Is talent a gift?
Claudia Altucher in her book ‘Become an Idea Machine‘ doesn’t think so, but I have sort of a mixed opinion about it.
I used to think it’s only about the work you put in, and there are actually cases where people just learn a skill by spending 10,000 hours of practise on it.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book “Outliers” – the Polgar sisters became Hungarian chess grandmasters just by training chess with their father for 10,000 hours.
However, I do believe that somebody who is more talented will always outscore someone who is less talented if he or she works the same amount.
The ability to make connections between nerves and muscles or within the brain, a certain bone structure conducive to specific activities and so on are simply factors that are predetermined through genetics.
If the difference is blatant, I believe the talented person does not need to put ANY work in to get to the same level that the untalented person achieves after putting 50,000 hours of work in.
I do believe greatness comes from a combination of talent and work ethic.
If you are less talented, you can always outwork a lazy talented person.
That’s why lots of talented people underperform.
Rest assured though that in times of pressure, the talented will always come out on top.
#1 – Pressure.
If there is no pressure, we often don’t feel the need to improve.
Human beings can be amazingly content when the basic needs are met: food, shelter, human connection etc.
Only in times of need, only when we feel we lack a specific resource, will we apply ourselves and improve.
Otherwise, we’ll just be ‘coasting along’. Not all of us, but most – myself included.
Pain is an important motivator. I managed to go for 3 years without a girlfriend before I went out and started dating.
People that are most endangered of underperforming are the ones that sort of do well.
Not too poor – as mentioned above – and not too rich, obviously, because then you are already great.
Nowadays though, we have been conditioned to be “happy” with being average.
Our environment provides for everything we need, so what’s the problem?
Nobody can get to where they really live out their dreams, that’s the problem.
To escape this trap, you have to:
(a) find the thing that you are “poor” in and
(b) think about how being “richer” would make you feel or
(c) think about how staying that “poor” would make you feel.
If you could snap your finger and have everything you want right now, like Neo in the movie “Matrix”… how would that make you feel?
If that really does not make you happier, then you are probably fine. But if you realize you’d really like to advance, then you should go and think about ways to make it happen.
And if you are happy the way you are right now, can you imagine to challenge yourself to further improve?
The most dangerous assumption is that all our successes in life are locked in.
Imagine you wanted to have a certain amount of muscle and body fat. Let’s say you have reached 8% body fat and can dead lift 400 lbs.
You worked hard for it. Do you now just quit going to the gym? If you do, then your body fat will increase and the muscles will vanish over time.
The same with money. You can never really lock in success. You have to keep trying every day, otherwise you’ll lose it.
Every step, each and every day, brings you either closer to your goal or further away. You think doing nothing will just lead to stagnation?
No. Because Time’s Arrow moves on without you. You will age. Your friends will move on. Your material possession will deteriorate over time.
If you don’t keep up with the changes, you are moving backwards. Your belly will grow, your relationships will turn sour, your expensive car will rust away.
Enough pressure? Thought so.
Now go and push yourself to make your talent happen again!
#2 – A purpose, goal or strong vision.
You need to know WHY you are doing what you are doing.
Which brings me, once again, to the brilliant video my friend Cam published on finding your purpose:
Having a purpose means having a reason to work on your talents. A “why”.
And this “why” emanates from the vision you have for your life. For example, let’s say you see yourself traveling the world. So making this vision happen is your purpose.
How do you make it happen? Maybe by taking small day trips, explore your surroundings and then do a video blog about it.
Now you have to plan. One vlog per week. You need to record enough material. You need to spend an afternoon cutting the movie together. Maybe you want to write a little bit about it. Then you need to go on Social Media to promote your vlog episode.
See? Publishing your weekly videos is now your purpose.
Over time, you visit different places. Maybe you publish a travel guide and sell it, and the profits you can invest into travelling further away.
So over time, these small goals add up to fuel your ultimate life vision: travelling the world.
And as a result of this whole process, you make your talent as a video producer or movie designer happen.
#3 – Passion.
There is something that ignites a fire in you.
It can be something positive – a sports car that you want to drive, being financially independent, winning a competition etc. –
or negative, e.g. the annoying morning commute you never ever wanna sit through.
Whatever it is, a strong desire to change your current state of mind will push you forward dramatically.
It’s a form of pressure that will in turn force you to feed into your talents. Why?
Because when a situation is so painful or a goal so desirable, you will search for the most efficient means to get out of your current state.
You will build on the talents you already possess and further expand them.
#4 – Consistency.
You have to put in the work, as described in the ‘Slight Edge‘, day after day after day.
Consistency, not big effort, is the key.
The more talented you are, the more you will shine. Put the work in. Consistently.
Imagine two tribes from the stone age. In both tribes, the shaman has discovered how to use a wooden stick to ignite a fire.
But it’s a skill that requires practise.
Now in tribe A, the shaman tries the whole day to ignite a real big pyre by rubbing a wooden stick between his hands. He finally succeeds and the results are spectacular. Big party! Everyone stops by and the festivity becomes a big success. Everyone talks about it the next days.
By and large though, shaman A just regards ‘making fire’ as a decorative skill for big festivities. Sort of a gimmick. Sure, he needs to spend hours upon hours to ignite a fire, but then the fire is really spectacular. As a result, he practises his skill 5 times a year.
Tribe B’s shaman also tries to light a fire by rubbing wood. In contrast to shaman A, he thinks about using the fire every day for cooking. Therefore, he makes a small fire every day. Maybe he spends 15 minutes every day on practising his skill. The rest of the time, he tends to other activities. Tribe B has a lot of superstitial members that deal with relatives haunting them after their death. Stone age problems!
But since shaman B practises lighting a fire every day, he eventually becomes really skilled in doing it. Tribe B always has cooked meat. And on festivities, shaman B can now even light up big pyres within minutes and does not need to spend several hours on trying.
Of course, ideally you want to spend as much as possible on honing your skill. But doing it regularly is more important than trying a lot in one week and then doing nothing for the rest of the month.
#5 – Focus on your strengths.
You have to be able to define your talents.
Those things that you can do just better than other people. Than the average.
If you work on something, you will get better.
Working on something you already have a head start on and using that to win is more efficient than trying to bring your weaknesses up.
Sure, you can work on your weaknesses and improve there.
But overall, what do you win? Let’s say on a scale of 1 to 10 your strength is already at a 7, while your weakness is at 3.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to get your strength up to a 10 – winning – and keep your weakness at a 3?
Rather than have your weakness at a 6 and your strength still at a 7?
In the latter case, you are “well-rounded”, while in the former case, you reach your goal.
Of course, work on your weakness so that it does not drag your strength down. But do spend the bulk of your energy on using your strength to win.
You don’t have unlimited time to succeed in everything.
Working on your strengths is also way more fulfilling, because you constantly get positive feedback. That, in turn, makes working on your strong points even more fun, and then you get better feedback still and so on and so forth.
A virtuous cycle.
#6 – The competitive spirit.
Anything you do, give as much energy as you can.
Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say: the last reps with any given weight always feel the hardest, but those are the ones that build your muscle.
Do a little more than you think you can.
That way, you will push yourself further and further to actualize your talent.
Example: nearly every one of us is a proficient car driver. We use our vehicles for commuting to work, shopping, driving out into the holidays etc.
However, if we want to become race car drivers, we need to challenge us more.
We need to drive faster, learn how to break into curves, time our movements etc. – simply things we never challenge ourselves in normal every day traffic.
We are good drivers. But never great ones.
#7 – Social connections and mentors.
You need people that get you places.
Nearly every talented person who became big has, at one time, had mentors that introduced him to the right people and opportunities.
Moreover, mentors can show you the correct way to do something, thereby cutting stretches off your learning curve.
Mentors are a turbo boost to your career and can be the decisive factor between being good and great.
#8 – Being in an environment where your talent is in demand.
The best talent will get nowhere if you can’t get traction with it.
People are drawn towards value. If you can’t give enough value, no one will care what you do even if you are really really good at it.
#9 – A primer
You may be really talented, but it will not come out until you try it.
You might never know you are a great entertainer unless you try Karaoke. You have to find your calling. You have to see it at least once.
#10 – Grit.
There will be ups and downs.
MJ DeMarco talks about the Valley Of Death where entrepreneurial dreams go to die: the period between conception of an idea and result. At the beginning, you get a slap on the shoulder and people cheering you on. In the end, everyone is proud that you did it.
But in the middle of your journey? You get a lot of headwind.
“Why are you doing that, leave it be” or “You are obsessed” – as if that was a bad thing.
You have to have grit and believe in yourself to push yourself through that valley of death.
Make your own plan, set your own goals, and measure your progress based on those goals. Ignore your environment.
#11 – Thinking big.
Most people don’t perform well because they are not Thinking Big enough.
Most people are not attempting enough on their way to the top.
There is a difference whether we just want to become a bit better or whether we really want to become the best.
Because in the latter case, we will not dabble around. We will only get where we want to be by locking in on our target.
Suddenly, we become committed. The choice of the right mentor will matter to us. Focusing on our strengths will be much more important.
And the daily hustle will be something that dominates the day instead of something to avoid.
If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.
Yesterday’s challenge: Click me!
What is this challenge about? This link will teach you more.
And to get back to the main page, you can click here.
What made talent happen for you?
Or do you think it is all hard work?
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below!
(Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.)