Talent is great, but all it does is give you a head start.
You still have to work hard to win.
The world class level–where you’re in the company of the greatest on the planet in you craft–-is the race.
Hard Work vs. Talent
The race is long and tiresome. Many runners, even with the head start, don’t make cross the finish line.
Others have no head start and no matter how hard they work, they fail.
Only a select few with great will, desire, and the ability to suffer will ever finish.
The race takes years. Actually, it takes as long as it takes. Talent doesn’t prepare you for the grind. That’s why it often dies out undeveloped. Early performing superstars aren’t ready for the real work to become great.
Initial talent makes you look great at first. You blow by the rest of the field, but eventually you’ve gotta face people just like you. These people have talent as well.
What separates the talented from those who produce results and gain accolades? Work. Hard, disgusting, back breaking, you never know when the end is coming, work.
The type of work that improves your weaknesses rather than just skating by on talent. Those with talent but who are lazy and the weak are always the first casualties of competition.
(Read: “So You Wanna Be Part Of The 1%?”)
Competition Never Ends, Even When Talent Does
The race never ends.
You just get to the point where you and a few others are the only ones still running.
Those not willing to put in the work already dropped out. The only competitors left in the field are those with talent AND work ethic.
What Is Talent?
People have an interesting yet predictable response if you ask them to define talent.
Most people think of talent as a display of exceptional ability and skill. People also generally agree that talent is innate.
While we can agree that you can improve your baseline level of ability, certain levels of performance are reserved only for the talented.
When pursuing success, talent is a great asset but it is neither necessary nor sufficient.
My life completely turned around when I stopped believing in the myth of talent and instead focused on becoming as skilled and effective as I could.
(Read: “How To Turn Your Life Around”)
Hard Work Is A Talent
If you have nothing particularly special about your mind or body, you always have the ability to bust your ass. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with hard work.
The ability to work your ass off is an underrated talent.
We consider talent something special, unique, and largely unteachable. Either you have it or you don’t.
Maybe you have a genetic tendency for taking on long, tedious work. Even if you don’t, working your ass off is a talent you can develop.
Hard work is so valuable is because very few people do it.
Even at the highest levels of competition, many competitors never learned how to persist when faced with real challenges. Smart kids experience this all the time.
(Read: “How To Be Competitive”)
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Smart kids coast through their studies until they encounter something that isn’t as easy to solve. Rather than double down their effort, many conclude they simply aren’t smart enough to do the work.
They believe their ability is fixed.
Something amazing happens when they believe that their hard work–not their talent–is what’s responsible for their success. When students shift to a growth based mindset and approach problems from this angle, they immediately see improvement.
This something I’ve always intuitively suspected, but a slew of scientific research confirms what I’ve observed for years.
From a study conducted my Stanford University on the impact of an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) designed “to change students’ ideas about mathematics and their own potential and improve their mathematics achievement”:
“Many students hold damaging fixed mindsets, believing that their intelligence is unchangeable. When students shift to a growth mindset (believing that their intelligence is malleable), their achievement increases.”
The growth mindset leads to hard work. The hard worker immediately gets to work on the unpleasant parts of the task and is determined to slog through it in hopes of finding a solution.
The fixed mindset trains you to believe there is no creative solution. Either you know the answer or you don’t. Either you can or you can’t. But often times, it comes down to whether you’ll try or not and how long you’ll try before you quit.
Students with a growth mindset know they can get better. They believe their ability will grow. This is valuable because it’s rare.
This is powerful. It’s so powerful that another Stanford researcher Carol S. Dweck, P.h.D believes that making even slight shifts in your mindset from fixed to growth can have a profound impact on your entire life.
From her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”:
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
Everyone wants to avoid the unpleasantness of a hard problem, but if you can attack difficult things with gusto and a high pain tolerance, there will always be a well-compensated place for you in the world.
The growth mindset is important, but you have to do the work.
Growth is change and change is work. Work is initially unpleasant; especially if it forces you to encounter areas that you consider weak and have avoided developing.
(Read: “10 Secrets to Success”)
The Only Talent Required Is The Ability To Work Hard
The only talent necessary is the willingness to work harder than anyone else.
There’s always a high demand for people willing to do what others won’t. Most people are obsessed with the idea of working smart and saving energy.
Become obsessed with working hard.
Be grateful when something doesn’t come easy to you.
It forces you to learn the value of hard work.
When life becomes a battle of attrition, only those who have learned the value of hard work over talent will be left standing.