The Dirty Little Secret Of Overnight Successes

As Chris Dixon pointed out in a recent blog postAngry Birds, the incredibly popular game, was software maker Rovio’s 52nd attempt. They spent eight years and nearly went bankrupt before finally creating their massive hit.

James Dyson failed in 5,126 prototypes before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum cleaner. Groupon was put on life support and nearly shut down at one point in its meteoric rise.

When looking at the most successful people and organizations, we often imagine geniuses with a smooth journey straight to the promised land. But when you really examine nearly every success story, they are filled with crushing defeats, near-death experiences, and countless setbacks.

We often celebrate companies and individuals once they've achieved undeniable success, but shun their disruptive thinking before reaching such a pinnacle. Before Oprah was Oprah, before Jobs was Jobs, they were labeled as misguided dreamers rather than future captains of industry.

In your life, you've probably had a setback or two. When you stumble, it's tempting the throw in the towel and accept defeat. There's always an attractive excuse waiting eagerly, hoping you'll take the easy way out. But the most successful people forge ahead. They realize that mistakes are simply data, providing new information to adjust your approach going forward.

The ubiquitous WD-40 lubricant got its name because the first 39 experiments failed. WD-40 literally stands for "Water Displacement—40th Attempt." If they gave up early on like most of us do, we'd sure have a lot more squeaky hinges in the world. 

You have a mission to accomplish and an enormous impact to make. You will inevitably endure some "failures" along your journey, but you must realize that persistence and determination have always been primary ingredients in accomplishment. 

Don't cave to your mistakes, embrace them. In fact, mistakes are simply to the portals of discovery. There's an old saying that "every bull’s-eye is the result of a hundred misses." So the next time you feel the sting of failure, just realize you're likely one shot closer to hitting your target.

And who knows? Maybe after a few dozen failures and months or years of hard work, you might just be that next "overnight" success.

For more insight on creativity and innovation, visit

[Image: Flickr user Dillon Hinson]

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  • Ma. Rizza

    In every Failure's that we undergo in life has a purpose.   We may fall down a million times but we can still stand up and continue to move forward. More motivated to start all again and still  aiming high until we reach the  forever SUCCESS!

  • Killdozer92

    Good article. In life, most importantly the desire to do something. without desire does not work

  • Kondás Anikó

    Minden olyan nehéznek tűnik, de nem adom fel Remélem a küzdelmem, az akarásom szerensét hoz majd.

  • Thushara Rathnayake

    Very nice posts. I'm a beginner to this but yet I think I'm learning a lot from every time I fail. 

  • sunshinesuyam

    true...every person has a mission in their life they just need to think how they going with it.

  • Sakso_951

    Човек трябва първо да определят неговата / нейната истинска същност, си постави за цел по линии с неговата страст и след това отиде за целта с пълна сила и хъс! 
    Успехът е длъжна да следва!

  • Jymmanuel Labanes

    This articles motivates and enlightens me a lot. Thanks for the reminders. Great post!

  • aegeus

    Everything  is perfect with this article but the title is really wrong.

    Article says .. success is a collection of failures and title says over night success.,,

    come on that's contradictory..

  • Sean Isaacs

    Failure is one of those words that is not understood. Most people think of failure as final. Thanks for reminding us that by the sweat our our brow we eat bread. Nothing worth while comes easy. Or said another way, that which cost nothing is worth nothing!  I really liked this line: "They realize that mistakes are simply data, providing NEW information to adjust your approach going forward."

  • Raj

    Great motivational article,
    followed by some great comments from the readers!
    Absolutely true,failures are failures only if you stop moving ahead and give up on your goal,else,they are just setbacks that should prompt one to alter the approach to suit the track that leads to the goal...!
    Reminds me of another quote I read while growing up and remember many times...
    The heights the great men reached and kept,
    Were not attained in sudden flight...(even though it may seem overnight success to onlookers)
    But they,while their companions slept,
    Were toiling upwards in the night....!
    One should first Identify his/her true self,set a goal in lines with his passion and then go for the goal with full strength and zeal!!
    Success is bound to follow! :)

  • Neema F

    Having read the book "How They Did It" by Robert Jordan is a great book to read if you want to know what companies did to be successful.  And these aren't the typical companies you hear everyday.  These are companies started by people who you look on the street and wouldn't guess they could be worth $50M or more.  

    And something else to think about is for every successful company or person you read about, it's interesting to know how many others tried and weren't as successful.  Just like with the news.  You only hear about the 1 plane crash but don't hear about the 1,000 planes that land safely per day.

    Some things to think about...


  • shivaranjanisridhar

    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

    Winston Churchill"
    Very gd article... Tnx...