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How To Be An Overnight Success (In 20 Years) – The Formula for Exponential Success

My wife, Monique’s, latest single, Rally Call, was viewed over 50,000 times – in a couple of days – and listened to tens of thousands of times on various music platforms. It’s the most powerful song she’s ever written. 

Monique has been on a journey to find and amplify her voice – in order to help others find and amplify their voice – for years

I’ve been able to see behind the headlines to get some insights on her journey to success. I wrote the words below about Monique, just after her third album hit the #2 spot on the iTunes Jazz charts. And I’ve updated them to share some important insights on the nature of exponential success, for you and for your clients… 

Creator vs Creative

Monique is not just a Creative, she’s a Creator.

Creatives use their imagination and ideas to make something original in this world.

But Creators use the power of generative language, they act without attachment, they set goals as a place to come from (not as a place to get to), and they do the work (no matter what).

If you’re a leader, a coach, an athlete, an artist or an executive, you need to be both creative and a creator. That’s simple. But not easy.

Do you want to be successful fast?

In less than a year, Monique wrote and performed a one-woman show that got rave reviews, won The Producers’ award at The Hollywood Fringe Festival and sold-out at the prestigious New York Solo Theater Festival.

She also wrote, performed, recorded and released her third album and it launched at the top of the charts in iTunes.

All this in a year.

An overnight success, right?

Let’s find out…

Monique’s 20 step formula to be an overnight success (in 20 years)

  1. Love music so much as a youngster that you roller skate in the backyard for hours at a time, to amazing musicians. But be too afraid to admit out loud that you want to be a performer.
  2. Get a degree in Mathematics at UC Berkeley because you’re afraid to study music.
  3. Start a corporate career because you’re afraid to be a professional musician.
  4. Quit your corporate career to be a professional singer, even though everyone around you thinks you’re crazy.
  5. Perform for years in coffee shops to people who barely notice you exist.
  6. Hire the best musicians you can find to help you record your first album.
  7. Be proud of your music but feel terrified about how to get it out in the world.
  8. Watch some of the musicians on your album go on to be super successful – and feel frustrated or angry that you don’t know how to make that happen for yourself.
  9. Be confused by the overwhelming world of managers, publicists, social media experts and people in ‘the business’.
  10. Travel around the world to perform in India, China, Fiji, Holland and England.
  11. Record and release a second album but still feel overwhelmed by the business of music.
  12. Take 10 years away from your career because raising your children becomes your number one priority.
  13. Get a diagnosis of a Desmoid tumor and decide that it’s time to be DONE with hiding and playing small. 

[In early 2017, Monique was given the diagnosis of a desmoid tumor. Doctors told her that the best she could hope for was to take pharmaceuticals for the rest of her life and hope it stayed the same size. Second opinions recommended surgery. They would need to cut out part of her abdominal wall.  

Monique has a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology and she chose to listen to her inner knowing – her intuition. Spirit told her that she needed to ask the tumor what it was here to teach her, instead of blindly following ‘Doctor’s orders’. 

She literally dialogued with the tumor. And she heard the message that she was hiding who she was. It told her that she could no longer protect others at her own expense. And it ‘demanded’ that she speak her own true, authentic voice. And that’s what she did. By the way, the tumor has been shrinking for the past 2 years.]

  1. Write a one-person show that’s so deeply personal, it is terrifying to put it out in the world. 
  2. Create an album that mines the very depth of your soul.

[The next 4 steps are perhaps the most important]

  1. Pay such close attention to the voices of self-doubt and negativity that scream so loud in your head, it can be hard to move.
  2. Feel a soul-sapping lack of confidence that makes it scary to even get out of bed in the morning.
  3. Be overwhelmed by crippling fear at the thought of having to keep showing up, when you’ve failed again and again and again.
  4. Embrace the power of procrastination. (It’s really never so enticing to clean the entire house as the moment you want to sit down and create your art!)
  5. Oh, and become a Master of self-sabotage. Just when things are going great, allow fear and self-doubt to get in the way, slow you down, or completely stop you from doing what you know you need to do next.

What most people never see… 

What most people don’t see, is that – like all successful people – Monique has faced roadblocks, challenges and criticism along her journey. It’s been hard. 

But here’s the secret… the biggest roadblocks, challenges and criticisms you’ll ever face are the ones on the inside.

The writer Steven Pressfield calls this ‘Resistance’:

“Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

And while I celebrate Monique today, I’ve witnessed her on her journey.

It’s been challenging. It’s been filled with ups and downs. She’s faced self-doubt, self-sabotage, procrastination, overwhelm, fear and failure. 

As Pressfield writes in The War Of Art: “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

After the ecstasy the laundry

The day after hitting #2 on iTunes, Monique heard that her application for Grammy membership hadn’t met their requirements, so she had to resubmit; we had to attend a parent teacher meeting for one of our kids; and there was a problem with our electricity bill payment!

Most people think that success is a destination. “Once I get there, I can finally relax…”

I’ve coached some of the highest performers on the planet – from gold medal-winning Olympic athletes to Navy Seals to British Special Forces operatives to multi-million dollar business owners – and not one of them was ever ready to stop and put their feet up.

Every one of them was a testament to the fact that success simply brings higher quality problems.

Every one of them continued to face struggles on their journey.

Every one of them carried inside a number of guilty secrets that they thought they could never share with anyone.

As Steven Pressfield says, the struggle with self-doubt, self-sabotage, procrastination, overwhelm, fear, failure is PART of our journey.

And it will continue to be part of our journey, even AFTER we’ve achieved the success we’ve been craving.

Pressfield continues:

“The problem is we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.”

Do you still want to be an overnight success? I can help… 

Just be careful not to get seduced by the ‘stars’ on American Idol or the Facebook ads that promise you a blueprint for making millions.

Overnight successes are more often than not 10, 20 or more years, in the making…

The formula for Exponential Success

This formula has 7 elements: 

  1. Dream Big
  2. Take Tiny Steps
  3. Think Long Term
  4. Success is an inside-out journey
  5. Keep Going
  6. Do the opposite
  7. Seek an elite community


  1. Dream Big. Your friends, family and community will encourage you to think small. That’s ok. That’s their job. They love you. They want you to stay safe, to take no risks. But nothing significant was ever created without risk. So dream big. 

To paraphrase TE Lawrence, Everyone dreams: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

Tim Ferris describes the impact of dreaming this big, on achieving the impossible:

“It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy consuming…

The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals…

Realistic goals, restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel… 

Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason. Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal.”

If you’re a coach, dream big and help your clients dream bigger than they’ve ever dreamed. 

2. Take Tiny Steps. It’s counterintuitive but the path to big dreams is paved with tiny steps. Every day, improve yourself by 1%. Every day, serve one person or create one thing. Every day, do one thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. 

I’ve written every day for over twelve years. I’ve published my writing every week for a decade. 

Tiny gains are compounded. As James Clear says: 

“Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action… We put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.

Improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. 

The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done…”

3. Think Long Term. Patience and perseverance are muscles you need to build. 

Dan Sullivan teaches entrepreneurs not to focus on what they want to do this month, this quarter or this year. Instead, he impresses the importance of building a vision of what you want to create within the next 25 years…

Decide on the most important things you want to accomplish in your business and your life. Then, decide that you have 25 years to accomplish them. 

Thinking so long-term frees you to dream bigger than you’ve ever dreamed. After all, with 25 years to accomplish these goals, the pressure is off. Since each quarter is just 1% of 25 years, you don’t have to be perfect each quarter. 

Take tiny, incremental steps. Again, and again and again.

4. Success is an inside-out journey. Most of the challenges you face will be on the inside. It’s not just your friends and family who want to keep you safe. Your entire nervous system is designed to keep you alive. For most of human history, even a simple scratch could lead to your death. So your unconscious mind is actively working against your dreams because your dreams aren’t supposed to feel safe. 

To turn your dreams into reality, you have to do the deep inner work because, as Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Fear is often a mask for desire. Which makes it a compass to point us in the direction of our dreams. Letting your fears hold you back will lead to the experience Mark Twain described, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

When you hold back from a goal you really desire, that’s not self-sabotage, that’s self-protection. And your success lies on the other side of your comfort zone. Which means success requires courage and vulnerability. 

As Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage… 

People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”

As Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

5. Keep Going. One thing I can promise you on your journey to success is that you will face difficulties, delays and opposition. 

As it says on the inside cover of the fictional Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Don’t Panic!

Persistence is a superpower. In the words of Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Keep going. 

6. Do the opposite. You are the product of generations of ancestors who learned not to stand out, not to rock the boat and not to have a point of view.

Most people follow The Sheep Formula in life and business, to stay safe. It states: By doing and saying the same as everyone else, you end up sounding and looking exactly like everyone else… 

As Earl Nightingale said, almost 70 years ago, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice… it is conformity.”

I’ve lived much of my life as a leader and a coach based on another quote by Earl Nightingale:

“If you want to be successful, watch what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite. The majority is almost always wrong.”

7. Seek an elite community. Throughout history, elite athletes, elite artists and elite performers have always surrounded themselves with other top performers. That’s not being elitist. It’s called a talent hotbed.

To be a truly great coach or leader, make it your singular mission to seek out, or create, a talent hotbed. I do both.

Seek a community of people who scare you. As Litvin’s law says: “The power of a community goes up exponentially when you multiply the number of people by the power of the people in that group.”

Your community are the holders of your dreams. Your community is a safe space where you can never get too big and you can never get too messy.

Fear doesn’t go away

Steven Pressfield said, 

“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

I’ll leave the final words to Monique who has needed so much courage to deal with a tumor, raise two kids, create a best-selling album and write an award-winning show. To do all this she tapped into the pain and the power of her ancestors – everyone who traveled the road before her:

“There’s a line in my song, Rally Call: ‘my body is broke, my spirit is tired…’ As I think about the courage I needed to share this song, I think about all the people before me… That’s what keeps me going.”

Watch Monique perform her latest song here.

Love. Rich


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