Talent Is Not Enough for Success

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopaedic surgeon, blogger, and recovering legalist. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Talent is a commodity that some say is God-given.

We talk about the beauty and wonder of talent all the time. Whether it’s athletics, music, business, speaking, leadership or writing, there are individuals who seem to be born to do a certain thing.

It’s hard to describe, but like the color blue, you know it when you see it. There’s just one problem: talent is not enough.

Talent Is Not Enough
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

Have you heard someone say, “That quarterback really has talent,” only to see them fade into oblivion? Or have you been told about a “promising young writer” but never hear their name again?

Why is this?

Because talent does not always translate to success. Being told you have potential is not necessarily a compliment. Potential is wasted all the time.

So how do not do this? How do we avoid wasting our potential? Here are six steps to turn your talent into something productive and meaningful:

1. Identify your talents

Many of us never get past this first step.

You are unique. You have something to offer. Sow hat is it?

Your talent can be something you love to do or something you are good at. Hopefully, both.

Don’t worry about getting this right the first time. Or even the second. It’s a process.

There are numerous examples of writers and actors and even some athletes who did not get their start until much later in life than normal.

2. Start

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you have to put on your running shoes.

Many of us are paralyzed by fear — of not knowing where to begin.

Maybe your path is clear. Maybe it’s not. You will never know for sure until you actually get going. Either way, starting is a much better option than sitting around, wasting your talent.

If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Learn from it, and then move on. Get back on track, and get over the fear of starting.

There are greater dragons to slay.

3. Work hard

Ever wonder how Steve Jobs got good at speaking and managing a company?

Wish you could play golf like Tiger Woods?

Do you hope to some day find out Warren Buffett’s secret to investing?

Here’s their secret: they practiced.

Yes, all of the above people have talent. But they also worked their tails off to turn it into skill.

Malcolm Gladwell calls this the 10,000 hour rule. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice it for at least 10,000 hours.

You might even have to make a few sacrifices along the way.

You had better get busy. That is a long time.

4. Use a coach

No athlete achieves their full potential without a coach.

Coaches provide new instruction, offer feedback, and keep you accountable.

Feel like not showing up today? Your coach will keep you on track. Unsure of the next step to take? A coach can help motivate you to keep moving. It helps to have someone to provide not only accountability but also negative feedback.

We all need to get better. And your best friend may not have the guts to tell you so.

Get a coach. You won’t regret it.

5. Finish

Many have wasted talent and hard work, because of a lack of perseverance.

Finishing is an art. We have to fight distractions, obstacles, even what Steve Pressfield calls “the Resistance”, and perfectionism.

Whatever you choose to do, get it done.

Set deadlines. Keep yourself accountable (or ask someone else to help).

Put a bow on it, and ship it.

6. Do it again

If you find early success, don’t get cocky. And don’t let yourself grow content.

The wide receiver who doesn’t stop celebrating his first touchdown reception is celebrating his only one.

Start a new project. Finish an old project. Learn from past mistakes. Whatever you do, keep going.

Set an alarm, get out of bed, and do it all over again.

But this time, do it better.

The Great Divide

Sure, it’s important to discover your gifts. But don’t stop there.

The divide between talent and skill is immense. The goal here is to turn your potential into something productive.

The person that wins is not the one with the most talent.

It’s the one who works the hardest, does the most preparation, and keeps at it when others slack and give up.

Don’t let that be you — no matter how talented you are (or aren’t).

How has talent gotten in the way of your success? What has good old hard work and practice taught you that skill did not? Join the discussion in the comments.

*Photo credit: John Martinez Pavliga (Creative Commons)