At a time when everything can be gotten in an instance, having to wait for anything feels completely unacceptable. This is particularly true for our careers. Most of us know that good things take time, but when we’re bombarded with images of people living it up after quitting their 9-to-5 jobs, influencers earning a fat paycheck for posting pictures on Instagram and Kardashians enjoying a ton of money and fame for simply existing, it’s easy to think that patience and hard work are for suckers, and instead set your sights on overnight success.
So what happens when you start chasing that new career idea and you find that you can’t catch a break within a couple of months? You grow frustrated, feel like a failure for not being able to do what other insta-famous women have done, quit and go back to what you know (and hate). But that’s where you’re going wrong. Overnight success is a myth and buying into it is keeping you stuck living a life that’s less than you deserve. Don’t believe us? Here are the backstories of six women you think enjoyed overnight success but didn’t.
Entrepreneur, media mogul, inspirational leader, actress, talk show host – you name it and Oprah has probably done it. And while she’s the one person many ambitious women aspire to be like, it took a lot of hard work, rejection and perseverance to get to where she is today. Did you know that after scoring a dream job as a co-anchor for the local news, Oprah was deemed ‘unfit for TV’, removed from her anchoring role and made to work in a lower profile role? Fortunately, she didn’t let the opinion of one company stop her. Instead, she went on to revive a small, failing morning show, AM Chicago, into what became ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.
You’ve probably heard this story before, but it’s worth repeating. Today JK Rowling may be a multi-millionaire author, but not only did she make her career change later in life, it also didn’t get off to a good start. By her early 30s, she was a divorced single mother who was living on benefits. Despite this, she started to write what became the ‘Harry Potter’ series. And even after discovering that writing was her ‘thing’, her book was rejected by 12 different publishers before she finally sold the rights to ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’.
Love her or hate her, this is one misunderstood lady. Everyone thinks Kim K owes all her fame to her rich father and a leaked sex tape, but the truth is that she’s had to think like a shrewd businesswoman to turn 15 minutes of fame into the multi-million dollar empire she has today. From workout videos to running clothing stores, producing Keeping Up With the Kardashians and various spin-off shows, launching apps and creating makeup lines, this is one lady who has spent the last 10 years hustling to keep herself relevant. And while you may not love her tactics, you can’t deny that they’ve worked.
This woman seemed to appear from nowhere, blowing up the charts with her first hit Just Dance, back in 2008. But what only her die-hard fans realise is her success was anything but instant. Despite being super talented (she learned to play the piano when she was 4 years old!) she started her career writing songs for children’s audiobooks and playing in a band that never hit the big time. She then tried her hand at electropop before getting a record deal with Def Jam Records in 2006. Just three months later, the company dropped her. She had to pick herself up again and start doing gigs at burlesque shows before finally getting the record deal that led to her fame.
Queen Bey is another lady who seems to have rocketed straight to the top. Even though she found fame at the young age of 16, she had been working for it since she was six years old. While most of us were playing with dolls and eating mud pies at that age, Bey was travelling the US attending auditions, singing in choirs and talent shows, and basically building the career we see and take for granted today.
She may be starring alongside Will Smith, Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio these days, but we remember when Margot Robbie was cringey Donna Freedman in Aussie soap Neighbours! Rumour has it that she worked her backside off to make her dream of acting a reality, from working three jobs simultaneously when she was 16, to moving across Australia to start acting and taking roles in commercials, Margot hustled hard to make a name for herself. Even after moving to Hollywood to chase the big time, she was passed over for roles in a TV remake of Charlie’s Angels, and the US TV series she was finally chosen for, Pan AM, was dropped after one season.
We could go on, but we think you get the point. From the outside, these ladies look like their killer careers just fell into their laps. However, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Now think about that overnight success you measure yourself against and ask yourself: how sure am I that their success happened as quickly as I think it did? Sadly, we still live in a time where a lot of people downplay their failures and avoid sharing how they got to where they are today. Whether this is done out of embarrassment or because they want to cash in on teaching you the ‘secret’ to their success, the end result is the same: you end up holding yourself up to a standard that doesn’t exist in reality.
The take-home message?
Forget about finding shortcuts that you hope will get you to the top in record time and instead focus on creating a realistic action plan that you know will get you to where you want to be… even if it takes a little longer than you’d like. After all, what’s your hurry?
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