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Just Give It Your All

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Just Give It Your All

The paradox of “overnight” success.
Jeff  Johnson
Jeff Johnson More by this author
Dec 28, 2010 at 09:00 AM

As a track athlete, I remember always wondering how Olympian Carl Lewis was able to win all those races right at the very end. Very seldom did he come out of the blocks faster than everyone else and rarely was he winning at the halfway point, but almost always at the eighty- or ninety-meter mark Carl Lewis would come on and finish the hundred-meter race in first place, often edging many of his competitors right at the finish line.

As I studied the science of racing, I learned that it wasn’t so much that Carl Lewis was going faster at the end of the race, it was just that everyone else was slowing down faster than he was. When you’re willing to give your all, consistently and passionately, everyone else will slow down faster than you will. When you don’t give enough in the beginning, then there’s no way you’ll have enough in the end to finish—let alone win.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that fame, money, and the good life can come overnight. The success of hip-hop artists proves that you can become famous from nothing but a hot ring tone. Right. Reality television proves that you can become famous with little or no talent. Wrong. The truly good life—which comes from reaching your best and possessing a sense of fulfillment—cannot happen simply because you want it. You can’t pull it out of a hat; it can’t happen overnight. If you want to complete this journey, you have to work for it. Hard work does still pay off, and if you give your best, you can get your best in return.

Our culture, driven primarily by media, has created the impression that we can get things easily that actually have to be earned. We see it on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. We see it with local lottery winners. We see it in entrepreneurs no one even heard of yesterday getting multimillion-dollar business deals, or athletes getting huge sports contracts, or musicians going platinum. All of these images repeated over and over again give the appearance that you, too, can make it overnight.

The media bear some of the blame for this “overnight” sensation phenomenon, because it’s easier to tell the story of overnight success than to describe ten or twenty years of hard work required to achieve celebrity status. When you hear about a recording artist whose first album has gone platinum, you don’t usually learn that he’s been in the business—or trying to get into the business—for years.

Recording artist Ne-Yo is an accomplished songwriter who’s written for everybody from Mariah Carey to Céline Dion. Speaking to a group of young people, he was asked how it felt to be on top of the industry. His answer makes my point: “I don’t think you get it. I was doing this for twelve years before anybody knew who I was.” 

For twelve years Ne-Yo was writing every single day. He took stories from everyday life, and in every spare moment he wrote song lyrics, created poems, told stories through his music when no one was paying attention. He realized that he had to perfect his craft to be taken seriously. At the end of the day, it’s a solid work ethic that enabled these “overnight sensations” to succeed.

Too many people believe that no matter how hard they work, they won’t be successful. You can’t give in to that belief. Remember, you’ve already admitted that there is something great out there for you. So you have to also believe that on the other side of the journey is that success. Hard work is what exists in the middle of where you are and where you want to be.

The reason you have to put everything on the line isn’t because life is unfair or you’re doing penance for some bad act. You have to put everything on the line because everything you’re supposed to become requires the whole you. Therefore, if you only give half of yourself, you only become half of who you’re supposed to be. How amazing would it be, especially for those of you who think you’re happy with what you’re currently giving, who’ve never given all of yourself—to give it all and reap all the benefits? Think of how much you could have if you gave it your all!

About Author
Jeff  Johnson
Jeff Johnson is the host of BET’s The Truth with Jeff Johnson, and a weekly commentator on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show. Johnson’s interviews truly “represent” 21st-century America—showcasing grass-roots organizers Continue reading