Success happens when nobody is watching

success no one looking quote

I was on vacation last week and I watched a lot of the Rio Summer Olympics.

Every two years, I am in awe of the amazing things Olympic athletes do in the pool, on the track, on the slopes, and in the rink.

And when I see the medalists on that stand, with the gold medal winner on the top platform of the podium, I always think to myself, “Wow, I wonder how it feels to be the best in the world at something.”

Then I think about what a massive, global stage the Olympics is, and how prepared these athletes must be to deal with billions of people around the world watching and following them.

And how all of that preparation happened when no one was watching.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” – John Wooden (click to tweet)

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, is known to swim six hours per day, six days a week, and lift weights and stretch for an hour per day three times a week.

All of that to swim a few minutes as fast as he can.

I’m sure many other Olympians have similarly intense training schedules for whatever sport in which they participate.

And almost all of this training is done alone or in front of only a couple of people.

There are certainly parallels in business.

Writing and blogging is kind of a lonely task, and when you’re starting out, you likely have no audience at all.

But if you keep at it, continue to improve, pump out quality content, and promote it accordingly, that audience will come.

No one will know about that product you’ve been working on until it launches. But everything you do prior to launch day, those late nights that you spent planning and creating when no one was watching, will determine your product’s success.

“True success depends on what you do when nobody is looking.” – Ralph Marston (click to tweet)

In the startup world, there is so much “startup porn” – a constant stream of articles about companies raising big amounts of venture capital, insane growth rates, and massive valuations.

This startup porn can be discouraging to entrepreneurs who aren’t “crushing it.” I know I certainly feel that way sometimes.

But I also know that if I keep grinding and do what needs to be done, it won’t matter how much press I get or how many people are watching – success will come.

Success certainly depends on what you do when no one is looking.

What are your thoughts on the work you do when no one is watching?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

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Image courtesy of Startup Vitamins

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