How To Become An Overnight Success

Taylor Hicks, Evelyn Adams, William “Bud” Post, Eldrick Woods, Suzanne Mullins, and Joanne “Jo” Rowling all have something in common. For at least one time in each of their lives, they were an overnight success.

Many Americans, at least, will recognize Taylor Hicks as a 2006 winner of the popular TV show, “American Idol”. British subjects have cause to be proud of Joanne “Jo” Rowling who is more easily recognized by her pen name, J. K. Rowling. Those who still don’t recognize her have almost certainly heard of the boy wizard she created who goes by the simple name of Harry Potter. Harry’s a bit of an overnight success himself, and he has taken J. K. Rowling along on a magical ride. Who’s Eldrick Woods? Oh, if I had just said Tiger Woods, you would have picked up on it right away, and where’s the fun in that?

Who are Evelyn Adams, William Post, and Suzanne Mullins? We’ll get to that in a moment.

There are essentially two ways to become an overnight success. Taylor Hicks, J. K. Rowling, and Tiger Woods exemplify the first way.

Taylor Hicks became an overnight success in the middle of 2006 when he won top spot on the “American Idol” TV show. That much many “American Idol” fans and music buffs around the world now know. What many don’t know, or even think about, is that Taylor Hicks spent a decade as an independent artist before his overnight success. Had you been at the Playboy Mansion, the Talledega Motor Speedway, or in Auburn, Alabama on the right night, you might have gotten to hear him perform. Over the years, he did get to perform with such legendary names as James Brown, Tom Petty, and Jackson Browne. However, up until the night he won the “American Idol” competition, HIS name was not exactly a household item.

Joanne Rowling was turned down by Oxford College in her younger days and worked variously as a researcher and secretary and also in Portugal as a teacher of English. In the early 90’s, she got the initial idea for the young wizard who eventually became Harry Potter, and began writing. She completed her first novel while she was unemployed. She was living at the time on what we in America would call “welfare”. When she first tried to market “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, a close friend, who was on her side, advised her to “get a day job” because he didn’t feel she had a chance to make much money in children’s books. The first printing run was one-thousand books and half of those were sent to libraries. Today, those first one-thousand books are each one a collector’s item in itself. While this ex-secretary and English teacher must surely be pleased by the fantastic income she has made from the Harry Potter books and movies, she is possibly even more pleased by the fact that in 2006, in a poll by “The Book Magazine”, J. K. Rowling was selected as “the greatest living British writer.”

Okay, so how did Tiger Woods get in a list of overnight successes?

Well, you may have seen a small trend in the mini-biographies of Taylor Hicks and J. K. Rowling. Although they fit into the category, even a cursory scanning of their lives shows they paid their dues for some time before success found them. In fact, the overnight success they experienced came about after years of disappointment, standing on the bottom rung of the ladder, and in some cases, not even being near the ladder.

Tiger Woods has been called by some a “golfing prodigy”, and that is not an unrealistic assessment. However, even a Tiger Woods does not get to where he is today by strapping on a set of cleats and wandering out onto a golf course with a nine iron and a dream. He learns, practices, fails, assesses, moves forward, falls down, gets up, and starts all over again.

In other words, an overnight success very seldom happens overnight. The success comes after a lot of effort on the part of the successful person.

After a memorable performance, a great pianist was approached by one of the audience. The fan spoke glowingly about the performance and finished with the remark that she wished that she could play as well. Perhaps with more truth than tact, the pianist replied to the effect that she was wrong. She could NOT genuinely wish to play as well as he. Otherwise, she would practice for hours a day year after year as he did, rather than simply “wishing” she could play as well.

Overnight success is so named from its apparently sudden appearance on one’s doorstep. However, success is not too good at finding people unless they have built a pathway for it to follow, and perhaps lit a beacon as well.

I mentioned that there are essentially two ways to become an overnight success, and I have concentrated on the first group for a reason. If you wish to join that group, YOU are the one in control of the situation. If you seriously want to be in the first group, you now have an idea of what you might need to do.

So, who are Evelyn Adams, William “Bud” Post, and Suzanne Mullins? They too were overnight successes. They each won a lottery.

Evelyn Adams actually was an overnight success twice. She won the New Jersey lottery in 1985 and 1986. She won a total of 5.4 million dollars. She lost it all, donating part of it to some needy Atlantic City slot machines. “Bud” Post won 16.2 million dollars in Pennsylvania but eventually wound up living on his social security. Suzanne Mullins won 4.2 million dollars in 1993. She lost all of it and went even deeper in debt through poor decisions on its use.

There’s another term sometimes used for an overnight success. That term is “flash in the pan”. Many people who are seeking what they see as success will often wind up as just a flash in the pan at best unless they are willing to get out the necessary tools and prepare the pathway so that success can find them.

Tiger Woods, J. K. Rowling, and Taylor Hicks were willing to build the pathway and keep it cleared. Their names will be familiar for years to come, and they can always claim the victor’s laurel wreath for becoming an overnight success.