The Danger of the Overnight Success Story

Overnight success stories make the best headlines:

“How she earned $50,000 from her side business in just 2 months”

“How this unknown artist soared to the top of the charts”

“How I got 10,000 people to visit my website in just 30 days”

There’s no way anyone can resist clicking on such a story; the allure is indescribable.

Someone with virtually no skills achieves amazing success in such a short amount of time? Sign me up!

It’s not that I’m lazy; it’s just that the quick and easy route appears to be more attractive (perhaps I’m a little bit lazy). I know you feel the same way.

We’ve had it drilled in us over and over again that we have to achieve success NOW! If we don’t, then we may never experience success in our lifetime. It’s an effective fear tactic.


The Overnight Success Myth

Unfortunately, the overnight success story is a sham.

When we envy people who appear to have been suddenly thrust into success, we ignore one simple fact: they’ve been working and refining their craft for several years.

“My dad told me, ‘it takes fifteen years to become an overnight success’, and it took me seventeen and a half years.”- Adrien Brody

Let’s take Justin Beiber as an example. This kid came virtually out of nowhere and rose to stardom with lightning speed. Overnight success? I beg to differ. Though the stars aligned for him (being discovered on YouTube and whatnot), he had been performing since he was a little kid.

Let’s move on to mobile money platform M-PESA – it was simply introduced to the public and through luck found unparalleled success among the Kenyan market? Wrong again. Safaricom spent years testing their model, educating vendors, and creating a marketing strategy that would win over Kenyans. Again, overnight success is BS.

What about Steph Curry? The man shoots 3’s like there’s no tomorrow. He just appeared from thin air and started creating basketball plays and breaking records like nobody’s business? Nope, before Curry became MVP he developed a work ethic that made everyone look lazy. He arrived to practice before everyone else, and was the last to leave the court.

It does seem like he just appeared in the NBA and started outperforming everyone else, but that negates all the years of painstaking practice he put into his craft.

So what’s the Danger in this Story?

When we ignore the journey leading up to success, we end up with the overnight success story.

And it’s not difficult to understand why we’re enticed by this story; it implies that anyone and everyone has the chance to achieve their wildest dreams. Sadly, this is dangerous.

The overnight success story effectively shits on hard work, and undermines failures and lessons that lead to success.

It provides short-term strategies to long-term success, and leaves thousands if not millions of eager minds with worthless information to work with.

It provides a shoddy blueprint for others to follow, and leaves many with a sense of entitlement.

It sets unrealistic expectations for those aiming for success, and creates stress when they just can’t seem to achieve success fast enough.

“Anyone who want to sell you overnight success or wealth is not interested in your success; they are interested in your money”- Bo Bennett

Is there an Alternative to this Bogus Story?

Yes. It’s time to start reading biographies. When we can map out the journey that someone has taken towards success, then we can stop beating ourselves up for not being on their level.

When we realize that Apple’s success did not materialize from thin air, we can appreciate the failures currently before us.

Once we begin to value the journey as much as success itself, we can counter the damage that the overnight success story has left in its wake.


For those who continue to peddle the story of overnight success, it’s time to rethink the way you present your narrative.

Include the journey towards success so that your audience can see what it really takes to achieve their goals. Don’t just provide arbitrary tips on how they can quickly replicate the success that it took you 10 years to achieve.

That’s misleading and wrong.

“Give me a couple of years, and I’ll make that actress an overnight success”- Samuel Goldwyn

Final Verdict

You’re going to come across overnight success stories on a consistent basis. Don’t ignore them; they might give you inspiration in a moment of desperation.

Just remember not to measure someone else’s success against your own. You don’t have the whole story!

Achieving success is challenging, and don’t let anyone claim otherwise. Continue to grind and learn, adapt and push forward. Your story is unique so appreciate it, and don’t give up even when success seems like a pipe dream.

If you found this post interesting, remember to share it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Also remember to drop me a comment and let me know what you think about the overnight success story. Do you agree with me, or am I just bitter because I didn’t come up with the idea for Snapchat? Either way, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you again next Monday.

10 thoughts on “The Danger of the Overnight Success Story

  1. Davina, you are so right. A successful person will tell you of the many failures they had before they became “an overnight success.” There are many people out there, particularly in the online marketing world that promise overnight success in their programs. Buyer beware!


  2. Hey Davina! Thanks for posting an honest view ….it is a journey to becoming successful. It took me a while to get that! Marketing can be deceiving and give false promises! People are looking for something that works instantly. But it takes a multitude of things to be successful. The market is changing and demanding more value.

    Success is a journey and its what we learn along the way, learn new skills and step out of our comfort zone. It enables us then to help teach others of what to expect and avoid if possible.


    1. You’re welcome Deb 🙂 I agree with you (especially about demand for more value). Hopefully, more people will realize this, so that they don’t beat themselves up or give up when their success is not instant.


  3. Great post Davina. This one needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    You’ve identified the dangers of the overnight success story perfectly. Look at any of the promises for overnight success and they soon fall apart. If push button solutions really worked all the rich entrepreneurs would have rooms full of cheap outsourced workers pushing the button all day long. Yet they seem to spend their resources trying to sell us the button instead.


    1. “If push button solutions really worked all the rich entrepreneurs would have rooms full of cheap outsourced workers pushing the button all day long. Yet they seem to spend their resources trying to sell us the button instead.”

      This brilliant statement sums up my whole article. Thank you, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post David 🙂


  4. Awesome post as always davina, this should be page 1 Para 1 sentence 1 of all self development books. Success is the culmination of hard work and overcoming setbacks and many times actual success looks very different to how it was envisaged


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