The Reality of The Overnight Success…It’s 10 Years in the Making!




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My guess is that many of you who read this blog suffer from the self-imposed belief that you always have to be “on” and “productive”. You’re a SERIAL ACHIEVER that has a hard time shutting it off and shutting it down. You always have to be learning. When you’re not learning you’re taking action and applying what you’ve learned.

You’re almost always doing one of the following:

You’re Producing.

You’re Creating.

You’re Planning.

You’re Teaching.

You’re Taking Massive Action.

Rinse & Repeat!

It’s what we know will get us everything we desire in this life.

People like us realize that if you don’t go to work building your own dream, you’ll end up living your whole life building someone else’s dream. We take solace in the fact that we can and will design the life we desire through pure AMBITION if necessary. We will overcome the lack of innate talent by out working and out learning those that are naturally more gifted then we are.

We realize that compound effort is just as powerful as compound interest.

We innately know that those who never stop learning will always have the knowledge edge.

We have internalized the concepts of The Slight Edge.


We accept the fact that any signs of visible progress will be almost invisible when starting out our exponential ascent. In the early stages of our journey, visually there appears to be very little if any difference between taking action and doing nothing. However, we are not fooled.

We know the story of the penny doubled for 30 days. The one where two brothers are faced with a decision. Either take $1M today or a penny doubled for 30 days. One brother takes the $1M as if it were a no brainer decision (represents most people). The brother who takes the $1M is not only short sighted, but suffers from the ability to only think in a linear fashion. The other brother possess foresight and wisdom and realizes the power of the exponential curve.

Let’s quickly indulge ourselves in how the next 30 days play out for the brother that chooses a penny doubled for 30 days.

Day 0 – You have $0.01

Day 1 – You have $0.02

Day 2 – You have $0.04

Day 3 – You have $0.08

Day 4 – You have $0.16

Day 5 – You have $0.32

Day 6 – You have $0.64

Day 7 – You have $1.28

Day 8 – You have $2.56

Day 9 – You have $5.12

Day 10 – You have $10.24

Day 11 – You have $20.48

Day 12 – You have $40.96

Day 13 – You have $81.92

Day 14 – You have $163.84

Day 15 – You have $327.68

Day 16 – You have $655.36

Day 17 – You have $1,310.72

Day 18 – You have $2,621.44

Day 19 – You have $5,242.88 (at this point the brother is yelling “I told you so”)

Day 20 – You have $10,485.76

Day 21 – You have $20,971.52

Day 22 – You have $41,943.04

Day 23 – You have $83,886.08

Day 24 – You have $167,772.16 (brother again “You should have taken the $1M”)

Day 25 – You have $335,544.32

Day 26 – You have $671,088.64

Day 27 – You have $1,342,177.28 (brother says nothing, but has disbelief on his face, thinking “how could this happen”)

Day 28 – You have $2,684,354.56

Day 29 – You have $5,368,709.12

Day 30 – You have $10,737,418.24

At the end of the 30 days the brother who chose the $1M feels cheated. He feels unlucky.

I love this story!

But where am I going with all of this?

The other day I was chatting with a friend on Google Hangouts. We were catching up on life and careers. Our conversation is what prompted this post today and it went something like this:

Friend: So, that VP role you’re up for this summer?

GYFG: Yeah…

Friend: 3 years ago you were a Senior Financial Analyst. How is this happening???

Friend: you make me feel so behind in life
GYFG: It’s one of those things…I am telling you if you set your goals and pursue them relentlessly things start to happen!
All of a sudden you look like an overnight success to everyone…

The reality is that it was 10 years in the making.

How do you make what appears to be quantum leaps?

1 – You outwork all your co-workers

2 – You never stop learning

3 – Invest in yourself constantly

4 – Develop skill sets outside of your current role

5 – Help as many people as you can get what they want. The universe has a law that when you do this, you will always get what you want.

At the end of the day its a lot of work, and most people are not willing to pay the price. That is not good or bad, you just have to be honest with yourself and what you want. And figure out if the sacrifice is worth it or not.

The ladder to the top is never as crowded as people think it is.

Most people will sizzle out.

They will get content and lazy.

Off my soap box!

This conversation was the genesis of this post. When you operate your life on the principles of the The Slight Edge philosophy, one day you will look like an overnight success to all those around you…at least the ones not operating on same Slight Edge philosophy as you.

What they fail to realize is that you were playing the long game and that your major successes were 10 years in the making. Most people are confused and have somehow been brainwashed to believe that success is something that happens too you, as if some magical force in the universe chooses who will be blessed with the gift of success.

In reality we make our own success!

The moral of the story?

That’s for you to decide. This is just a story that I felt compelled to share. I hope it forces you to think. I hope it moves you to action.

What say you? What do you think the moral of this story is?

-Gen Y Finance Guy

Gen Y Finance Guy

Hey, I’m Dom - the man behind the cartoon. You’ll notice that I sign off as "Gen Y Finance Guy" on all my posts, due to the fact that I write this blog anonymously (at least for now). I like to think of myself as the Chief Freedom Officer here of my little corner of the internet. In the real world, I’m a former 30-something C-Suite executive turned entrepreneur turned capital allocator. I am trying to humanize finance by sharing my own journey to Financial Freedom. I believe in total honesty and transparency. That is why before I ever started blogging, I decided that I would share all of my own financial stats. I do this not to brag, but instead to inspire motivate, and also to hold myself accountable. My goal is to be a beacon of hope, motivation, and inspiration, for you, the reader, by living life by example and sharing it all here on the blog. My sincere hope is that you will be able to learn from me - both from my successes and my failures! Read More



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30 Responses

  1. For me they key has always been the slow and steady. It’s not the burst of energy, the new idea or the new year’s resolution. It’s setting up a routine. To borrow from a friend, it’s the power of a 1000 workouts and a 1000 healthy meals. You can only achieve big dreams if you integrate your goal into the fabric of your life.

    1. Totally agree Biglaw Investor. It is hard to become successful in any endeavor without getting in your reps consistently over time.

  2. Absolutely, along that pursuit of success the money will come. You will end up getting what you’ve earned. Just like investing, it can be a long grind so stick with it.

    1. TGS – from my vantage point the problem that I see with too many people is they give up way too early. They give up right in the middle of what Seth Godin coined as “The Dip.” Quitting in the middle of the dip is the worst thing you can do. It is like giving up 5 feet from a Gold Mine. The start and stop of gaining and losing momentum kills peoples morale and they become jaded. Of course there is something to be said about knowing when to quit, but you can’t be one of those that quits after putting in so much effort, right when the damn thing is about to pay off.

  3. Very true, and it reminds me of the phrase, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. While there are some of us who have literally fallen into wealth, the great majority of us haven’t ben quite that “lucky”. Most of us work for the successes that we have, through good decision making and generally being aware of our surroundings…a skill that is sorely lacking in today’s cellphone-based society of distraction.

    1. Love that quote Steve! It feels so true and reminds me of another quote “luck is found at the intersection of preparedness and opportunity.” It take lots of preparedness (i.e. hard work) to increase your luck (i.e you ability to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you).

  4. Gen Y Finance Guy
    Improve by baby steps – take action but always keep your eye on the ball. Overtime, it’s not the incremental improvements and baby action taking steps that matter, even though it will feel like nothing. But after years of doing it, you will gain more and more momentum, accomplish more, be better and faster, more successful. You want to be able to look back over the last ten years and say wow, I can’t believe I accomplish that!

    Congrats on your journey to vp – sounds like you’ve deliberately been working on this for a long time and built up a lot of career capital. There’s a book about this:’ so good that they can’t ignore you’


  5. Excellent post. I am glad that you mentioned the value in helping others get what they want. I have always believed that in order to achieve personal success, one also has to look to build up others in the process.

  6. GYFG,

    So a shoe shine worker who spends her breaks reading romance novels could just as easily spend the same ten minutes reading books geared towards personal improvements. This will have ZERO impact on her life at first, but these invisible results of doing this daily will transform her life over time. After a year she will have read 10-12 life altering books that help her change her life’s course! HELL Yeah! I love this stuff. That book should be required reading in our school systems!


    1. I totally agree with you MDP! This should be required reading for every single person on the planet.

  7. Great story… Too many people out there think indeed that success comes and falls out of the sky. In reality, it is the result of a lot of hard work, over performing all the time, setting goals, focus.

  8. “They say it takes 15 years to become an overnight success. Coincidentally, it also takes 15 years to become a bitter failure!” – Marc Maron

    GYFG, you are killing it, no doubt. Never seen a career-trajectory like yours. Awesome. Continued success to you, Sir!

    1. Love it JayCeezy!

      It is also completely feasible to become both an overnight success and a failure in 15 years time in my opinion. Actually, in order to even appear like an overnight success I would argue that you have to be willing to fail at a lot of things. Without the ability to accept and embrace failure it is hard to learn and grow into the person you must become to be a shining success.

      I have always believed that failures are the stepping stones to success.


  9. Half the battle is showing up and as I progress in my career, it becomes apparent people aren’t as willing to do that. When I first started working after college I was like “shit I have to compete against all my peers.” But then I realized just hanging around opens up a ton of opportunities since they seem to disappear as time goes on and my “competitors” become fewer and fewer. If you add a little hard work and effort on top of that… oh baby.

    1. FF – I agree, you quickly realize that if your willing to put in the work and go the extra mile there really is no such thing as competition.

      Congrats on your recent move and remote work assignment!

  10. Completely agree! Whenever I tell my friends about my career success, they always say something like “You must have a horseshoe up your @ss” and attribute it all to luck LOL. In reality, it’s a strategic thing. I shrug it off as luck most times though because it’s uncomfortable to point it out. Depends on the friend.

  11. Thanks for this. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, behind on things across all facets of my life, and like I need a kick in the butt lately. Time to keep climbing!


  12. 100% agree with you here Dom! I suppose for me my ladder is really against a different (non-corporate) wall rather than putting the “slight edge” in play in the corporate domain..

    Would you say that this is a caveat i.e. you’ve gotta apply the slight edge and become an overnight success in an area you value or is this an excuse? Suppose only the person living the life knows this one although it’s a question I often ponder for myself and others

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