Overnight Success Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

A few months ago, Amanda Lockwood appeared on The Ellen Show and instantly earned a lot of attention.

Who is Amanda? Nobody special — that is, until recently. On the show, Ellen asked her viewers to follow her guest on Twitter. And many did just that.

Ellen Show Photo
Ellen welcomes Amanda Lockwood to the show (Courtesy of KCTV).

Amanda went from having 60 followers to 12,000 in a few days to well over 20,000 in a matter of months, a respectable amount of fans for any blogger, musician, or public speaker. And she did it without having to do much work at all.

She just showed up.

Before the ease of online connection and social media platforms, this never would’ve happened. It couldn’t have.

Before the Internet

Before the Information Age, Amanda would’ve appeared on TV, had a quick thrill, and quickly faded away. Neither you nor I would’ve had the thought to track her down and pay attention to her… even if she did make an appearance on daytime television.

But now in a short amount of time, this young woman has reached a state of mini-celebrity that she can leverage for whatever she wants. All because of she had a platform, a place to point people: her Twitter page.

In what other period of history has this been possible? For someone to virtually pack a stadium without ever having to knock on a single door or do one bit of promotion?

The power of social media

This is the power of social media; it’s a testament to the potency of the Internet and our virtually-connected world. And it’s as dangerous as it is exciting.

Amanda’s now famous. She’s a celebrity in some sense of the world. Does this mean she will be successful? That she’ll get rich off of someone else’s influence? Does it mean Ellen’s fans care about what she has to say?

Not necessarily.

What it does mean is Amanda has a chance. And that’s the whole point. In this age of opportunity, we are all out of excuses to not make our mark — even without Ellen’s help.

We’ve all been given a microphone. The real question is: Will we use it? (Click here to tweet that.)


Here’s what I take away from this story:

  1. If you have influence (and we all do), you have a responsibility to wield it well — to be generous and share it with someone who needs it.
  2. If someone’s given you a shot, you still have to earn it. You have to keep an audience’s attention and not take their trust for granted.

This is true for book endorsements and guest blog posts, as well as dating relationships and job interviews.

We all have gifts and chances, and we must treat them with the care they deserve.

When our time here on earth is done, what we’ll have to show for it is how we used what was given us. How we took care of our gifts and chances — and how good we were at giving them away.

(Side note: A friend of mine who’s a songwriter just opened for the Beach Boys. These opportunities are everywhere.)

The real rub

In all of this, I’m left wondering: At a time when people can become famous overnight (if you know the right people), does this mean fame is now less valuable?

Does it undermine the real work of earning an audience?

No offense to Amanda, because she didn’t do anything wrong, but I’m kinda glad I’ve spent the last six years hustling to get to where she got overnight. I hope that means I don’t take it for granted.

In fact, I hope we all appreciate our respective struggles. Call me crazy, but I think they’re part of the reward.

What about you? What do you make of all this? Share in the comments.