Can you be an overnight success?

23 Apr 2021

The story goes that once, a woman approached Pablo Picasso at a restaurant and asked him to draw her a portrait of her. Picasso grabbed a napkin and in a short time compiled her request, after which he said, “That will be $10,000.” Astonished, the woman told him that he only took 30 seconds to draw her portrait. Picasso replied, “No. It has taken me forty years to do that.” Moral of the story? There is no such thing as an overnight success, despite what a lot of people say. Success is a result of hard work and dedication. You cannot turn into a phenomenon within 24 hours. What we see is the tip of the iceberg – we don’t notice or talk about what came before, what made the person who he or she is today. 

Bill Gates

One of the richest people on the planet at a reported figure of $79.2 billion. What most people know about Gates is that he’s the Co-Founder of Microsoft Corporation and that he’s one of the most influential people in the world. That’s the tip of the iceberg. We talk about Microsoft but the story before that one was all about Traf-O-Data, Gates’ first company. The reason why we don’t hear about it as much is because it wasn’t successful at all and failed. Despite the setback, Gates and his business partner Paul Allen took all the negatives and perceived them as a learning experience to help them in their next venture, which went on to become the world’s premier software company. 

George R. R. Martin

The creator of Game of Thrones, he’s surely got to be an overnight success, right? He simply thought of the idea and jotted it down and got it published! Not quite. Martin had been writing for ages, but no one recognised his works before HBO premiered the TV series – yet, people still wouldn’t be sure who he is because they’d focus on the story rather than the author. He had been writing for decades, mastering his skill. Cinemax recently bought the rights for his other publication Skin Trade – a book he’d written back in 1989. Hence, Martin had put in ample work before getting the success he’s having now. 

Colonel Sanders

He went from job to job, from steam-engine stoker to gas-station attendant to entrepreneur. No, we’re not talking about the famous fried chicken franchise KFC, but a company that manufactured acetylene lamps. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry –it’s probably because his company failed soon after he’d launched it.  Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 56. How is this not an overnight success? Sanders had tried to sell his fried chicken recipe over and over, but no one wanted to buy it. Similar to Bill Gates, Sanders didn’t just give up, but he created a roadside restaurant selling fried chicken and it became a franchise soon after when he saw an opportunity to grow. 


Pinterest is one of the most-sought creative platforms online. However, this wasn’t always this case. The app was initially a mobile shopping app called “Tote,” allowing users to shop their favourite retailers. What Tote’s creators noted was that their users were using the app to place their favourite items in one single place rather than to shop their top brands. In 2010, it made the shift to become Pinterest, which went on to generate $1 billion in venture funding. In 2015, the app also reached $100 million in revenue. 

Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell created The 10,000 Hour Rule in his book Outliers, which he describes, “to become an expert in anything, you need to spend 10,000 hours practicing it.” In short, this rule states that anything good must be worked for and earned. Nothing simply comes overnight. This study was based on research by Anders Ericsson who is regarded as the “world expert on world experts”. Basically, Ericsson noted that what separates top performers from the rest is time – the time and effort put in to develop their skills.