The Time It Takes to Become an Overnight Success

The Time It Takes to Become an Overnight Success June 29, 2018

By Mike Glenn

One of the hottest musical artists in the nation right now is Chris Stapleton. His recent song, “Tennessee Whiskey” and the album it was on, “Traveler,” sold over 2 million copies. The song is a well-played twist on the typical Nashville drinking song. Instead of drinking, Stapleton sings to his wife that he’s quit drinking to get “high on your love all of the time.” That was 2015.

When the song first came out, everyone wanted to know who Chris Stapleton was. Well, if you had been paying attention around Nashville, you knew who he was. He had been around for years. Stapleton was the front man of the “Kentucky Headhunters.” He had written several songs that were recorded by major artists. In fact, he had been living in Nashville since 2001. His first solo album didn’t do so well, but when “Tennessee Whiskey” hit, he was an overnight success.

Fourteen years later, Stapleton is an overnight success.

One of the things they don’t tell you when you move to Nashville is how long it takes to become an overnight success.

Malcolm Gladwell writes it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any field. My guess is that’s the low end of what’s required. If you want to be good at something, really good, world changing good, it will cost you more than 10,000 hours. It will cost you your life.

I know you think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. Living in Nashville, I’ve had the privilege of knowing some world-famous musicians. Some of them are players. Some of them are writers and others perform. When you read the stories, when you know their lives, you find out they all have one thing in common.

What is that? They have no life.

They tour over 200 days a year. Do you know what that means? It means they get on bus in Nashville and drive to the first gig. They will sleep on the bus, workout, play cards, read, practice, go through sound check and do some radio shows. Then, they’ll play the show. If you’re the headliner you may not go on stage until 10 pm. You’ll play your heart out for an hour, maybe two, but certainly no more.

Why? Because the road crew has to pack up all of the staging and equipment to load it on the trucks to get to the next gig. You get back on the bus, go to sleep, wake up in a different city and do it all over again. Do you ever wonder why entertainers have such a hard time keeping their families together? Life on the road isn’t easy.

And for everyone that makes it, there are thousands who either couldn’t or didn’t want to pay that kind of price to achieve “overnight success.” They’re talented. They’re really are. They just don’t want the life to consume them.

So, they settle for something else. It’s not always a bad decision, but it’s not the dream they once had.

The price of success is the same in every walk of life – business, athletics, entrepreneurship – they all demand a very high price for achievement. The reason we have so few “successes” is that not many people are willing to pay this cost.

Guess what? It’s the same with being a follower of Christ. I have had the privilege of knowing some very deep theologians, pastors, teachers, men and women of prayer. These are the kind of people who inspire you with their insights into the ways of Christ, encourage you with stories of Christ faithfulness and, to be blunt, they make you believe again anytime you’re around them.

Guess what? They have no life either. Now, don’t get me wrong. Most of them are happily married. Most of them are parents and some even grandparents, but when you’re around them it’s hard to talk about anything other than Jesus and Scripture.

These friends won’t know who won the Super Bowl. They won’t know who their favorite team is recruiting during the off season. They won’t know who LeBron James is. They won’t know any of the newest music and they won’t have seen any of the latest episodes of the latest television show everyone is watching. They may be on social media, but if they are, it’s only to talk to their grandchildren. They never search Twitter or buy anything over the internet. Some of them don’t have televisions at all! (I agree. That’s a little over the top).

What do you do with your time, I’ll ask them. A slow but steady smile will break across their face and I’ll recognize the joy that’s flooding up from within them. We read, they’ll say. We talk. We pray. We take long walks and listen…

As I listen I think to myself how much I want what they have. I want to be able to take long walks and be so quiet within myself I can hear Jesus walking next to me. I want to have stories of long conversations I’ve had with Jesus…

But there’s a ball game on…I’m not willing to pay the price. It takes a long time to become an overnight success. Success, in any area of life, requires a high price.

The life I say I want is there…if I want it…but it doesn’t come cheaply.

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