The graph of success

by Admin
Updated: May 18, 2019

The graph of success in business is a helpful reminder that results come from hard work over time

Although it can have plenty of ups & downs, the graph of business success vs time is a roughly exponential curve. It can be a helpful reminder that a solid business is almost always a long game and it can take a considerable amount of time and hard work - with little to no reward - before results start to come through.

The graphs below are intended to illustrate the results usually expected from a constant amount of effort over time.

The horizontal (x-) axis is time and the vertical (y-) axis is some measure of success. Units are arbitrary.


This “normal” graph of success is based on steady income, regular savings and no unexpected expenses. It’s a gradual increase over many years. It’s not very exciting but for many people it represents financial security. Typically, their income comes from a job and the majority of their success will be from the investment in their home and 401(k).


This graph is based on a meme I saw that tries to illustrate the harsh reality of the entrepreneur in comparison to the “normal” graph. It makes a good point but to actually look like this requires the ability to go back in time. That’s impossible of course, but admittedly it does feel like that sometimes.


Here is a useful graph of success and it’s an approximately exponential curve. What’s important isn’t so much the rapid rise at the end, but how long it took to achieve it. Despite continuous hard work, businesses can under-perform for a long time before results are finally achieved - this is the graft of success. It can be helpful to remember this whenever motivation takes a hit.

My rule of thumb is that it takes 5 years to build a business and the first 4 years are the flat part of the chart.

I have been in plenty of situations where it seemed like the business/project I had to deal with needed to be successful yesterday. At face value that’s an impossibly stressful situation. However, the following 2-step approach usually wins through:

  1. Plan & do the right things, as if there will be enough time.
  2. Survive.

With careful planning (and sometimes good negotiating skills), it’s almost always possible to survive the flat part of the curve, i.e. long enough for the benefits of having done the right things to kick in.

More info

Image results for “graph of success” at

“How to Calculate Success Rate” at

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