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3 Ways Talent Will Undermine Your Success

talentWe all have a natural aptitude or ability that’s completely unique to us. It may be a capacity for languages, an affinity for mathematics, a flair for persuasive communication, or you may have a knack for sports or music.

Whether you’re familiar with your talents or you’re still discovering them, we each have our own strengths. Sadly, talent is not a promise for success. The world is full of uniquely abled, amazing individuals who never capitalized on their potential.

Here are a 3 ways your genius may be sabotaging your achievement.

1. Talent offers awards without effort

After a child discovers they have a natural gift, it doesn’t take long for them to start exploiting it.  Of course they do—who wouldn’t? Everyone wants positive reinforcement and to be recognized for their strengths.

Maybe you have a particularly strong memory, and you begin to look for opportunities to show it off. Maybe you sit in the corner with your guitar at parties and show off your natural musical abilities. Either way, you thrive on the words of approval you get from those around you. And that’s how your talent begins to screw with you . . .

Ability will only take you so far. Without development and effort, what you’re able to accomplish by natural aptitude alone will eventually plateau. By that time though, your talent will already have you addicted to getting praise without having to do anything.

Which leads you to . . .

2. Talent will make you lazy

Imagine you’re a piano prodigy. You were born with perfect pitch and pick up chord progressions with ease. You’ll spend hours working out your favorite songs because you enjoy it. And as I said earlier, you feed on the attention you get for what comes naturally.

You will eventually run into musical pieces that will require work to play, and it’ll annoy you more than it should because you’re not use to having to invest the effort. Anyone else knows what it’s like to work for every musical achievement—but not you.

Playing more difficult pieces requires a certain amount of muscle memory born from repetitive activity. To improve, you’ll have to do boring things like play scales, improve your sight reading, and learn more complicated chord inversions and substitutions. Without a great amount of self-discipline, you probably will neglect the areas that require effort and focus on the parts that come easier.

Meanwhile, there’s a kid across town without any of your talent who’s getting better than you as we speak because she’s doing the work.

3. Talent will not prepare you for competition

Talented kids, particularly ones with creative or physical talents, spend a lot of time daydreaming about getting discovered and making it big. But let’s be honest, there are a lot of star high-school quarterbacks reliving their glory years while they grow old in their home town.

It’s one thing to be the best in your little community at something, but it’s another to thing to compete with other talented, skilled, and prepared individuals for the limited opportunities that exist to turn those talents into a vocation.

By the time you’re old enough to parlay your abilities into an actual livelihood, talent’s already done its best to undermine your self discipline and honest assessment of your skill level. It’s already convinced you that success is inevitable. It can be a real eye opener to realize how unprepared you are to take over the world.

Your talent will definitely give you a boost when it comes to helping you acquire a specific skill set, but it will not give you drive. And here’s the sad truth:

The driven will excel over the talented almost every time. 

Competing in the real world for that writing position, that first-chair post in a professional orchestra, or first-string quarterback position will pit you against other people who want it as badly as you do. And they may be less talented, but if they have greater drive to acquire skills, beat out the competition, and achieve, you don’t stand a chance.

As the culturally influential playwright Noël Coward once said, “Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head. The one and only thing that counts is: Do you have staying power?”

Well, do you?

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Imagine the pain if you have to endure if you are talented AND beautiful.

    April 1, 2014

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