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There’s No Such Thing as Overnight Success (Unless There Is…)

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There’s no such thing as overnight success. Unless there is.

I can’t go a day scrolling through social media without being barraged by advertisements that promise the silver bullet “Earn $200,000 in your first month with our training” or “Build the followers and fan base you deserve in 12 months.”

12 months. Really?

The fan base I deserve? Really?

To be completely honest, I’m feeling massively overwhelmed by the onslaught of personal brands served alongside a side order of celebrit-me. Like, as a result of following you, will I get an authentic you or a polished you?

At the same time, I’m really quite intrigued by the whole thing. Worse, the attention span of the general public in 2016 is about 10 seconds—just enough time to spit out a quick sentence and hope it sticks to the ears of as many listeners and viewers as possible. So as a result, the shine has to be shinier and the polish has to be more polished.

Because we’re boring without it. Consider the digital lives we’ve craftily carved for ourselves.

Authenticity is at Stake

But what’s at stake presently is authenticity. And I think that more than anything today, we’re both starved of and attracted to authentic people—people whose lives aren’t seemingly products of a proverbial Easy Bake Oven.

People who aren’t afraid of their scars.
People whose communication skills aren’t campaign-worthy.
People who don’t have all the answers.
People who aren’t encumbered by the need to make everyone happy all the time.
People who are comfortable in their own skin.

Like this awesome lady, Candace Payne.

You may not instantly recognize her by name, but you are most likely one of the 152 million (and climbing) people who have viewed her impromptu video—the video that was just meant for her friends on the “Internet webs.” Watch this:

She’s not a celebrity. Scratch that. She wasn’t a celebrity a few days before she posted her video on Facebook. She was just a mom with a contagious laugh, some Kohl’s returns, and an annoyingly enticing Chewbacca mask. But without the aid of tactical marketing, a slick landing page, a free eBook, and a hot YouTube channel, she became an overnight success. Luck of the draw? Providence? I don’t know. But my nerdy marketing brain likes to reverse engineer success stories like hers. And in the process of doing so, I wonder if the story behind her overnight success is so much more an issue of “why” than “how.”

You’re Trying Too Hard

Has anyone ever told you you’re trying too hard? If so, my guess is that somewhere along the line, some level of your effort or pursuit became unknowingly disingenuous. It’s not a statement to cause shame, but perhaps a clarion call to step back, refocus, and just be you. See, I think people are wising-up to the fact that authentic people are attractive people. Even more so, I believe that a lack of meaningful forward progress in life is caused by a lack of authenticity.

Candace Payne didn’t concoct a slick marketing plan that, when properly deployed, would cause a tidal wave of applause across the world. Nor was her video scripted. Instead, her over-the-top, quirky, authentic self totally exploded on screen. In a world of smoke and mirrors, she was the breath of fresh air our culture apparently needed in the right place at the right time. Candace said, “The best part about all of this is being able to share joy with people, hear stories of people coming out of depression. I had one lady message me and tell me that she has an autistic daughter that hadn’t laughed in two months. And she said every time she showed her the video, she laughed and laughed…”

Amazing.

As a result, 152 million people fell in love with her contagious joy…nearly overnight.

Spotlight Seekers vs. Legacy Builders

One of my core values is that we focus our attention upon whom we’re building so much more than what we’re building. It’s precisely why we must stay focused on building an impactful legacy when the clamor of culture shouts, “Look at me!” Your legacy is not established by what you have. Your legacy is established by who you have in your life.

Simply stated, you were meant to leave your mark, big or small, upon this world. The size of your mark does not matter as much as the intention and focus with which you leave your mark. Despite the illusion of the silver bullet to success, the fact is that not everyone will have access to personally reach millions of people. Some will have access to 100, some 10. The point is, make a dent with your life. Live intensely without regret and kick fear in the face. Don’t live passively, quiet, and understated, because whether you’re aware of this fact or not, you are unknowingly inspiring (or uninspiring) other people every single day.

That is a life characterized by significance. And who knows. Maybe a lot of public success will follow. But if it does, I do believe one of the key ingredients is authenticity.