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Are you hearing the full story? Why the instant success narrative is a lie

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“When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time. The key is over time”

Gary Keller.

One of the most common obstacles to becoming successful in today’s world is the misguided belief in the concept of overnight success stories. The truth is, at some point, we have all been seduced by the need to get it all and to get it now. But here’s the thing: your chances of getting instantly successful are slimmer than your chances of winning the jackpot in the lottery.

Sadly, the world we live in has distorted the realities because everywhere you turn there’s a small army of people who seem to have snagged a fast pass to fame and fortune. And this phenomenon has been intensified by technology which has granted us the ability to get things done at unprecedented speeds.

15 years ago, students had to go to the library to do their research work; it took time, effort and no small amount of dedication to get answers to questions. One had to physically get out of bed, make themselves presentable before making the journey to the library in search of the right book among thousands. Most of the time, there were no guarantees that the book would be readily available, in fact oftentimes, it would have already been borrowed by someone else. Sometimes pages were missing; meanwhile, the research papers had a deadline- no excuses. Presenting a respectable research paper was hard work. In today’s world, presenting a respectable research paper is still hard work but finding information and getting answers to questions has never been so easy. One does not even need to get out of bed to find what they are looking for. Through our phones, we walk around with access to more knowledge than all previous generations before us combined. From the most complex to the most trivial any argument can be ended with one phrase: “lets google it”. To anyone born before the 80’s, it could easily be described as the age of magic. But as with everything in the world, including perceived magic, there are flip sides to the benefits derived.

This google and smartphone age has led us to expect instant results from anything we put out in the world.

Someone will apply for a job on a Monday morning and by Tuesday morning, they expect an instant answer. If they don’t get it, they are deeply disappointed. They conclude that they are under qualified or that someone else has been chosen over them- in other words, failure to get an instant response translates to them viewing themselves as failures. And this does not just apply to the work environment. Looking at the dating scene, there is no longer any need to make any kind of effort to really get to know someone before dating when apps using location-based technology can instantly connect people who happen to be hanging out in the same neighbourhood.

And why stand in line when there is an app that lets you book a seat for that dinner, event or show in seconds?

The level of convenience we have today is unprecedented and wonderful and highly welcome in our lives. But is faster really always better?

The need for speed is especially pronounced with millennials, who grew up on technology and because many things have come so easily to them, they are always willing to pay their dues. They want what they want in 3 easy steps and they want it yesterday. Many are willing to cut corners and even cheat to get it.

Everything, it seems, can be acquired instantly, the great job, the amazing relationship, the fame, the fortune and ultimately, the success. But very few people are in fact, hearing the full story.

Instant success stories are quite often, years in the making. They require a lot of hard work. There is often no recognition, no accolades, no fanfare- for years. Look at the world’s first Billionaire writer, J.K Rowling, she of the Harry Potter fame. Rowling struggled for years before finishing her first book. Her struggle was marked with pain and suffering- a failed marriage, a suicide attempt, the death of her mother, a slew of rejections for her manuscripts, living on welfare with her child…her challenges were endless.

Now no one is saying that you must undergo untold pain and suffering before you become successful, what you need to understand is that the road to success takes time and patience and perseverance and quite often untold failure.

Success is more a product of hard work and determination than luck. Don’t allow our age of internet fame and accidental billion-dollar startups fool you. Yes, there are exceptions to the rules but what guarantees do you have that you who will be the exception? Remember that for every article that goes viral, there are thousands of wonderful pieces of writing that receive little to no attention, for every famous movie star, there are thousands of aspiring actors who are struggling to get work and for every successful start-up, there are tens of thousands of others that never made it.

The belief in instant success stories will only prevent you from fully understanding and appreciating what it takes to build a meaningful life. But the rarity of runaway success shouldn’t be a reason to become pessimistic or to stop pursuing your goals. In fact, it should be a very good reason to pursue something significant. You will be pursuing it because you find joy and fulfilment in the process not because you’re looking for instant fame and fortune as an outcome.