The overnight success myth

I have a rule: whenever someone appears to me in a dream who I haven’t seen in awhile, I try to contact them.  I interpret that as a sign that someone is trying to tell me something and don’t like to tempt fate.

Similarly, in the last couple weeks I’ve been barraged by stories about how “slow and steady wins the race” and is far more common as opposed to getting lucky with sudden success.  For me, that’s meant this blog and the ideas it espouses.  For two years now I’ve been writing here (no fanfare this year like last year’s blogaversary post)  and it’s been three since I had the original idea to promote these kinds of skills to technical people.  There have been times where I’ve felt like giving up, but as these recent signs have reminded me, it often takes perserverance.

That’s true of a lot of things, maybe with something going on in your life too, so with the hope that these things touch someone else like they did me, here are the signs that have told me to keep writing:

  • Just before the break, I read a Time magazine review of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers.  In it, Gladwell describes what he calls the 10,000 hour Rule: “Studies suggest that the key to success in any field has nothing to do with talent. It’s simply practice, 10,000 hours of it — 20 hours a week for 10 years.”
  • Over the holiday break, my family went on a 7 day Disney cruise.  On it there was a talk given by Disneyworld Art guru “Ducky” Williams, who is responsible for all the character art in the Florida parks as well as on tickets, flyers, and other printed media (“throw away art” as he called it).  As in, he’s the only guy in the department.  He has no formal art training, but just liked to draw.  So much so, on the advice of a Disney employee he drew 100 characters a week, every week, for 3 years to hone his craft.  That’s over 3,000 drawings.  When he finally did get an interview with Disney, he had quite a portfolio to show them.
  • When I got back on the treadmill after eating waaaaay too much on the cruise, the Jay Leno Inside the Actor’s Studio episode was waiting for me on my DVR.  In it he said that if you are trying to be a stand up comic and getting on stage twice a month, you should quit.  That’s not enough.  You have to treat it like an education and get on stage every night for four years.  That’s how you get good.
  • Finally, last week Jeff Atwood ran an article called “Overnight Success: It takes years“, which chronicles a couple different tales of slow and steady progress, including gmail, and puts his own blog as well as his new StackOverflow venture into perspective.

Harrison Ford’s road to stardom was a rough one too and he’s doing OK these days.  Sometimes, it just takes time and patience but if you stick with it, it can happen.

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One Response to “The overnight success myth”

  1. Luis C García Says:

    Great article (congrats, BTW!). I’ll keep counting my web hours

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