It's tempting to think that success must be effortless, because I am constantly exposed to success stories, but rarely hear about the effort that goes into them.
This is due to the combination of human nature and social media. We like to talk about our successes, and don't like to talk about our failures. Acting successful improves our status, and improving our status improves our odds of survival, so we're incentivized to do this constantly. Social media only amplifies this tendency.
We are what we repeatedly do, and we believe what we are repeatedly exposed to.
Because I'm constantly exposed to success stories via my social media habits, I keep thinking that I should encounter success effortlessly in the same way that I encounter success stories in my media feed effortlessly.
Even when somebody becomes an overnight success, the reality is that they spent years laying the groundwork to make that possible, whether they did so in the field they achieved that overnight success in, or in a field where the skills and knowledge apply obliquely.
Steve Jobs once famously said:
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
We always see how the dots connect in other peoples' success stories, and we never hear about how they spent years struggling to reach that point.
Nobody gets there without putting in the effort. It's okay if I'm not an instant success. It doesn't mean I'll never get there; it just means I need to keep trying.
It's tempting to try to connect the dots looking forward, but I have to resist that temptation. And one day, I'll look backward and see just how all the dots connected after all.