Sometimes it seems like overnight successes are popping up everywhere. They aren’t. People and companies can rocket into the spotlight overnight, but there was a long, unseen road leading up to that moment.
I was recently reminded of this when I was watching an interview with Hamilton writer Lin-Manuel Miranda. He was asked what he would say to someone out there listening who wanted to do what he did. He said:
“I would tell them… ‘Life’s not short, it’s long.’ … We write like ‘Oh my god, I gotta get this done. I gotta get it out. I gotta get it to the world.’ … How long it takes humbles you, to really get it right. You think, ‘Oh my gosh, look at this amazing first draft,’ and then you realize what ten whacks at it can do to it.”
It can seem like those around us are creating and achieving so quickly, so effortlessly, but the truth is the opposite. They are almost certainly working harder and longer than we are because that’s what success requires.
Miranda started working on Hamilton in 2008 and spent the entirety of 2009 writing just 1 of the musical’s 46 songs. It didn’t premiere off-Broadway until 2015. That means he was committed to creating the musical for 7 years before anyone saw it, 7 years before any theatre was booked or actors were cast, 7 years before anyone wrote a review. Do you have the guts to work on something for 7 years before seeing the results of your effort? That's what it takes.
To be successful you have be able to commit yourself to working on something day in and day out that might not produce benefits for years. It feels like faith, which is why so many people fail to do it. We want to know with certainty that what we are doing is worthwhile, but we can only know anything with certainty so far ahead. If we want to do great things, we have to be comfortable with a level of uncertainty.
Remember, ‘Life’s not short, it’s long.’ Start today and work every day. 7 years isn’t that long in the scheme of your life. Big dreams take a long time to build. Work on something every day for 7 years. Then you might find you’ve become an “overnight success.”