7 ways to get the best out of (overnight) success stories

Mayank Batavia
5 min readNov 2, 2021
Source: Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

It’s quite human to dream of being successful, influencing many, many people’s lives and earning lots of money. Which is what makes ‘How I became a millionaire’ stories irresistible best-sellers.

Many of them are worth their weight in, ummm, gold (excuse the poor pun). They contain invaluable lessons we could learn from people who’ve earned a lot of money the nice way.

However — and there’s always a however — you must read between the lines too.

No, these stories aren’t lies — at least most aren’t.

What is not accurate is the way some of them make earning a million dollars sound a walk in the park.

That’s the crappy part of these stories.

I believe it would benefit all of us if we could read these success stories the right way. I mean, if we could keep a few caveats in mind, that’d be awesome.

Here are the 7 things I’d suggest bearing in mind while reading ‘overnight’ success stories.

1. Behind overnight success mostly lies months / years of work.

Working hard for a long time is a great deal easier once you find your purpose.

It’s just that the urge to get famous / rich often blinds us to the fact that there’s rarely — if ever — something like truly overnight success.

So when someone writes a post on how Jane Doe, age 16, sold her website for $1.5MN (or, “an disclosed amount”), ask Ms Doe things like:

  • Did she start at 9 or 10? Or earlier?
  • What was she doing when the rest of her gang was binge-watching GOT?
  • How many failures did she overcome prior?

Unless you get the context right, you’ll likely miss what it takes.

Source: Amazon

2. Sometimes, the idea can work only once.

And it can’t be replicated.

By the time you get to hear about the idea, it’s beaten to death.

By the time you get to hear about the idea, it’s beaten to death.

They’ve built a lead you can no longer overcome by copying — a technology lead, a skill lead, the first-mover advantage lead, a resource lead (not tough to beat, yet…), an influencer lead… whatever.

Your original ideas will still be worth in gold. But you can’t copy some ideas.

Screenshot of an article written by Tom Kuegler

3. These people are exceedingly nimble.

They’ll always find a way out of the situation. They’re extremely quick to respond to changes.

These people are extremely resourceful and won’t take a no for an answer.

They have honed their agility, like the killer dance moves here:

Source: YouTube video

They’ve honed that skill.

Success demands super-high agility too.

Success demands super-high agility too.

4. Don’t put everything at stake

What’s good for Jack isn’t good for Jill.

Jack may have quit a good job on a whim, slogged it out for a few months, lived out of his car, survived on free food in Gurdwaras, or returned empty Coke bottles, like our good old Steve did.

And came out a winner.

Jill has a different situation. A single mother of two kids. Some unpaid student loan. Housing mortgage.

Testing the water with both legs? Not the best thing for her.

Testing the water with both legs? Not the best thing for her.

Sure she’ll turn out successful. But in her own time. Not by burning all her bridges, selling every single asset to finance her dream project.

Screenshot from Sandipan Deb’s article on Satyajit Ray, Academy Honorary Award winner and perhaps India’s finest film director. You not Ray? Think twice before you clean out your savings to finance a dream project.

5. They were at the right place at the right time.

In retrospect, Facebook is one of the most obvious business ideas.

Giving a platform to people to let them reconnect with their family, old friends, ex-colleagues. To share photos, videos, stories… all for free.

It’s amazing.

But you can’t replicate their success. Try starting a Facebook-clone today.

Sometimes, it’s too late, often because of what’s called The Network Effect.

6. A few found a horse to ride.

A few found what Al Ries and Jack Trout call ‘a horse’ in their book Horse Sense (not affiliate link). They found a horse to ride.

There’s nothing wrong if your father-in-law pays your lease (Sam Walton’s did) in real life. It’s also okay if, like in fiction, a William Kane anonymously backs an Abel Rosnovski (that’s from Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer, in case you were wondering).

So sometimes people find extraordinary success by receiving help from surprising places.

So sometimes people find extraordinary success by receiving help from surprising places.

It doesn’t happen often, but then, not all success stories completely disclose this either.

7. Some ‘lessons’ have no value

Like I added this #7 to this list.

This one doesn’t really add any value. It’s just that I wanted the list to have 7 points instead of 6. Because someone told me listicles with odd-number of points fare better.

Similarly, the writer who’s writing How the West was Won by Mr M Zuckerberg may have identified 6 really cool things to learn.

But 6 doesn’t sound that great — or at least, not as great as 7.

So the writer makes up the 7th point. There, now you have a tidy list with 7 points, thank you.

Ignore it.

The lesson

The only lesson is this: Good old requirements of success — hard work, persistence, patience, an occasional piece of luck, insights, external help, timing — still hold good. And will continue to do so.

No one becomes rich, strong, powerful, successful just by reading.

People succeed when they put ideas into action.

May you find your mojo.

Note: All images are used for representative purposes only. They are not meant to critique, denigrate, evaluate or recommend one book, method or article over another.

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Mayank Batavia

Interested in AI, data privacy and our next-door dragon. Teach/Taught math. Love smart puzzles that I can’t solve, which means most. Run blog www.almostism.com