America seems to be enamored with the idea of “overnight success”. We see people who become seemingly overnight sensations, often through discovery on Youtube, and are catapulted into the limelight. We see people on TV who become hyper-successful because they were on a reality show or something of the like. These people seem like “overnight successes”. I don’t think there’s any such thing, though.
Let’s look at a few of my favorite examples.
Brian Clark of Copyblogger has written 1,580 posts since 2006. He’s built three online companies and now runs CopyBlogger, which focuses on content marketing and is nationally recognized as a leading blogger. But he’s been writing for years and has only seen a lot of success in the last 5-6.
Rand is the CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, an SEO tools company based in Seattle, WA. If you’re in the industry, you’ve probably seen him speaking at conferences where he is often the keynote speaker. If you read marketing blogs, you’ve probably seen him writing some of the most popular posts on SEOmoz. But his success didn’t really start coming until 2009 when Moz pivoted to software away from consulting.
Here’s a graph of SEOmoz’s (and basically Rand’s own) financials over the years:
But now look at them:
Also check out Michael Hyatt. He’s been writing on his site for almost exactly 7 years. Until just a couple of years ago, he had very little social activity (check out http://michaelhyatt.com/page/30). He’s also been in the publishing game for over 30 years and a leader for that long. While his blog has just blown up in the past two years, he’s been doing it for a long time. He also recently published Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, which hit #4 on the Amazon best-seller list.
His beginnings, though, were humble, often hitting the wall with the publishing company he and a business partner were struggling to start and sometimes wondering where the money for his young family (he has 5 girls) to eat would come from.
You may not be familiar with GoPro by name, but it’s the company that makes little personal video cameras that enable action sports enthusiasts the world over to capture footage of themselves enjoying their favorite activities.
Inc.com just published an interview with their CEO wherein he talks about “Bootstrapping an Overnight Success”. GoPro has been around for years, but only really took off in the past few years. They have been able to capitalize on the increase and affordability of technology and bring high-quality video to the masses.
They essentially have a guerrilla marketing crew of evangelists, aka their users, creating videos and sharing them online for the world to see. Here’s one such example from Vimeo:
I hope this post inspires you to keep at whatever you are doing. Even if you don’t succeed in the short term, if your company doesn’t take off or you can’t create an audience for your product, that experience itself will teach you important lessons so that you are more likely to succeed in the future.
I’d love to hear your rags-to-riches examples in the comments as well.