Have you ever heard the term “overnight success”? An overnight success is a person or organization who saw their dream come true. They moved from anonymous to celebrity very quickly without much explanation. They seem to go from unknown, normal, nobody to important, celebrity, and influential in a very brief time. This person might be covered by the media, gain some notoriety and even influence their corner of the world in a significant way.
We love the overnight success story. It drives many people’s desire to get rich, to be famous, and to succeed in life.
The truth is I’ve yet to experience that story myself. I think you’re probably haven’t either.
I started thinking about overnight success during a “normal” night in the Savage house.
Our family was behind schedule all evening. We changed dinner plans at the last minute. My wife was spent from work and wanted to go to bed early. We lost our last pacifier, so I had to make a Target run. Sheets were dirty from somebody wetting the bed, so laundry began at a late hour. Lunches for the next day! How could we forget? The floor needed to be cleared, so no one stepped on Thomas the Train at 2am and fell to their death. And I had a list of projects I wanted to work on once everyone went to sleep.
While driving back from Target, I started thinking about how difficult it is to be hyper-energized in this season of life. I have lots of goals, but I find myself taking smaller and smaller bites out of them than I would like.
As I began reflecting on the progress I’ve was making on my goals for 2015, I was suprised by what I call The Power of Compound Effort.
To understand compound effort, you have to first understand compound interest. According to one site, “Compound interest is interest added to the principal of a deposit or loan so that the added interest also earns interest from then on. This addition of interest to the principal is called compounding.”
Compound effort works the same way. Our small efforts over time off-stage and out of the spotlight, compound upon one another, eventually producing what appears “overnight” – a moment of visible success (or sadly, failure). We know the effort and intentionally have been far from overnight. But, for others, the awareness and attention seem to have come “overnight.”
Several years ago, I watched a leadership talk from author, Craig Groeschel. Craig was speaking on generational tension. In one section, he addressed Millenials – my generation (born between roughly 1980 and 1997). He said, “You think too short-term. You over-estimate what you can do in two years, but you underestimate what you can accomplish in ten.” That observation convicted me and has lingered in my mind.
Have you considered how we regularly underestimate what we can accomplish over time through the power of compound effort?
We see a mentoring opportunity and think, “that’s only an hour a week; how much good could that do?” We fail to recognize what 150-200 sessions over four years could mean in the life of a young boy or girl.
We fail to consider what could happen if we cut 500 calories from our daily diet (a dessert or a couple unhealthy snacks) and decided to walk for at least 20 minutes. We could change our bodies if we kept this up week after week.
We miss how many meaningful conversations we could have with our spouse or our kids if we developed a weekly (or even daily) tradition of focused time together.
This is going to sound crazy, but what if you fasted from some football this fall? If you watched one less college game and one less pro game for a whole season, you would get 120 hours back. That’s 3 full work weeks or 5 entire days back. I know a guy who gave up football entirely one year and by the end of the season, he’d finished writing a 90,000 word book.
If you gave up 15 minutes of your lunch break every day for a year and read one page per minute, that would add up to 3,750 minutes or pages. You’d read somewhere between 10 and 15 books.
If you listened to the Bible on your commute every day, you could have the entire thing finished in less than a year. And you’d be a lot less depressed than if you listened to political talk radio!
For me, I got the impact of compound effort when I embraced my identity as a writer and began setting some goals for my writing.
I did the math. If I wrote 250 words (think 1 page, double-spaced) every day for a year, I’d have 91,250 words when I was done.
It’s this daily writing habit that has helped me write one new 1,000 word blog each week this year, finish and submit my book proposal to multiple publishers and get 18 guest posts accepted for other websites. And I still have half of 2015 to go!
I realized that while I was only seeing small steps and a little progress at a time, I was making more progress than I realized!
I’m not sure what you’re dreaming about or what project you would tackle if you “had more time”. But I’m sure there is something on your heart. I wonder if you’re capable of making more progress than you think. I wonder if you’re making more progress than you know!
I want to challenge you to rethink how much could change over the next year. If you intentionally took a little bit of time and shifted your use of it every day, I think you would be surprised the difference it would make. Six months, a year or five years later, other people might call it “overnight success” but you would know the real story! Before you put something off – a dream or a calling, shift your perspective and consider if the power of compound effort could make possible what you previously thought was impossible.