What Does ‘Overnight Success’ Mean to You?


During the course of the past two decades, I have had the privilege and honor of giving many keynote presentations and participating as a featured speaker at events across the world.  I have a great passion for public speaking and I feel very fortunate that organizations and associations continue to invite me to present at events internationally.

As a speaker, it is important to have a speaker’s reel video to send out to organizations who are considering you as a presenter at an upcoming event.  I recently enlisted Marrick Production Services to create my new speaker’s reel (click on the play arrow above to view it) and during the production process, I got to thinking about the different speaking engagements I’ve done and it struck me how many times I’ve heard people marvel at how amazing it is that I achieved such remarkable ‘overnight success.’

Every time someone says this to me, I reply with a chuckle and something along the lines of: “Yeah, it’s great . . . and it only took over two decades of hard work.”

The thing is, I’m not sure there really is such a thing as overnight success. I know it happens in the movies quite often but, throughout my years of traveling and networking,  I have yet to cross paths with someone who achieved any kind of significant success without putting forth a great deal of hard work and dedication (speaking of hard work and dedication, a BIG thank you goes out to Mark Ellensohn and Chris Higgins for the hard work and dedication they put into creating this video for me!).

I’d really like to get some feedback on this–what does ‘overnight success’ mean to you?  Do you think a person can truly achieve overnight success, or do you think that the road to ‘overnight success’ is a long one that’s paved with plenty of effort and discipline?

Leave your comments and let’s get a discussion going! If you or someone you personally know is living, breathing evidence of overnight success, I’m particularly interested in that story (sometimes being proven wrong can make for very interesting content in speeches!). And, by all means, I’d also love to hear what you think of my new speaker’s reel!

15 thoughts on “What Does ‘Overnight Success’ Mean to You?

  1. Great speaker reel! I’d love to see you talk someday. Networking is kind of a new concept to me, but I’m learning all I can.

    And I agree with you. Success takes years of hard work and patience, but then at a certain point it just mushrooms and that person has become an “overnight sensation”.

    It’s almost part of our popular culture mythology to look for the “big break”, but not as commonly known that it’s the preparation for the “big break” that makes that opportunity possible.

  2. Good response from Dianna.
    There are two perspectives about “overnight success”. One is from the point of the person achieving it while the other is from the person observing another who has achieved it.
    In both instances, the one that achieves it will know how much had been put in over the years to reach to the point where “overnight success” is realized while the one that observes may not be aware of how much had been put in. In my experience,
    I would like to add that most of the friends that I know, do not exhibit much concern about the big break but try very hard on a daily basis to meet their regular expectations (usually related to “survival” on various levels of needs) and somehow a few of them would suddenly exhibit that they have achieved overnight success”. Although they do not exhibit the “overnight success” desire, I assume that many do actually “think” about how to get a go at “overnight success” from time to time.
    Having said that, those who aim at the big breaks ought to stand a better chance of making it one day. They get to learn more along the way as they experience more and more failures and challenges.
    Hence, in my opinion, “overnight success” is a temporary happy conclusion that is made with a realization that more have to be done to continue maintaining it or moving it to a higher level.
    May have to also ask those who suddenly secure a very profitable business contract or strike a National Lottery top prize and see what would they say about “overnight success”.

  3. I recently heard ‘luck’ defined as the coincidence of opportunity with preparation. Being prepared takes time. Taking the opportunity can be ‘overnight’.

  4. Unless it’s the lottery or inheritance I’ll say the latter road of time and effort toward a larger vision is the path to “overnight success”.

    I was at a Toastmasters meeting and heard Mark Twain quoted as saying “it takes me three weeks to prepare a great impromptu speech”.

    If that’s in the moment, at that minute, then success in 24 hours (overnight) must be 83 years worth of preparation!

    I suggest getting some help from a local BNI chapter and surround yourself with a team to get you there faster.

  5. The analogy I like to use is that of a Bamboo. Did you know that Bamboo grows more rapidly than any other plant on the planet, It has been clocked surging skyward as fast as 47.6 inches in a 24-hour period. So…. is this overnight success?

    There is a saying about newly planted bamboo:

    The first year it sleeps
    The second year it creeps
    The third year it leaps

    I urge everyone reading this to find out more about the growth habits of a Bamboo here: http://www.midatlanticbamboo.com/bamboo-info/bamboo-grow.htm

    I fully agree with Dr. Ivan Misner – the road to overnight success is a long one that’s paved with plenty of effort and discipline. Simple but not easy! And neither is winning the lottery. A bamboo shoot knows that too.

  6. The timing of this is outstanding. I was visiting with a friend of mine, Matt Miller that has become a “local celebrity” because his art is amazing. Standing in his beautiful gallery I said, “wow, how does it feel to be living your dream?” He said, “Well, it feels an awful lot like work. It’s great because I love what I do, but I know what it took to get here.” I think people that aren’t passionate about their work think that those that are successful have somehow “lucky” when it actuality it took a lot of planning, sacrifice and plain hard work. Thanks for starting this discussion.

  7. The purpose of your life is to discover who you are. It is to meet yourself and to identify what you are made of and what you are made for. To do this, you have to be willing to give yourself some special attention. You have to stop “going” “doing” and “chasing” and start spending more time “being” with yourself.
    Any connection to this, hard work, intense belief on oneself and discipline is what makes one successful, overnight success happens on movies and novels.

  8. Hi Ivan,

    Love the speaker’s reel… dynamic, interesting, strongly highlights your key beliefs and of course well produced.

    I’m in the process of defining what success looks like for me, I’m certainly under no delusion that ‘overnight success’ is a possibility. Life thus far has taught me that anything worth achieving will entail a lot of dedication, effort and time and most likely sacrifice and some level of pain.

    Best, Liz

  9. The speaker’s reel is FANTASTIC! Kudos to Mark Ellensohn and Chris Higgs for a job very well. done!!
    A member told me once that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. I have used that phrase quite a bit when working with BNI members. I don’t believe in overnight successes. That SUCCESS is the result of thousands of hours and sometimes years of sacrifice, hard work and perseverance.

  10. To begin with, I think that everyone has a different definition for “success”, but quite some mix it with “fame”. You can easily achieve an overnight fame by making a movie or a song that was just cool and funky at the moment, but not really success. This fame is only a gift from God that gives you a big step forward. You can be successful only If you can sustain being in front of everyone.
    Success is a long term achievement which, like everyone is saying, really requires years of hard work and dedication.

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