Talent is Overrated

It’s amazing how many excuses we tell ourselves that keep us from reaching what we desire to achieve. There seems to be an unending string of rationalizations we create in our mind that explain away our shortcomings. We aren’t quite living up to what we could be if we just had a few things go our way.

No matter where you are in life there seems to be something illusive, just over the next hill that you aren’t sure you can reach. You think maybe you can, but you aren’t sure if you have the talent or skills required to get there. You see others that are further down the road and they seem to have a few more tools in their tool belt than you. They seem to understand their niche and have well-honed habits in place that help them operate at a higher level. It’s hard to compete with that.

I struggled with this type of thinking for a good chunk of my life. When I was younger I didn’t’ think I had what the other kids around me had. There seemed to be something missing. In the classroom I was average, but my friends seemed to be above average. In sports, I was too small and too slow to keep up, so my friends passed me in sports during high school. I found it frustrating that things seemed to come easier to some of my friends than they did for me. In other ways I found comfort in it because I knew there wasn’t much expected of me. The problem is that I didn’t expect much of me either. You may have known people like me.

Life really isn’t fair. It’s strange how some people can ace their classes without studying much at all (I hated those people). Despite my average talent, I was very competitive in sports. My best friend seemed to be one step ahead of me in every sport we played. (As long as it didn’t involve water. He sank when wet, and I found a sick comfort in that) Many of my other friends seemed to have some kind of talent they were developing and working on to help define them in their careers. After high school I really struggled to find myself. I was lost for a few years trying to find some skill I could use to make a living. I didn’t seem to be good at anything that really mattered. I later found out that was not true. I was just so busy comparing myself to others that I wasn’t applying myself toward personal growth.

I have noticed that sometimes even the most talented people really never make it to the big stage of success or at least don’t stay there. High school, college and professional athletes with mega talent fail under the big lights. They seem to have the talent to succeed but are missing the confidence, or maturity to live out the script others have written for them. Some don’t have the work ethic or discipline, some don’t have that competitive edge, and others simply do foolish things to disqualify themselves from the game. Think of all the political scandals that have taken people down and ended careers of very talented people before their time. It seems like success is more than talent.

Success is a tricky word. I don’t have the same thoughts on this word as I used to. When I was younger I used to equate success with either money, power or fame or some combination of the three. There were those talented people that had achieved a level of popularity, income or power that separated themselves from the rest of the ordinary folks. They were the ones that were fortunate enough to have received an extra portion of talent so they were entitled to a little more than the rest of us. They used their talents and were rewarded for it.

I see things a bit differently now. When I look at the most successful people that I know, they seem to shine for other reasons. Most of them are definitely talented in their own ways but it is not the talent that stands out as the reason for their success. They seem to have something that not even most super talented people have. I discovered that you really don’t need to have much natural talent at all to be successful, but you do need a few other foundational qualities to support the talent you do have.

Work Ethic
You don’t have to have talent to have great work ethic. You can be very untalented and your work ethic will make you stand out from most of your peers. People who have a great work ethic sometimes catch up and pass those with more natural talent (tortoise and the hair). The nice thing about work ethic is that you can apply that quality and it becomes a super tool that helps every part of life.

Our personal life and our work life both come with problems. Life is hard, and sometimes it sucks! People let us down, we make mistakes. Sometimes things we work hard to build get destroyed and we have to start all over again. A person with a strong work ethic will bounce back much faster than a more talented person with less work ethic.

People with a strong work ethic are always working toward something. They are always looking forward to what they need to achieve, not looking backwards at what they already have achieved. People who look backward at their accomplishments and pat themselves on the back tend to quit and coast and develop a sense of entitlement.

If you want to be in high demand in the marketplace, be worth more to your employer than what you are being paid. Then as you become more successful and make more money, continue to be worth more than your wage. Any time your wage catches up to your market value, you need to kick it into another gear or you may soon be replaced. There are always cheaper more talented people, but not necessarily people with great work ethics. Pretty simple but some people never get this.

Truth Tellers
A solid skillset does not make a person more trustworthy. Honest words can come out of anyone’s mouth at any talent level. We can decide to wrap ourselves around the pillar of truth, or we can wrap the truth around the pillar of us. It just takes a commitment to discovering, understanding and embracing the truth independent of our opinions. When we do that, our words will reflect reality.

An honest answer is the ultimate compliment to someone. It says, “I respect you enough to tell you what is really going on, and it’s not my place to tell you otherwise” To be trusted is a virtue that is far greater than any talent. It is available and free to embrace by all who choose it.

Truth Finders
Truth is not the same as knowledge. There is a lot of information out there that is not true. Not only is it important that we continue growing and learning more as we go, we also need to be discerning what is true from what is not true. We need to discover what ways work better than other ways. If you are not sure of the best way to do something, keep looking, ask someone who has been there. Truth is to be discovered, not determined. Are you looking for the truth or looking to be right?

Finding truth always begins with you. I have met people who are very honest with others but struggle with telling themselves the truth. Their impact on others is limited because of this. They tend to allow themselves to be deceived by believing what others think of them or comparing themselves to everyone around them. They make excuses and rationalize decisions to justify their actions. Others are very honest with themselves and can more easily come to grips with their own shortcomings. This can come when our pride is stripped and we learn our place among others. The downside is that they tend to expect others to have the same introspective abilities, leading to stepping on peoples toes all in the name of transparency. I have been on both ends of this spectrum. It took me a long time to believe truth even exists, and it took even longer to embrace truth.

Growth Minded
What’s the difference between a 35 year old athlete and a 50 year old leader? One hasn’t hit their peak yet.

People with growth mindsets come in all sizes, shapes, ages and abilities. The one thing that they all have in common is that they push forward every day to increase their knowledge and effectiveness. I believe sometimes people with less talent have an easier time developing strong growth mindsets because they didn’t have all the extra talent to lean on earlier in life.

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
― Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Anyone can be a source of encouragement. A kind work can go a long way and doesn’t require any special abilities to deliver. The impact words can have on an individual that has been longing to hear words of affirmation is unlimited. You don’t have to write for Hallmark to put a smile on someone’s face.

Having an encouraging heart doesn’t come easily or naturally for most people. It takes a change of perspective in our own heart first. It does not require talent whatsoever. It just requires you to look around and appreciate what we have and what we have been given. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Being an encourager requires taking our eyes off of yourself and focusing on what others need to hear in order to grow. People need encouragement like a plant needs water or Donald Trump needs attention. If you are a grump, negative complainer with a sense of entitlement and a right to gripe, you will indeed miss out on this opportunity.

A person who taps into the ability to encourage others, thwarts himself into another stratosphere of game changers. This may be the most underused resource in the history of everything and everyone can do it.

Once when I was a kid I told my grandpa I was going to swim across Lake Odessa. He said something that stuck with me. “Make sure you set your sights on the other side of the lake. If you set your sights most of the way, and make it, you will drown.” Most people know how to quit. We don’t finish most of the things that they start. We don’t finish our marriages. We don’t finish college. The dropout rate for high school is growing every year. We can’t seem to keep our weight under control. And, most of us can’t seem to figure out the one or two most important things to finish each day before the sun goes down.

Boats have anchors to commit them to a specific location. The anchor is heavy enough and deep enough to be stronger than the elements working to move the boat. Without an anchor, even with the best intentions, there is nothing to keep the wind and the waves from blowing you away from where you want to be. When you do drift away from your desired location, you likely won’t even know you have moved. The change is subtle. Unfortunately many people go through life without any type of anchor. Sometimes they intentionally live without an anchor so they don’t get too tied down or stuck in a place they don’t want to be. In the process, they end up in other places they never intended to go, with people they didn’t intend to be around, doing things they didn’t intend to do. They become someone they didn’t intend to be wondering how they got there. The key word is intend. No one can ever live a life of intentionality without understanding the value of commitment.

You already have everything you need to impact the world.

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