How to Become an Overnight Success

Image “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success”

– Biz Stone, Co-Founder of Twitter, Blogger and Xanga

Sorry, I cheated on the title. I couldn’t agree with Stone more. My version of this quote is: to become an overnight success, it takes ten years of failure. That’s what Stone is really saying.

In the past 2 weeks, a friend of mine just got cheated on by his other co-founders and got booted out. Another founder just sold his beloved guitar so he could have money for food. Yet another friend just fired all his employees and his 3-year old startup is shutting down.

As a young entrepreneur, you’re going to spend almost all of your time failing. That’s what this post is really about. If you want to become an overnight success, you have to be willing to endure failing over and over and over again. You’ll be miserable, lonely and depressed. In public. You’ll fail in front of all your friends and family. And it will suck. You will think you are worthless, and you will have very few friends that you can talk about this with since few can understand.

Kabam, the very successful mobile & social gaming company, run by my friend Kevin was started in 2007. They spent 3 years going nowhere and mostly failing. I had lunch with him at a restaurant in Mountain View back then and he was sharing his concerns on how he was raising a new investment round, and if it didn’t go through, the company might shut down.

Failing is OK. It is normal. In fact, it is REQUIRED if you want to make your start-up work.

My friend Nate left his job at an investment bank nearly 3 years ago to do a startup for local reviews. That failed. He then started a daily-deal site. That failed. And he funded all this with the little personal savings he had. But in the process, he learned how to make tons of cold calls every day in trying to reach merchants. He does 200+ cold calls per day. That’s 199 more than most CEOs I know. He then used this skill to build a new business selling research data to daily deal sites that he was initially trying to compete with. And his business has now become profitable. I couldn’t be happier for him.

In a competitive race you win when the other runners can no longer bear the lactic acid build-up in their muscles. You win because you can tolerate pain better. In start-ups, if you can endure failure better and longer than everyone else, you will come out a winner.


30 thoughts on “How to Become an Overnight Success

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