Overnight Success Versus Slow Burn—What Actually Works?

When I started my business eight years ago, I had next to zero business knowledge, very little savings, no investors, and no mentors. Based on today’s “earn-quick-money” standards—I could be easily described as a total failure.

But earlier on in my entrepreneurship career, I made a decision to go the route of a slow burn, also known as—perseverance.

One trusted authority says this about perseverance: “To persevere means to ‘hold firmly and steadily to some purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles or setbacks.’ It implies continuing consistently, resolutely in the face of adversity, being tenacious, not giving up.”

This is well illustrated in the widely known Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise won the race, even though he was much slower than the hare. Why? The tortoise had a steady, disciplined approach. He did not quit but chose a speed that he could realistically keep up, and then he stuck to it until he crossed the finish line. Like the tortoise, an organized, steady person makes consistent progress, she remains motivated and is thus less likely to quit or be knocked out of the race.

My Company name “KOBE” is a Swahili word for tortoise. This name reflects the values and goals that I hold dear as an entrepreneur. Yes, at KOBE Productions Limited we “run in such a way” that we will attain our goal.

But in these times, perseverance has become a rare commodity. Many people believe that success has more to do with being in the right place at the right time than it does with perseverance. Who can blame them? The media is full of advertising that subliminally pushes the message that you can get almost anything with minimal effort and just a little money. There is an overload of stories about overnight successes and whiz-kid entrepreneurs making millions right out of school.

Columnist Leonard Pitts laments: “In a society obsessed with perception, it looks too easy…Looks like something anyone could do if he just understood the trick, had the ability or intercepted the bolt of lightning from God.”

True, some people get their “success” much faster than others. But I find that I am more of a strategist than a gladiator—I am just not a “Gung-ho” or “Lets-do-this-now!” person. I accomplish my goals within my set timeline. I break down my business goals into smaller, easier to achieve deliverables.

I find, It’s wise to reevaluate one’s strategies from time to time and ask where the business is heading and whether adjustments need to be made. It is also vital to have clarity of what the company wants to accomplish and why. That way, you will be less inclined to give up when things get tough. Having identified your goals, the next step is to analyze how to go about reaching them.

A mental-health expert observed: “One of the things I’ve noticed about successful people is that they have a clear understanding of the relationship between cause and effect in their lives. Successful people understand that if they want something, they have to do all the necessary things to get it.” Having a clear understanding of all the necessary steps we need to take to achieve what we want will help keep us focused. It will also make it easier for us to regroup if we suffer a setback. Such analysis was the cornerstone of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s success.

Obviously, according to the standards of some people—I’m never going to be an “overnight” success. But this is how I see it—If my goals revolve around loving my God with my whole heart, being there for my family, building a business that allows me the time, space and resources to give back to the community, being honest and kind, travelling and seeing the world regularly—then, I am a resounding success!

Many, though, are unprepared for the difficulties and failures they may encounter as entrepreneurs. Never having developed the will to persevere, they give up easily. “Too many people react to a failure in a self-damaging way,” observes writer Morley Callaghan. “They indulge in self-pity, they blame everybody, become bitter and . . . fold up.”

This is unfortunate. I have found that there is always some value to be found in adversity.

Value 1: One learns that failure is not fatal or forever

Value 2: One gains depth and gets ready to deal with the next problem

Value 3: One knows not to repeat the same mistake again

Note to my future self

“By every kind of toil there comes to be an advantage.”—Proverbs 14:23. When setbacks occur, do your best to view them in a positive light and as a learning experience. Analyze the situation, discern where you went wrong, and then correct the mistake or remedy the weakness. Be consistent in your actions—moderation and consistency over time produce significant results.

Of course, for perseverance to be of any value, we need to have worthwhile goals.

Look out for this on my next blog.