A while back I made the sweeping editorial decision that I wasn’t going to write one of those “debunking the myth of overnight success” posts.

I just didn’t feel like adding anything to the whole Rome wasn’t built in a day thing, which is well-covered ground. And has plenty of bright, articulate people doing the covering.*

*If you do want some good stuff on this, start with Seth Godin, who says that it takes three years to be an overnight success, sometimes more. and that we should be patient.

But Rome also wasn’t built in a week…


So this weekend while I was teaching in San Francisco, the big thing for a lot of people I talked to seemed to be some variation on “No, really. What’s your secret?”

And not even any of my interesting secrets.**

**Like my secret to not having to buy shampoo. I just use my gentleman friend’s coffee grounds. There. No longer a secret.

No, they really just wanted to know what I did to become …

… an overnight success.

And then Sarah J. Bray who is an absolutely lovely person (and you all should be hanging out with her online), wrote a really interesting, thoughtful, astonishingly-well-researched*** piece about my … overnight success.

Well, not about the overnight-ness of it in a literal sense, but she did dedicate an entire post to reverse engineering the success story of this blog and figuring out how it happened.

***It kind of sounds like she may have read all three hundred and twelve of my posts, which is pretty hard-core. Wow. She totally gets the Fluent Self medal of perseverance.

So here is a short history of my overnight success.

And yeah, when I say “overnight success”, I’m referring to the overnight success that happened agonizingly slowly …

… over the course of the last four years.

March 2005

I’m living in a semi-abandoned not-exactly-a-squat place in East Berlin, teaching yoga and Dance of Shiva, and stepping gingerly over the junkies on the stairs.

I’ve started working on a genius system of working-on-your-stuff.

I’ve started sneaking bits of it into my yoga classes … but am mostly just furiously writing about it. And I decide that my system needs a name.

The name I come up with is an embarrassingly stupid one that I am also inordinately proud of… and I’ll only say that while Sonia Simone‘s hysterically funny guess of Soul Womb is off-target, it isn’t as nearly as off-target as one would like.

August 2005

In a bizarre and miraculous turn of events which I have already documented, I come up with the name The Fluent Self just hours before the website needs to go live.

Yes, this website — the one you’re looking at right now.

Because I’m pretty much the only, uh, “internet famous” person I know who doesn’t get a website design overhaul once a year.

September 2005

I teach a number of Fluent Self intensive workshops in Berlin. Three hours on how to use various wacky mind-body techniques (mostly mine) to change your patterns and habits.

Only a few people sign up,

But I’m doing it. And I’m excited.

December 2005

I move to San Francisco with a small suitcase and a sum of money that is so low that I don’t even want to tell you what it is.

The first edition of the Fluent Self noozletter (except that then it was still more of a “newsletter”) goes out to a grand total of five people.

June 2006

By this point I’ve been teaching classes pretty regularly all over the Bay Area. Classes on dissolving procrastination seem to be the biggest hit, as I learn the hard way.

I make some good connections.

By this point there are a hundred people who read my noozletter.

And I’ve thrown myself madly into studying everything related to business.

I take every single class the SBA has to offer. I read books ravenously. I drool over online courses and ebooks — but can’t afford them, so I keep up with the self-study.

Wherever there is free-ish information online, I absorb it, analyze it, categorize it and try to figure out if and how I can apply it to my thing, whatever that is.

June 2007

I do the smartest thing I’ve done so far — I start taking online courses.

It turns out that courses are where you meet people.

And then those people tell other people about you.

I’m still working on figuring out how to explain what I do and why it’s important, but I have clients. My workshops are doing well.

And I create my first product: Emergency Calming Techniques. And sell three copies. Whoo!

September 2007

Oh, thank goodness for the long tail. Sigh of relief.

Turns out that having products so that people don’t have to actually hire you frees up a lot of time and energy. And lets you help more of your Right People.

Rock. On.

March 2008

I get on Twitter.

All of a sudden introvert-me can hang out with pretty much whoever she wants and be a total goofball. Fun!

It turns out I like having fun way more than I like doing business-ey stuff. And it turns out that having fun is also way more effective than doing business-ey stuff.

I decide that I am going to officially give up “marketing” in favor of hanging out. Which is kind of what I was leaning towards anyway.

June 2008

I start the blog.

My Twitter friends come and hang out with me here. More fun!

And, unlike most bloggers who are trying to figure out how to make money from blogging without a “god, you’re such a sell-out” backlash from their readers, it’s relatively smooth sailing.

That’s because I already had several products, long-term programs and an established coaching practice long before there was a blog.

So the fact that yes, you could theoretically buy things here if you wanted to was never a surprise.

July 2008

After much agonizing, I dump the noozletter.

I lose a thousand subscribers and there are a lot of people being mad at me in my inbox, but hey, I don’t have to write the noozletter anymore.

Anyway, this turns out to be the right decision for me — thanks to the magic of Twitter and the draw of the duck, pretty soon there are a few thousand more blog subscribers.

Life gets much better.

January 2009

I go on email sabbatical.

The joy!

July 2009


So yeah. We’re here. And this blog is now kind of a second home for all sorts of interesting people.

Also, this blog pays the rent for three people and a duck.

I get to write about pretty much whatever I feel like, and — shockingly — none of my Right People seem to mind. I still work on mindfully biggifying, and at this point I’m willing to take my time with it.

Because, you know, overnight success wasn’t built overnight.

Thank yous and such.

To Sarah J. Bray (she’s @sarahjbray on Twitter) for making me stop and reflect on what happened behind the scenes.

To everyone who reads this blog and thinks about the stuff I write about.

To Selma, the best (and squeakiest!) business partner in the world.

To my gentleman friend for putting up with and believing in me when I was 100% convinced that no one would ever, ever care about the stuff I teach. And for promising that no matter what happened, I would never have to go back to bartending.

To you. Yay. You. I like you.

Comment Zen.
We’ve all got our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. And of course we don’t judge each other for having stuff.

Also, we generally try to respond to each other with as much compassion and respect as we can stand. Mensch-like: it’s how we roll.

The Fluent Self