As I grow, I have come to discover that life is not linear. Most times, you expect somebody with a lot of potentials to succeed, then they don’t. At some other time, you assume that somebody that is less talented might not amount to much, then, they succeed. Life really could be unpredictable.
The word talent or intelligence has been thrown about and has long been documented as the sole predictor of success. However, in my opinion, though everyone has the potential to be successful, what you do with this potential is really what makes the difference between potential and reality.
So why are some people more successful than others? If you look around critically, you will find out that the smartest and the most talented people are usually not the most successful. Could it be luck? Passion? Hard work? I think the real question is “how come those that are regarded as less talented happen to rise higher at times than the more talented?”
Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller, “Outliers” said that achievement is “talent plus preparation”. He also said, “If you work hard enough, assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.” Two key words from Malcolm Gladwell therefore are; Preparation and Hard work.
There is no doubt that talent is real and yes, it does make a difference. It’s an innate skill that comes naturally to an individual, and yes it provides these individuals with an edge over others. However, we are inclined to believe that top performers or the most talented ones are usually the most successful ones and the less talented are stripped from achieving major success. Several studies however have invalidated this belief.
It has been observed that high performance and great achievements are not solely based on talent, rather hard work, deliberate practice, diligence, focus, and consistency are some of the key practices that leads to success and high performance.
If you are already gifted, yes you can outperform the other who is less gifted but if the other would beat you in persistence, deliberate practice, and hard work, it is possible he catches up or even outdistance you. That is one major difference between intelligence Quotient (IQ) and emotional Quotient (EQ). EQ refers to the ability to manage emotions, to deal with adverse circumstances and life situations and also bounce back from adversity. This factor could make a difference between whether one succeeds or not. Therefore, though Talent contributes to success, it is not the sole determinant of success.
A good example of how hard work trumps innate talent is the story of Tiger Woods. Tiger was initiated into the golf game by his father while he was still 7 months old. Tiger’s father taught him how to place the ball and how to grip even before Tiger could talk. Tiger practiced golf regularly and he became so good that at the age of 19, Tiger became a member of the US Walker Cup Team. Tiger was not born with the talent or skill of playing golf. What I see in Tiger’s life is a consistent and deliberate practice that made him one of the best in the world. I see a man who has practiced for over 17 years to have a major breakthrough in his life at the age of 19, and this is where Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule applies. Malcolm is of the opinion that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery that leads to success. This suggests focus, commitment, and drive.
If you ask Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest footballers of our time why he is so successful, I am so certain that talent alone will not be the reason. I bet that hard work, consistent practice, the intensity and commitment to get better each day will be some added factors. Also as gifted as Messi is, he puts in some hard work and effort to become even better. Proves that deliberate and consistent deep practice will surely produce results.
It is wrong to hold yourself back from achieving your goals through the belief that talent is the only ingredient you need to succeed. The moment you believe that talent is all you need to succeed and that you are not talented, then you automatically hinder yourself from achieving great things.
Being successful comes from your effort to develop yourself. First of all, ask yourself, what do you really want? What do I need to achieve my goal?
Secondly, you must question how you spend your time. If you could double the amount of time you spend on doing things that are more important (and not major in minor things), the rate at which you succeed will also double. That is the secret! You persevere, you stay focused, you practice and trust me you will give the most talented person a run for his or her money. My point is, you can outperform the smartest person in the room as long as you work harder than the talented.
Does talent count? Yes but so does hard work, focus, persistence and commitment.
You must also understand that the most powerful tool that you have as an individual is your mind. Being successful really comes down to you. If you really want something, you have to go out there, fight for it and get it. It will not come to you on a platter of gold. Success is never an accident and most times is not convenient. If it was, everybody will be successful. You have to want it and you have to work towards achieving it by giving it your 100%.
Geoff Colvin in his book, Talent is overrated, said “If it seems a bit depressing that the things you can do to improve performance is not fun, then take consolation in this fact: It must be so”.
If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and then it would be difficult to distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more. If you are willing to do what others won’t do, then you most certainly over time would be able to have what others won’t have.