Your Talent Counts for Nothing

I was telling someone the other day how much I love what I do. Ultimately you can boil down what I do to one simple thing: Talking to people. I love it. Then that person said to me, “Obviously you’re going to say you love it, you’re good at it and it’s a talent of yours.” I had to admit that they were right. It does come fairly naturally to me. And I suppose that when things come naturally, you tend to enjoy them more. 

But what they said got stuck in my head and it’s been playing through my head over and over for some time. Something about what they said didn’t sit right and I couldn’t quite figure out why. And then I realized that with that statement came the presupposition that if you have a natural ability for something, you don’t have to work at it. This is an incredibly dangerous false assumption to make and a perilous mindset to fall into.

I remember a mentor of mine telling me once, “Mark, your talents count for nothing if you don’t use them and work on them. Because if you rely on talent alone, someone with no talent and twice the work ethic will outwork you and steal everything that you took for granted.”

Many of us fall into the trap of resting on our natural abilities like a crutch. And that crutch holds up other parts of our business and our lives. And when we rely too much on that crutch and put too much weight on it, two things start to happen:

  1. Our muscles (abilities and skills) in other areas begin to atrophy because we’re not using them as much. 
  2. The crutch gives way under the pressure of all that weight and it fails us because it’s not reinforced by the habit of self-development.

When you rely on talent and natural ability alone, you are setting yourself up for failure. You must use and develop that ability to grow it so that it no longer becomes a crutch but a way to develop other abilities through the habits you create to develop it. Your natural ability makes things easier for you in those areas where you have natural ability, but don’t assume that just because it’s easier for you that you’ll be better than someone else. 

Hard work and consistent effort trumps talent and natural ability all day. And eventually, when you’re not even realizing it, someone with the work ethic required will come and take what you took for granted because you thought you could ‘easily’ defend your turf. Someone will come and take everything you hold dear if you’re not working at defending it through developing yourself and your business.

I’m not naturally gifted in any area (other than maybe talking), but I know I can outwork almost anyone. Your hard work is what will separate you from the competition. And if you’re thinking that you definitely work very hard from 9 to 5, but obviously need to rest after work, then someone like me has already beaten you. 

If you want to get to the top 5% of performers in the world in your chosen field, 9 to 5 won’t cut it. Sorry to say,  but it’s true. Look, I don’t want to sound like a jerk or a someone that only cares about work, but if you’re not working on yourself after work as well as during work, you’ll never make it. This is an incredibly difficult truth to internalize. Like, really really difficult. I’m still in the process of realizing this and internalizing this truth. And the more and more I internalize this and the more I work on myself, the more my business grows. Naturally that means that my time for other things needs to be sacrificed in order to create time to work on myself and my business. 

The truth of the matter is that if you want to be in the top 5% there aren’t going to be many (hardly any) nights spent vegging in front of the T.V., or nights with friends, or even time with family. And that’s hard. Don’t, for one second, think it will be easy. You have to consciously choose hard work over fun with friends and family every day. And sometimes that choice will feel like it’s going to break you. Your family won’t understand. Your friends will make fun of you. The look of disappointment in peoples eyes is probably the hardest thing to deal with. And this is where most people will break and fail. They will end up compromising on their dreams to keep other people happy and to enjoy their favorite T.V. show. They will believe they can rely on their natural ability to pull them through. And it will, but only for a short while. And that’s when the realization really sets in. When you begin to understand that the only way to get to where you want to be is through maximum effort is when you will need to ask yourself a very serious question: 

“IS IT WORTH IT?” 

And if your answer is,”No”, know that there is no shame in that. You may have even just saved your marriage and a few friendships. But don’t expect to be in the top 5% in whatever your chosen field is and don’t expect your natural ability to get you there. Because it won’t.

Too many of us have been told the lie that we can be whatever we want.

This is not true.

Wanting it is not enough.

You have to want it enough AND you have to work harder and more consistently than anyone else. 

So over this Christmas break, when everyone else is relaxing and taking it easy, what will you be doing to make that step change to your life? What will you work on so that your abilities don’t become a crutch?