Have you ever believed that you have no talent? That you are destined for a mediocre life because you’ve always understood that talent is the only determining factor of success?
Sometimes, it can be difficult to look at the likes of Michael Jordan or Elvis Presley and argue the case, “Oh yeah, it wasn’t their talent that got them their spot in the limelight. They just worked darn hard”
The truth is that some of us are born with natural talent. Some are simply designed in a way that allows them to excel with ease.
Perhaps we have the ideal physical proportions to become the deadlift champion of the world. Or we have fingers as long and nimble as spiders’ legs, perfect for mastering the art of playing the piano.
When we are born, we get what we are given. And we can hone in on these attributes and physicality’s that lend themselves to the mastery of certain skills but, what if we believe we don’t have anything to work with?
What if we aren’t artistically inclined, or built for speed, or have the natural flair to write a best-selling novel… Should that stop us?
No, no, my friend.
Talent or No Talent, Everyone Sucks in the Beginning
I’ll never forget a conversation I once had with my ex-partner. We were discussing talent, natural talent vs. ‘I’ve worked my ass off to get here’ talent.
He said to me, ‘…everyone sucks at everything to begin with’.
Well, I couldn’t be having that now could I?
I believe I had just finished a painting which is how the whole conversation came about. He was saying that he couldn’t draw. I argued that he could if he tried and then after a few twists and turns he said that line, ‘…everyone sucks at everything, to begin with’
Now, I don’t know how much I still disbelieve this.
I know that I fought against it at the time because I wanted to believe that I walked into this world with a paintbrush in hand and creativity and skill in abundance.
That I had this ‘natural talent’ that meant I never truly sucked at art, I just needed to refine what I already had available to me.
This is why I now choose to believe that what this ex-partner said is somewhat of a half-truth. There were many times in our relationship where I will happily say that he was wrong, but in this case, he might have had something.
If you truly believe yourself to be talent-less then you need to know that even those people who are born with a natural talent in any given field have to work hard at it in order to make it worthwhile.
The Roger Federers, the Tony Robbins’ and the Lady Gaga’s of the world may have been born with a natural flair but they did not reach great heights by sitting idly by and doing nothing.
Federer would have had to work on a backhand that may have come naturally to him, but it is only the powerhouse that it is today through rigorous training and exercise.
Tony may have always been a great rhetoric, but he had to develop his knowledge of human behavior and learn how to communicate with halls of ten thousand strong.
Lady Gaga is a personal icon of mine and has natural artistic talent aplenty but she had to learn piano, she had to learn music. She did not prance out of the womb and bash out a causal Beethoven on the keys.
I take great comfort in this, and I want you to as well.
Because what this says is that even talent counts for very little if you decide to do nothing with it.
And that opens the doors for those of us who are willing to work our arses off on something that we are passionate about that may not come so easily as it does for others.
You are wasting your life if you allow opportunities to pass you by because you don’t believe you have the talent to do what it takes.
Drive is the Single Best Predictor of Success
Not so long ago I took a long walk and listened to what has now become one of my all-time favorite podcast episodes.
A lot of what I’ll be discussing below references a discussion between Tim Ferris and Jim Loehr (a world-leading coach to high-performance athletes). To listen to the full episode which, after reading this article, I suggest you do then you can head over to the Tim Ferris blog here and fill your ears and minds with wisdom.
“Drive is the single best predictor of success“Jim Loehr
But Jim, that goes against everything we believe to be true! Everything we’ve been told, everything that points to the contrary!
In this episode, Jim speaks more eloquently than I ever could about the necessity for drive. A big mistake so many people make is not attempting to follow their dreams, their passions; because they don’t think they have the talent to achieve.
Yet, understand this, any skill can be learned and mastered if you have the will to do so.
What does that mean, will? Well, it can take many forms and is described differently depending on who you speak with – you might hear it described as grit, persistence, or determination.
Or, as Jim says, “…come hell or high water you’re going to be good at it”
Nothing is stronger or more powerful than a person who has the will to make something of themselves. A driving force greater than talent; a determination and strongest of desires to succeed through guts and hard work.
Hard work always pays off.
Do you ever feel as though sometimes this is just not what people really want to hear? Perhaps it’s the cynic in me but it can oftentimes feel as though ‘hard work pays off’ is met with resistance and loathing.
And I think I know why.
Because the very people who do not want to hear that the answer to their problem is HARD WORK are the very people who want the easy way out.
They want a quick hop and a skip to glory.
Those of us, like you and me, who are fueled by passion however can revel in the fact that talent or no talent we have complete control over how much effort we put in.
We have the emotional intelligence and self-motivation to keep going with the end goal at the forefront of our minds.
And that is powerful.
Perhaps the greatest quote I could pull from this podcast episode was in response to the person who uses grit, perseverance, and dedication to reach their goals in the absence of natural talent and that is this…
“You are not to be denied.”Jim Loehr
Setbacks, failures, mistakes, injuries, and obstacles do not hinder the chances of the person with drive. They are taken in their stride. They are used to make them better and they challenge who is capable of success.
This is how we become mentally strong enough to ignore a ‘lack of talent’ and go for it anyway.
The Desirable Attributes That Override ‘No Talent’
Not so long ago, The New York Times interviewed the senior vice precedent of operations at Google, Laszlo Bock. That’s right, the guy who does the hiring and firing for the biggest search engine in the world.
I thought this might pique the interest of those who feel limited by their perceived lack of talent.
NOTE: Yes I will say ‘perceived’ because the chances are you are either blind or in denial of your capabilities as most are. Answer me this; do you ever take the time to sit down and write down on paper what you are good at? What you excel at or what you’ve ever done well? Hm… You should try it sometime. Oh, and once you’ve done it there is no good dismissing this list of triumphs. No matter how big or small, you must acknowledge and embrace. Otherwise, what’s the point?
If you truly believe that a lack of talent is standing in the way of you getting the job of your dreams, or career of your choice, or even building your own little empire, then take a look at this!
Laszlo Bock says that when he is hiring the next lucky bumpkin to join Google HQ there are the attributes he looks for.
Hint hint: TALENT isn’t one of them!
1. General Cognitive Ability
In other words, do you have the capacity to learn?
General cognitive ability is what allows us to roll with the punches, make informed decisions and learn new things with ease.
It is NOT about IQ. It is about adaptability, being present, and a willingness to take on new challenges.
It does not matter whether you are joining Google or becoming a solopreneur or trying to take home an Olympic gold medal, leadership skills are needed.
The reason being that it’s about how you manage people. Can you speak with them; build trust, rapport and loyalty?
People are what make the world go round, people!
Without being able to form strong connections, we’re most likely not overly desirable. After all, all anyone ever really wants is a team player.
Leadership goes beyond the ‘management’ or a team. It is the management of all of the people around you.
Do you set firm boundaries?
Can you manage expectations?
Are you able to support and delegate at the same time?
Do you show them appreciation?
3. Humanity and ownership
I love, love, love, love, LOVE this point.
Laszlo also describes this as intellectual humanity – do we take responsibility for our actions and behavior or do we place blame.
Where does your moral compass lie?
Being talented is all good and well. Being driven is good and well but we will always be restricted in our success if we can’t take complete ownership of our actions.
Blaming others is a one-way ticket to a) being extremely unlikable and b) never LEARNING.
Do you know how to fail with grace?
Are you able to step in and step up?
Can you support another person’s brilliant idea when it isn’t your own?
Even expertise is last on this list.
Laszlo clearly explains how an ‘expert’ in their field can easily be rivaled by someone who shows curiosity, a willingness to learn, flexibility, adaptability, and a strong sense of ownership.
Eventually they will always arrive at the same conclusion as the expert who got their through experience, it might take them a little longer but get there they shall.
Drive vs. Natural Talent
There are a few things that a person with sheer drive and grit exudes that a person with natural talent might not.
I want you to read through this list because it’s important.
The reason it’s important is that it is relevant to EVERYONE. You say you have a rocket sized bundle of natural talent in crocheting? That’s great if crocheting is your passion… if you dream to become the go-to crochet expert in your industry and be the only choice for crochet buyers worldwide, then lucky you.
But guess what…
Not everyone’s talent aligns with their passion.
The natural-born singer who really wants to write poetry.
The natural-born mathematician who really wants to be a world-renowned figure skater.
What about the natural-born tennis player who wants to own their own bakery?
Surprise surprise, we complicated humans don’t like to make things easy for ourselves. Even those with natural-born talent can be at odds with themselves if their passion lies elsewhere.
And that is why DRIVE conquers all. And why people with ‘no talent’ don’t need any!
Someone with drive will exhibit the following and, natural talent be damned, they will not be denied!
Hard work, hard work, hard work
Show up, get stuck in and work every day to master that skill that will get you where you want to go.
For the naturally gifted they can afford to put in less effort. This does not mean they earn the right to first place. They might still lack a great work ethic, they might still have a bad attitude and they might still fall short if their ego allows it.
Hard work always pays off.
If you work your backside off, you will be rewarded.
Fully Engage with Everything You Do
No expense spared.
Be awake, alive, and responsive. Be self-aware. When you make mistakes, learn from them. If you make progress, celebrate!
If you are going up against others who have the gift of natural-born talent bestowed upon them, then you owe it to yourself to be fully engaged in the process.
They are not more deserving but they might be able to take their eye off the ball once in a while – but we must keep all eyes firmly on that ball.
Make strong decisions, show up and give your all the things that matter.
Use Your Time and Energy Wisely
Our good friend Jim explained to our other good friend, Tim…
“…I could watch athletes competing, playing, practicing, and it wasn’t amount of time that they spent, it was the energy they brought to the time they had aligned with what the objective was. And I said, the most precious resource we have is not time but energy. We are vessels of energy. And as long as we have energy, we can have an impact.”Jim Loehr
It’s a beautiful notion.
How we choose to use our energy is of great importance. Whilst I agree that perhaps too much attention has been given to ‘time’ at the dismissal of other factors such as ‘energy’, I believe the perfect balance lies in the acknowledgment of both.
Our time on this planet is limited and relatively short to those who give it away freely.
When we can sit and attempt to fathom the time limit that comes with life, we can better decide where to place our energy.
With dedication and persistence, we can focus on those fewer, more important tasks that will give the greatest leap in progress.
Focus and Discipline
If what you seek is truly worth fighting for then focus and discipline are key.
These are two attributes that accompany the driven person. They are skills that can be learned and developed and can greatly enhance all qualities of life.
The discipline to say no, keep going, keep learning, and establish healthy habits and routines that only contribute to the ease of development.
Without these two factors, hard work becomes actually HARD, engaging with everything you do is a struggle and using your time and energy wisely is a chore.
Focus and discipline provide longevity for the person who is driven toward the desired goal.
With these two attributes, a person needs no natural talent.
You will fail.
You will fall down and you will make mistakes. Perhaps you will face rejection, judgment, and criticism from people who doubt you.
Maybe these same people tell you that you haven’t got what it takes.
That you couldn’t possibly compete with the likes of so and so whose skill and talent are in their blood and bones.
You will meet these people and you will have to endure failure but someone with drive only uses this to make them stronger. Because, as Jim says, they will make it come hell or high water.
Building on mental AND emotional strength.
Determination and grit mean little if you can’t roll with the punches, overcome setbacks, and appreciate challenge as an opportunity to grow.
These are all just parts of your journey.
With resilience anyone can achieve anything,
With determination and grit anyone can be who they want to be.
And with courage and drive, natural talent doesn’t stand a chance.
Natural Talent Is Over-Rated
Let me tell you why this is true…
…because you have to want to do something with it.
I’m currently watching ‘The Last Dance’ on Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, it follows the Chicago Bulls during the reign of Michael Jordan.
Now, I’m not into basketball but this is an interesting watch if not only to see those 7 ft. giants standing next to all the other ‘normal’ sized people. It looks like they could just pop them in their pockets!
Michael Jordan is considered the single best basketball player of our time.
Very few would dispute that.
Yet, in this documentary, you learn how he didn’t make the cut when he was younger. He wasn’t up to scratch.
Basketball became everything to him. Every day was dedicated to focussing on his game.
He became faster, more nimble, and more flexible; handling the ball as if it were an extension of his arm. He learned to shoot hoops so that it became seemingly impossible for him to miss.
And now, he is THE Michael Jordan.
Perhaps he was naturally gifted. Yet, during those early years, he was described as quite unremarkable. What is true is that he is driven.
He wanted it and he made sure he got it.
He refused to be denied.
If you choose to believe that talent is needed to live the life you want then you must lift this restriction in thinking. Every opportunity out there is available to everyone regardless of any natural gifts and/or upbringings.
If you want it all you have to do is take it and do not be denied.