Is talent a blessing or a curse?

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King
1947 –

Have you ever looked at someone you considered successful and secretly wished you’d been born with their talent? Have you ever silently cursed your parents because you weren’t blessed with a particular genetic gift?

When you think about highly successful people, do you believe their success was a result of talent, or effort? Consider Tiger Woods, one of the most successful golfers ever. Do you believe his success was due to natural athletic ability or hard work? Take J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Do you think she was born with the ability to write a compelling story or that she honed her skills through frequent writing?

Look at any highly successful person you like: Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Jackie Chan, Lin-Manuel Miranda. We tend to see successful people and assume that they were born with some God-given talent that made their achievements come easily.

If you’re American and think that way, you’re in the majority. Most western civilizations tend to think that talent is the major factor in determining the level of success a person achieves. But here’s the simple truth: most Americans are wrong on this point.

The amount of effort a person puts into any task is a much greater determinant of success than their innate talent. Talent is overrated, and unfortunately, effort is underrated. Tiger Woods became so successful because he devoted enormous time and effort to learn and master the game of golf — effort that began at the age of two.

The students of East Asian countries consistently outperform U.S. students in math and science. Those who study this trend believe that the single most important reason is the difference in focus. Americans tend to believe in ability while East Asians believe in effort.

When you put your emphasis on ability and things don’t go your way, you tend to give up too quickly. When you put your faith in effort, encountering difficulty just makes you try harder.

The lesson here is that you can achieve a lot more than you believe you can. Your natural abilities aren’t holding you back. In most cases, it’s lack of effort. Yes, some people have an easier time with things than others. But the real winners in nearly every field are the ones who put in the most effort.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Calvin Coolidge
1872 – 1933

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor


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