Success takes time

I stumbled recently on a quote by Winston Churchill on success. He says that success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. It got me thinking of how much the younger generation obliterate that walk. Success requires hard work, it is a combination of small efforts that yield results. And no, it is not fast. True success takes patience which I fear we are gradually losing in the age of social media.

It is common to find little children nowadays who are not keen on any profession but are determined to be rich. As if riches do not come from hard work. Some even blatantly say they plan to do money rituals to be rich. And why will they not feel that way? When social media is filled with stories of people who got rich overnight. And the celebrities we glorify? They are the ones who endorse “quick money” rather than the literal “walk” to success. Social media is splashed with success stories without the sleepless nights and tear filled days that birthed such successes. No one talks of the losses and the painful failures, the almost impossible work ethic that the successful actually possesses, rather we prefer to enjoy the pictures of glamour: the cars, the mansions, the lifestyle.

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The situation is further compounded by our impatience. The constant connectivity and instant gratification that come with social media make people more impatient. Everything is done at a faster pace, you send a text, you get a reply instantly. You do not have to wait days for a reply, for instance, if it were a letter.  You want to watch a movie, you can stream it on Netflix anytime, anywhere. I remember as a kid, my brother and I had to wait to rent movies, then wait till the weekend before we even got a chance to watch it; but now, it’s all at your fingertip. You even get to binge watch movie series instead of waiting week to week. The implication of this is that there is a whole generation of people who are used to getting everything on a platter, so why not success? Interestingly, instant gratification also makes you lazy. There are virtual assistants who remember dates, spellings and perform simple tasks for you. In fact, teachers now complain that a lot of students cannot spell words correctly. Constant connectivity makes everything easier yet it also seems to create an intellectual laziness because you are sure you will get whatever you ask for immediately so why bother thinking of it when you can just type and ‘google’ it. It’s why research projects are plagiarised, why students would rather copy an assignment rather than actually do it. Yet laziness can never yield success. Success requires failing and getting up, it requires perseverance and determination; and a positive attitude. Laziness is the exact opposite of that. Laziness means giving up before you even start; it is often fueled by a negative attitude. Laziness kills success.

All the great people we know have certain things in common: their work ethic and hard work. Even those who are considered geniuses have an impressive body of work that accompanies their genius. They work, work yet keep working. Michael Jackson, the king of Pop, died working on a new album even though he had recorded about 8 studio albums and over 30 compilation albums. He was considered great but he never stopped working. Nelson Mandela spent 40 years in prison before he became the President of South Africa, yet long before that he had been working. Wole Soyinka had a body of work before winning the Nobel Prize for literature and he has not stopped writing. Yes, you need passion and talent to be successful but more often than not, success is perseverance. It is an unwillingness to throw in the towel; it is rising, falling and rising again. Success does not mean you will never lose, rather it means that you get up and move forward even after you lose.

True success does not come instantly. It is a combination of perspiration and perseverance. It is hard, it requires huge sacrifices, defeats and moments that bring you to your knees, yet if you wait patiently, put in the effort, get up and walk a bit farther, it will come. It is delusional to think it is just bestowed on people who have not worked for it. All the greats have worked hard to be great, they were not handed a trophy they did not work for. Like my father often says, no one has ever sustained wealth got from rituals. So even when innocent blood is shed in the name of money, it never quite brings success, only a temporary enjoyment and a lifetime of regrets. Real success lasts because it is born out of a lifetime of hard work. It is not fleeting because the work never ends; you just keep going no matter what comes your way. Real success takes time.


  • Wale-Olaitan is of the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.