you remind yourself that hard work, obsession, and putting in the time triumph over talent?

  • How often do you allow yourself to believe that you could be anyone if you put in the time?