The Benefits Of Succeeding Slowly.

The dark side of chasing overnight success.

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

If you’re trying to succeed at almost anything in the digital age there’s one thing you’ll be painfully aware of: it’s possible to succeed faster.

You’ll have seen more articles and videos than you can count about somebody who was able to achieve what you’re trying to achieve in a weekend. Your newsfeeds will mysteriously start filling up with ads about how some young hot-shot made millions of dollars in less than a year with one simple trick.

And best of all, you can do it too! All you need to do is buy this course or listen to that podcast or attend the other seminar. And you’re tempted. After all, why waste your time struggling alongside all the suckers when you can just fast-track your way to success?

Of course, it hardly ever works that way. Yes, every now and then some wunderkind manages to catch lightning in a bottle. They see an opportunity so specific or time a product so serendipitously that people are throwing money at them faster than they can grab it. We hear all about these people because the story of the bold, feisty visionary who moved fast and won big, gets more ad clicks than a story about how hard work and diligence paid off in the end.

But the truth is that the latter is true much more often than the former. Most of the time, success is a slow, methodical slog. A war of attrition against the desire to give up. But nobody dreams about that. We all want to be among the 0.1% who strikes oil on their first drill. But then we don’t. So when we read the stories of the people who were lucky enough to do so, we feel like shit.

This is why it’s so soul-crushing to be stuck on the grind. It sucks to be making videos that nobody is watching or writing articles that nobody is reading or shipping products that nobody is buying. And it sucks even worse because we know that somebody out there tripled our success on their first try. Anything less than instant success feels like failure. And if your gameplan is to replicate the unlikely success of our wunderkind, you’re almost guaranteed to fail.

But judging yourself by the standards of somebody who didn’t have to struggle to get where you want to be, whether they got there through genius you don’t have or luck you don’t have, leaves you unprepared for the work you’re going to need to do. You’re going to have to compensate for your lack of genius and luck, and that means you’re going to have to work like the rest of us mere mortals.

The expectation of instant success works on your adult brain similarly to the way gifted child syndrome works in children’s. For those of you who are unfamiliar, gifted child syndrome describes a condition where a child who has been successful throughout their early years at school comes to expect that success will always be this easy.

They coast through school without much effort. They ace tests without the need to revise or do homework. They’re naturally gifted at anything they turn their hands to. They’ve always been a step or two ahead of the people around them and so they believe that they always will be. Until one day, they aren’t. They reach a point, as all of us do, where the only way to progress is to work. To struggle. To persevere. But they haven’t needed to develop these skills.

Children with gifted child syndrome, despite their natural talents, often go on to perform worse in life than their less gifted counterparts, because they failed to develop the all-important ability to overcome adversity.

This is the same trap as the desire to achieve instant success. What we’re really trying to do is avoid adversity. Don’t get me wrong, we’d all love to avoid adversity. But the overwhelming majority of us won’t be able to. Success is hard, otherwise, everybody would do it. Believing that there’s a secret that will make success easy only lowers your chances of conquering the adversity you’re almost certain to face.

Once you believe that success should be easy, you convince yourself it’s time to quit whenever you don’t see the graph moving up and to the right. You’re compelled to move on to the next thing which you hope will bring you the instant success you crave. And when that doesn’t work either, you move on from that. On and on. If you think like this for too long you become paralysed by the inability to face yet another failure.

It might sound trite, but the only way not to fail is to keep going. Success is about finding something that you’re willing to persist at. Something that you believe in so strongly that you won’t let yourself stop, even when it doesn’t work out as you hoped. We all want to succeed quickly, but the people who do most often, are the ones who are willing to succeed slowly.

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I mainly write about meditation, content creation and personal development. But don’t let that fool you.

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