Success Stories

5 Inspiring Guys Who Prove Overnight Success Is BS

5 Inspiring Guys Who Prove Overnight Success Is BS
Image credit: REUTERS | Gus Ruelas
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A coaching client recently said to me, “We are lucky to be able to do what we love for a living.”


Luck is buying a Powerball ticket and beating one in 292,201,338 odds to win the grand prize. Luck has nothing to do with being an entrepreneur. It’s all about hard work -- working your ass off and continuing to work your ass off, regardless of how many times you fail and how many people tell you that you will never make it.

The harder you work, the luckier you appear to be from the outside looking in. Here are some examples of successful individuals that crush the overnight success myth.

1. James Dyson

Have you heard of Dyson vacuum cleaners? You probably have, and there is also a good chance you have one at home. Dyson has become one of the most popular and successful vacuum manufacturers, thanks to the relentless entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, James Dyson.

Related: How Growing Up With Nothing Equipped Me to Run a Billion-Dollar Company

Dyson is personally worth $5 billion -- a net worth he didn’t acquire through luck. Dyson knows a thing or two about failure -- there were 5,127 failed prototypes before his first model was proven successful. This journey also took 15 years, far from an overnight success. While some entrepreneurs might have called it quits after a dozen failed prototypes and a few years of trying, Dyson didn’t give up.

2. Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk took his family’s wine business from $3 million to more than $60 million in five years after finishing college. How? He worked -- from early in the morning to late at night, seven days a week. He dedicated his entire existence to learning everything he could about the business and put every ounce of effort into its growth.

Was it luck? No, it was his relentless grind that was responsible for the success.

After that, he founded his agency, VaynerMedia, became an investor in several successful startups, published multiple books and became a notable keynote speaker. Tell Vaynerchuk that he’s lucky -- I’d love to see the expression on your face when you hear his response.

3. George R. R. Martin

The Game of Thrones creator is enjoying plenty of success these days -- the hit HBO series just took home a dozen Emmys and Cinemax just purchased the rights to his 1989 work, Skin Trade. Martin has been an author for decades, and throughout the years he has built up his fan base. 

He didn’t wake up one day and think to himself, “I’m going to write a script and storyline and shoot it over to HBO. I should be an overnight success in the morning.” A large percentage of the millions of people that tune in every week to watch that show probably never heard of Martin prior to the TV series becoming incredibly popular. He’s been writing for decades -- you can't say he didn't put in the work.

Related: These Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs Once Were Homeless

4. Bill Gates

Bill Gates is the world’s richest person, still, worth a reported $79.2 billion. It’s a list he has been on the top of for 16 years, but he didn’t magically become lucky and build up a massive fortune. He worked for it -- and experienced failure along the way.

Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data, didn’t make any money. It wasn’t successful, but it did provide a learning experience that Gates and his partner Paul Allen used for their next venture -- Microsoft. What if Gates packed it in and called it a day after he failed? If that happened, I can promise you that his net worth and our technology landscape wouldn’t be what it is today.

5. Colonel Sanders

Did Colonel Sanders, at age 56, become an overnight success when he founded Kentucky Fried Chicken? Hardly. His fried chicken recipe was rejected more than 1,000 times and he held a number of odd-ball jobs, from steam-engine stoker to gas-station attendant, before his entrepreneurial journey started -- founding a company that manufactured acetylene lamps.

The company failed, but that didn’t stop him. He believed in his chicken recipe, starting a roadside restaurant and later seeing the opportunity that franchising presented.

Do you have any other good examples to add to the list? If so, include them in the comments section below.

Related: 10 People Who Became Wildly Successful After Facing Rejection