It takes a lifelong commitment to achieve overnight success.

In a digital age, we have come to believe that everything must happen instantly. Instant food, instant service, instant profits. Teenage kids dream of having an idea and then raising millions of dollars from venture capitalists. 

If you have a dream to make a difference to others, to change the world, to do something truly transformational for society, the story is a bit different. I believe it takes 20 years to change the world and hence our ability to persist for a long time in the service of our goals is the key to change the world.

Lets take the example of an unsung hero, the man who actually ended the slave trade. William Wilberforce was a weak looking British member of parliament who took on the cause of abolishing the british slave trade. At the time in the 18th century, Britain was shipping millions of Africans in ships to the west indies and shipping back the farm products they produced to capture all the profits. One in 10 africans died during the torturous voyage, often denied food, water and medical care. William Wilberforce was a minority. 

 He first raised the topic in the parliament on May 12, 1789 and was roundly booed. He raised 12 motions in the parliament on the issue, all defeated. This was afterall the source of 80% of Britain’s overseas income. After 2 years he was allowed to introduce the first bill to abolish slavery and was roundly defeated 163 to 88. Never give up Wilberforce started to form alliances with like minded leaders and fellow Christians through the church. In 1792 he brought a bill again and this time it was passed but the parliament diluted the bill allowing slavery to go on for longer. He raised the bill again in 1804 but it could not meet the parliament timings and got pushed to 1805, when it was defeated again. It had already been 16 years since William Wilberforce had started his battle to abolish slavery and give Africans the same equal rights as the British. William Wilberforce kept writing letters to the public to raise the issue and eventually in the next election it helped elect even more like minded members of parliament. On 23rd of February, 1807, nearly 20 years after he had started his battle the parliament passed the abolition of slavery bill. It freed millions of people and set the stage for Africans to find equality, freedom and justice in society.

How long did it take different heroes from history to transform society ?

Mark Zuckerberg 10 years 

2003 Launches Facemash

2012 Facebook reaches 1 billion users

Steve Jobs 30 years

1976 Starts Apple

2007 Apple launches the iphone, on the way to becoming the world’s most valuable company and changes the phone and music industries forever

Deng Xiaoping 34 years

1977 Begins the reforms to open up communist china to the world

2011 China overtakes Japan as the 2nd biggest economy, lifting nearly 500mn people out of poverty

Albert Einstein 24 years

1895 Starts studying physics and maths, shows exceptional grades. Consistently publishes path breaking papers on physics and becomes professor

1919 The general theory of relativity is recognized and Einstein becomes world famous. 2 years later wins the Nobel 

Look at the success of anyone who changed a society, created a technology that brought prosperity or whos ideas changed the world. 

There is one important lesson to learn.

It takes a lifelong commitment to achieve overnight success.

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