The Secret to Overnight Success

Written by Paul Angone

I have the secret to becoming an overnight success that I am going to share with you.

Honestly, I probably should be selling you this formula for overnight success for $29.99 and a free set of steak knives (plus $69.99 shipping and handling), but just as long as you send 10% my way from your overnight financial bonanza, this success-secret is yours. (Just kidding about the 10% thing. 3-5% would be just fine).

Overnight success is like Jack and the Giant Bean Stock, one night you throw a couple magic beans in the ground and the next day you’re holding a goose that can’t help but poop golden nuggets. What could be better?

My golden goose came by the way of an article I wrote called 21 Secrets for your 20s, which became an overnight hit having now been read nearly a million times in 190 countries, and leading to a book deal for 101 Secrets for your Twenties that releases this July 1st.

And I have the patented secret on how you can do the same.

You ready?

The Secret to Becoming an Overnight Success

Overnight Success Secret: Work with such a passionate, tenacious consistency at something that you cannot NOT do that you lose all interest, anxiety, and desire of becoming an overnight success.

“It takes 20 years to become an overnight success.” Eddie Cantor

The idea of overnight success is a seductive lie. Success doesn’t happen in a night, it happens in the thousands of nights that no one will ever write a song about.

There are overnight sensations, sure. Take a crazy fall off a ledge while crushing grapes or have someone auto-tune your interview, and millions of people might come across you. Overnight phenomenon’s are an everyday thing now in the Land of the Internet.

However, just as a lottery winner ends up bankrupt in less than a year, an overnight sensation goes up quick and then falls back down at the same speed because there was no platform supporting it. An overnight sensation is like a shooting star – a brief blaze that quickly burns out.

“I worked half my life to be an overnight success, and still it took me by surprise.” – Jessica Savitch

The moment you’ll be ready for success is the exact moment you stop obsessing about why you’re not more successful. 

The Secret to Overnight SuccessThe moment you’ll get your first piece of fan mail is when you stop checking the mailbox hoping to find it.

Musicians, actors, artists, writers, comedians, and entrepreneurs that we claim as an “overnight success” might have experienced some sort of tipping point moment, but they’ve been tirelessly and quietly building the base to sustain that “overnight success” their entire lives. They’ve been honing their craft, building their network, and pushing themselves way beyond the label of “successful”.

A true overnight success is someone who has carried bucket after bucket of water to fill up a well. People celebrate you the moment it all spills over, without realizing the 10,000 buckets you carried to make it happen.

As I wrote in “Your Twenties Not Going as Planned? You’re in Famous Company,” actor Morgan Freeman became an overnight success after movies like Driving Miss Daisy and Glory, well except he was nearly fifty years old and had played in countless acting roles since he was nine-years-old.

Abraham Lincoln came out of nowhere to lead the nation, well except he spent his entire twenties being defeated for political positions with striking regularity as he continued to grow as a lawyer, thinker, writer, and speaker.

I started writing my first book on a motel room floor at 22 years old.

I’m now 29 years old and come July 1st you’ll be able to read 101 Secrets for your Twenties – my first book.

It took me seven years to find overnight success.

Those seven years are strewn with hundreds of memories of running full speed, thinking I could see the finish line, thinking I’d finally made it, only to run head first into a brick wall, knocking me unconscious. Every time, it took me months and a few stiff drinks to stand back up.

I compiled 21 Secrets for your 20s on a Sunday afternoon. It took my entire twenties to learn how and what to write.

A true overnight success has simply mastered the art of staying in the game, no matter how lopsided the score. An overnight success has stayed present so that success can be a possibility, but a long time ago success stopped being the whole point.

An overnight success learned to do good work even when there was no one there to affirm it.

The greatest people who do the greatest things don’t care one lick about being called great.

Will you have the perseverance and passion to become an overnight success?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What is something that you cannot NOT do that you are striving to make an “overnight success”?


About Paul

Paul Angone is the creator of All Groan Up, a community for twentysomethings searching for self, faith, and a freaking job. Snag a free copy of his ebook 21 Secrets for your 20’s and follow him at @PaulAngone.



Categories: CareerPaul

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Career Avoidance 101 May 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Terrific post, Paul! it is a shame that our society is so obsessed with the “overnight success” myth; I believe it makes many people give up way too early, and leaves their unique and distinctive gift unoffered to the world. Whoa, that was way too heavy for a comment box…but the truth is, THAT is exactly what I cannot NOT do: I can’t stop trying to help people find their authentic paths – especially soon after college, when life is still super-malleable – and encouraging them to live those paths once they’ve found them. I’ve spent 10 years aiming to do this in my job teaching college students, and I hope to one day do it with a much larger audience. You know, like “tomorrow.” Ha! – Rebecca Fraser-Thill


Paul Angone May 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm

“I believe it makes many people give up way too early, and leaves their unique and distinctive gift unoffered to the world.”

Wheww…well said! Really like that truth Rebecca.

“I can’t stop trying to help people find their authentic paths” — Love that and am right there with you!


Jim Blake May 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Great post Paul – lots of wisdom here. I use the analogy of the Hawaiian island that slowly builds from the bottom of the ocean over 50 million years then one day – voila – it’s pops above the surface and green stuff starts to grow on it ( palm trees and money !)


Paul Angone May 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Thanks Jim. Always an honor to receive comments and compliments from you. The island metaphor is a great visual. When chasing our dreams it can definitely feel that long. We expect an all-access resort and instead are given a hunk of molten rock!


Susan @ Travel Junkette May 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

So true, Paul! There were a lot of great insights in here. I especially like the bucket + well analogy. Well done!


Paul Angone May 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Thanks Susan for the kind words. Let’s both keep carrying those buckets! There’s lots of people who need a drink of water.


Drew Tewell May 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I’m working on building my platform and I eventually want to be a best-selling author. It’s not easy, which you attest to in this post. Thanks for sharing, Paul!


Paul Angone May 21, 2013 at 12:52 am

Thanks Drew! You’re definitely a great example of someone who is pursuing success with perseverance and passion!


Sunanth Krishnan Nair May 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Awesome article. Always had a myth that celebrities had overnight success. But the examples and comparisons you provided in in this post have cleared my thoughts. Thank you….


Paul Angone May 21, 2013 at 12:53 am

Perfect. Thanks Sunanth.


Emily Lofgren May 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

Excellent post! I think we can get frustrated when things don’t go our way at first, but it’s important to remember to persevere.


Paul Angone May 21, 2013 at 12:54 am

Thanks Emily. I’ve found that sometimes the greatest gift of all is when it doesn’t go our way because most of the time our plan was much too small.


Alana May 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Love this!!


Paul Angone May 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Thanks Alana! I love your comment! :)


Ryan Chatterton May 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

“A true overnight success has simply mastered the art of staying in the game, no matter how lopsided the score. ”

Paul, I’ve been really feeling the truth of this lately. Ever since I decided to not continue with traditional education 5 years ago, I’ve hit my head on more than a few walls, embarrassed the hell out of myself, and spent WAAAY more money than I care to think about while trying to figure out how to provide an education solution to people that were/are like me. (apparently I’m also the king of run-on sentences today)

What have I gotten out of it?

1. Massive confidence (not always, but usually when it counts)
2. A diverse network of people I’ve helped that will offer me guidance and advice and sometimes a little elbow grease.
3. I’ve learned a slew of incredibly useful skills (out of necessity) that I’m now earning a little side/freelance income with.

The only additional advice I’d offer is, as you look ahead to the long road, stop worrying. You’re going to have to walk it no matter what. The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time? Now.


Paul Angone - All Groan Up May 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Ryan, amazing thoughts. Thank you for this well-written, well-thought out encouragement and advice. Love your extra tip. Couldn’t agree more. The road ahead will look way different than how you envisioned it. Keep walking and enjoy the scenery along the way.


KelliSho83 May 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Couldn’t have said it better myself Paul. We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm and waiting for anything is an annoyance, which has created a lot of twentysomethings who tend to have a skewed perception of the amount of time it should take to attain “success”. As someone who is nearing the end of my 20’s (I’m 29) who does career advising with college students just entering their 20’s, this message of pursuing career goals with an attitude of perseverance and diligence is essential in addressing the anxiety many graduating students experience due to internal and external pressure to “make something of themselves” and find instant success as soon as they graduate. Dispelling the myth of “overnight success” helps normalize the reality that achieving big goals is a long/ongoing yet rewarding process. ~Kelli


theresamilstein June 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Drew Tewell just directed me to this post. I’m glad I visited. We writers want it to happen. We hear it happening to others. Why aren’t we getting published? I’m in this 7 years without the book coming out. But I’m still trying. Like you said, no matter how frustrated I get, I can’t NOT do it. Good luck with your book!


Davis Nguyen January 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Beautiful Paul.


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