The myth of the overnight sensation

“I give without expectation and am grateful for the result”.


When I was young I was driven. I felt like I was running a race against the clock (with my career). I was so stubborn that I figured if I worked hard and long enough I could force my dreams to come true. I was so determined to reach my goal that I wasn’t aware of the negative aspects of my behavior. 

In fact, instead of creating the life I had always dreamt of the opposite was true. Sure. I had some successes.  In reality my myopic field of vision was more limiting than liberating.  What was I missing?

It took me a long time to understand that my impatience was the result of my futile attempts to control my reality. Sometimes my impetuous nature worked for me. More times than not I would end up shooting myself in the foot in my pursuit of a mysterious, undefined goal. 

The concept of “overnight success” makes for great press but is only a portion of the story. What is less glamorous and unseen is the dedicated effort that supports such an explosion of recognition. We don’t see the personal strength required for these individuals to keep going in the face of real and imagined obstacles. We aren’t privy to their manufactured reality. We aren’t aware of their faith in themselves that  they will succeed in achieving their goals. More importantly, we aren’t aware of how serendipitous events have affected the eventual outcome.  Is the random nature of their accomplishment out of their control?

Accomplishing anything of value requires hard work. No doubt about it. We can measure our hours spent and our incremental progress. What we can’t measure is the role seemingly random events play in our success or failure:  

  • A chance meeting with someone who can change your life. 
  • Why you happen to notice someone in a crowded room or, how a conversation with a stranger can help you move down your path. 
  • How many times does self-absorption limit our opportunities?

“We are all inundated with opportunities every day. Our biggest challenges are to know those possibilities exist and which ones to choose.” 

If you accept that your self-worth has nothing to do with what you do, it will become apparent that there is more to life than simply controlling your perception of reality. Your life is the sum total of everything  in your life. How you eat. How you dress. Where you live. The people you spend time with. 

My life changed radically when I came to this realization. A wonderful therapist once made this comment to me: “just think of what you would be  capable of if you put as much effort into every aspect of your life as you do your music”. Definitely was food for thought.

After much reflection and deliberation I decided my focusing on my self-perceived reality was doing more harm than good. In fact, I was blindly limiting myself to what made me comfortable. The risks of letting go were too scary. With no guarantees or specific guides to follow, I decided to embark on a new journey of self-discovery and self-growth.

 “Consistent effort over time breeds results”

As I put more and more effort into expanding my comfort zone the most amazing thing happened. I was happier. I became healthier. I had more energy. I was more open to new experiences and was less defensive when people disagreed with me. I was able to listen. The triggers that would have caused me to retreat became more manageable because I had a new toolset to support me.

 In time I realized that I had nothing to lose by giving freely of myself. In fact: I had everything to gain. I no longer had to live in fear and be self-protective. I could be my authentic self. In hindsight it seems obvious that I was setting the stage to take advantage of random events when they occurred...armed with the courage and strength to know which to choose or ignore. 

This gave me the confidence to actively engage in my life and give without expectation because I knew I couldn’t control the outcome. I could only control the intent behind my actions.

 If your intent is to add value (by giving) instead of focusing on personal gain (what’s in it for me) happy accidents will occur more frequently. And soon, you’ll be able to be comfortable with the unknown and realize there are no accidents, only opportunities. There are no failures, only chances to learn. 

Now I understand what “I give without expectation and am grateful for the result” means. 

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