3 lies you’ll hear about successful people.

At least once a week, someone tells me the “successful people myth.”

The names change, but the general story is always the same:

“Did you hear about Jimmy? He launched an online course/sold a business/raised rabbits in his backyard and made a ton of money. He’d only been doing it for like three weeks. Why didn’t we think to do that? It’s so easy!”

The result of that conversation is always the same, I feel like a huge loser. I have arms and legs just like Jimmy. I have access to the same Internet he has access to. Why didn’t I do that? I’m so dumb. There’s a huge pile of cash that everyone knows about except for me. I’m an idiot.

Maybe you don’t feel that way, but I promise you’ve heard the “successful people myth” too. It’s not a bad story, but there are three lies hidden in it.

Let’s kidney punch each one for a moment:

Lie 1: Success is easy.
When we talk about other people we always leave out the hard work they did to get there. We never see the early mornings and the late nights, especially in the age of the Internet. So many people are always telling me how easy passive income is. They describe the Internet as a faucet you turn on for cash. What I’ve learned though is that bad things are always easy, great things aren’t.

You could slap together some PDF with 10 ideas, come up with a crazy price tag for it and sell a few copies. That would be easy. That will be good enough, but will it be great? Will you save your money and hire a designer to make it look beautiful? Will you get it professionally edited? Will you wrestle with what the long-term costs are to constantly asking an online audience to buy stuff? Will you study your industry to make sure your message is unique and not just adding more static to an already over crowded conversation?

Those are just a few of the questions successful people work through constantly. The friends I know who do courses and passive income with excellence work extremely hard. You don’t get passive income without active work.

Lie 2: Success is fast.
Know how long it took other people to get successful? Usually about an hour. They had an idea, registered a domain and then did a Kickstarter that raised $10 million. Only that’s not even a little true. Success you get quickly tends to leave just as fast. Long term success, the kind that lasts for years, takes years to create.

That’s not failure, that’s foundation. If you want to build something that is going to last, you have to build a foundation. Piece by piece, action by action, you have to build it. The problem is that’s not sexy. So we post the final results of our years of hard work in a 5 second snapshot on Instagram. We see the book cover, but not the bleeding. We see the business opened, but not the boredom of paperwork. We see the goal reached, but not the grind invested. Fast success is often fake success. Take time to build things that matter.

Lie 3: Success always makes you tons of money.
It can. Success can lead to stacks on stacks on stacks. I hope it does for you, but don’t believe that it’s a foregone conclusion. I’ve had friends who launched Kickstarter campaigns and then were crushed that a tidal wave of money didn’t show up that next morning. I’ve had friends launch businesses and act surprised when Benjamins didn’t parachute into their pocket that next day.

I once launched a product that I thought would sell like crazy. I had big dollar signs in my eyes. We printed thousands and thousands of them. At my best estimate, about 85% didn’t sell. And it was the kind of product that was timely, so once we missed our sales window there was nothing to do but destroy it. Why didn’t the cash show up? I think I bought into the first two lies. I thought it would be easy and fast, which means I got lazy and entitled. (It wasn’t this awesome calendar, because we did print on demand!)

Those are the lies, but fortunately there is an antidote. It won’t get turned into an amazing image on Pinterest because it’s so mind numbingly simple, but here it is:

Work hard.

If you want to be successful, work hard.

If you want to build something meaningful, work hard.

If you want to drastically increase your chances of success, work hard.

Is hard work a guarantee that you’ll be successful? Nope. You don’t control the planet. But not working hard is a guarantee you won’t.

And if your dream is more difficult than the successful people myth promised it would be, keep working.

If it takes longer than the successful people myth promised it would take, keep trying.

If the money doesn’t show up like the successful people myth promised it would, keep trying.

Don’t let those three lies about success knock you off your game.

Success is possible, but if you want it to be probable, you’ve got to work hard.

p.s. If you want encouraging ideas like this sent to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!


About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff


  1. Ken

    Very true, Jon. Hard work is not a guarantee of success, but it is a prerequisite.

  2. So much truth in this. My husband and father-in-law have been building their small business for over 20 years. Sometimes it grew by leaps and bounds, sometimes it was like taking two steps forward, 10 steps backward and sometimes it was just stagnate. But they kept working hard and pushing on. Next month they open their new production facility. It’s an amazing accomplishment, but it was years in the making. There’s still a lot of hard work ahead too.

  3. Easy, fast, makes you lots of money? Still waiting. I’m the mean time, I’ll just keep working hard.

  4. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. Exactly what I needed to hear today. Thanks Jon!

  5. Jenn H

    Love this! And whose to day that “success” is only monetary? Most of our biggest successes aren’t.

  6. Sue

    Very timely reminder for me today. Thanks!

  7. Good stuff, Jon. Really good.

  8. Excellent! Exactly what the chamber world needs to hear today! I’m sharing all over!

  9. The work is hard, but I look at how much I am learning and it is awesome. Because I have a full time job and I am building my blog and my platform on the side it makes my time that much more important. Everyday I learn a little more about building an online business, email list, professional site, seo, etc.

    Sometimes it is overwhelming, but I know when the floodgates open it will be so much more rewarding because of the work that I put in.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep pushing and keep growing!


  10. I went into business for myself at the tender age of 23. I still have that business (although a dozen or so business model changes.) It wasn’t until last year that I actually was able to pay myself a living wage! 10 Years! But I am glad I laid the foundation and look forward to what the next 10 will bring. Great read and thanks for this!

  11. Brandi

    Oh Jon… thanks. I needed that. I was THIIIIIIIS close to falling into a spiral today and you smacked me back to reality before I even hit the second loop. #Knucks

  12. James Sommers

    Jon, So true and I’m thrilled you brought up the two most NON SEXY words ever: hard work! Yuk! Who wants that!? No I’d rather visualize a Ferrari and go out side and there it is: red, fast and gorgeous! And all I had to do was “see it!” in my mind! No work. No risk.

    I’m not totally mocking visualization or the principles in books like The Secret. When we take the time to meditate, write down our goals and visualize I do think it helps a great deal…as long as it’s followed up by WORK!

  13. James Sommers

    PS — I too get annnoyed when I hear “Bob’s making like $5,000 a week from home! And he works like 20 hours a week. ALL from passive income! Man, when Bob’s sleepin’ he’s making money!” RRRRRR! My uncle makes a LOT of money from passive income but it took him DECADES to get there.

    And he worked VERY hard. He worked after work to build that. The idea it’s “EZ” is infuriating.

  14. Lie number 3 jumps off the screen! It’s so true. It’s so real. We have been fooled into thinking success = $$$. The truth is success is determined by so much more. It’s bigger than money and it is a lot more personal.

  15. Awesome article, Jon. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Very applicable as I start my online course business on connecting with fans via Facebook.

    Thanks again!

  16. Thank you for this important reminder Jon! I always have to keep in mind the old adage: The Harder I Work the Luckier I Get.

  17. Yes and thank you! Always good to hear this reminder – because it’s always so easy to want to quit when magical things don’t happen 5 seconds after sending an e-mail or making a new connection or tweaking a website. Thanks for the friendly reminder to keep going!

  18. How on earth do you create such funny and fabulous articles every day? WOW!!!

    Another article that brought happy tears to my eyes – you ROCK!


  19. Dang Jimmy! He didn’t even have those rabbits a month ago! I guess that’s why they’re rabbits…

  20. Super happy that I opened your email today! I’ve been having one of those weeks where it seems like everything is out of my control and no matter how hard I work I’m just running on a treadmill. I’m totally worried that I’m about to trip, fall off and not be wearing that safety tag thing that stops the treadmill machine from wrecking your face. Then everyone just stares at you or tries to help you because they feel bad but you just lay in the floor vowing you’ll never get on one of those stupid machines again. Today I’m going to set that treadmill to challenge me but not kill me and run a whole marathon. I was encouraged by your statement to remember that it takes time to build a foundation so no matter how many days I have to work like I am without a return, I will eventually get a return on my investment of time and energy as I go after awesome!

  21. Ed

    The old saying ‘if it’s too good to be true…’ is always the case. Always. That’s why so many people get taken by MLMs and investment schemes. Easy money, minimal work, etc. People (especially those who are broke) want to believe it.

  22. Just keep working hard. Got it! Great post. It’s so true. It’s easy to forget the long hours, the no’s, the sweat and tears and just assume it happened overnight. Keep working hard!

  23. Tricia Lynne


    Thank you for your newsletter. I love it. It gives me inspiration every day, and I’m so glad you are doing them again. I’d forgotten how amazing they were. I’m passing on your info…thanks…and I’ll pick up a book. Again thank you…

  24. And this was the exact breakdown of the most important lies of success. I once heard on an interview talking about this very subject….”people see all the glory, but they don’t know the story”

    simply put, people have no clue what goes on behind the scenes to become a success story. They believe in the 3 lies and all the hype.

  25. Gosh, this is good! Thank you for faithfully churning out practical insight, wisdom & encouragement, Jon!

  26. Getting up super early and working a ton of hours until you almost die is another one that is puzzling to me.

    Yes, putting in time is important, but there are tons of people that get to the office at 5am and work on the wrong things.

    The confuse getting to the location to where they work with actually doing productive work.

    The world is also full of passive earners who don’t put much time in but have very meaningful and intentional interactions on a daily basis.

    As I get older I realize more and more that success almost has nothing to do with money and more about your time and how you use it.