Overnight Success…in 14 years

Steve Martin

Steve Martin is an American comedian who stars in my favourite comedy movie of all time, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (Yes, I’m old – this movie was released in 1987!).  Before he began acting in movies, he was a stand-up comedian for almost two decades.  I recently listened to his autobiography, “Born Standing Up”, and I was inspired by his grit, perseverance, and eventual success.

Steve writes, “I did stand-up comedy for 18 years.  Ten of those were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.”

“The course was more plodding than heroic.  I did not strive valiantly against doubters, but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps.”  Incredible things can be accomplished by taking small steps consistently over long periods of time.  This is the principle of the Compound Effect - one of the books I highly recommend everyone read.

As a YouTuber with a small but growing channel, I find Steve Martin’s story both instructional and inspirational.  It can be discouraging to put a lot of work into a video, publish it with high hopes, and then be disappointed with the results.  I’ve reached moments of doubt, where I wondered if I should just quit and give up.  But then I’ll receive an encouraging comment, someone will share a video I’ve made, or an influencer will agree to be interviewed, and these small steps provide me enough motivation and hope to continue for a little while longer.

Steve Martin was sick of being poor and lonely as he travelled from town-to-town trying to reach success.  He gave himself until the age of 30 to become a famous comedian, or else he was going to give up and find a ‘regular job’.  As he neared the deadline, he still wasn’t famous, but there were enough small victories to encourage him to keep going.

Compound Effect
born standing up

He did a few television appearances, and received an amazing review in a Florida newspaper.  These glimmers of hope caused him to extend the deadline, and ultimately to persevere long enough to become a wild success…performing before live audiences of 50,000 people, earning millions of dollars, and starring in movies and television shows.  He made it...because he didn’t quit.

If you’re striving to start a business, build an audience, earn your degree, refine your skills, or learn a language, be inspired by the story of Steve Martin and don’t quit!  It took him 14 years of grit before he finally saw the results he was hoping for.  You’ve gotta put in the reps!


“Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.” - Steve Martin

There’s no such thing as an overnight success.  Behind the stories of people who have achieved their goals is a long and often hidden process.  For years and years Steve was travelling around America practicing his craft – playing the banjo, telling jokes, doing magic tricks…he was testing out content, gaining experience with different crowds in every kind of venue, and he was slowly becoming a master in his trade.