Talent is Never Enough

by John C. Maxwell

There are many misconceptions about what makes people successful. Look back at some of your high school experiences. Were the most popular people in your class the most successful? Were the smartest individuals in your class the most successful? Your answer to those two questions is probably not. If talent was the primary attribute for success, why are so many talented people not successful? The answer is that talent by itself may enable individuals to accomplish certain tasks, but not necessarily have a successful career. In sports, we recognize that a few talented individuals on a team does not necessarily mean that team will win a championship.

Here is a brief synopsis of 13 crucial things that individuals can do to supplement their talent:

  1. Belief lifts your talent—Success occurs to those who believe in themselves. If you do not believe in your potential, believe in yourself, and believe in your mission it is hard to get others to accept your recommendations and proposals. Many books suggest that you dress and act like you are the person you want to become, as opposed to the person you are. For example, if you are a computer programmer and want to become a project leader, you should dress and act like you are already a project leader. If you believe in yourself, and act like you want to be, others will recognize that potential.
  2. Passion energizes your talent—Talent does not carry people to the top, passion does. Sometimes passion has been described as “fire in the belly.” The secret to passion is threefold. First you must prioritize your life according to your passions. Second, you need to prioritize and focus on the higher priority passions. Third, you need to pursue your passions with everything you’ve got.
  3. Initiative activates your talent—Many people start things, few finish. Think of the many ideas that you have had in your life and how few of those have ever become a reality. I’m sure many people thought of the concept of “post-it notes” but only one individual took the initiative to make post-it notes a reality.
  4. Focus directs your talent—Focus does not come naturally to most people. We think of many things we would like to do. Some people are so busy doing tasks that they forget what they are trying to accomplish in life. Time management is a tool that helps people focus. Too many people waste time doing small unimportant tasks like reading and answering emails, while they leave more important tasks until tomorrow. If you focus you do not allow anyone to deter you from accomplishing your objective. You need to stay focused on the present and focused on results.
  5. Preparation positions your talent—It is often said that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Individuals who do not do the necessary preparatory work including planning are normally not prepared to be successful. Individual often want to get into the detailed work before they have actually prepared themselves to be successful. Talented people need to recognize the value of preparation and take the time to prepare and plan before they begin action.
  6. Practice sharpens your talent—Sporting teams recognize the value of practice. Business individuals rarely recognize the value of practice. Frequently managers do not want to allow individuals time to practice their skills. Teams don’t practice being a team. Talented people do not practice their talents. However, successful people have identified their talents and take the time to ensure that they can effectively utilize those talents in accomplishing their life’s objectives.
  7. Perseverance sustains your talent—Perseverance means succeeding because you are determined to, not destined to. As a supervisor I was always surprised at how many people after proposing something and being rejected would never re-propose the same idea. Many experts believe that if you know your idea is worthwhile, and it is rejected, it is probably because you proposed it inadequately. Perseverance says that if you know something is right, you will not give up on it until it has been accepted. Many sales people recognize that they rarely make a sale on the first call. Without perseverance individuals adopt a lifestyle of giving up after a single rejection.
  8. Courage tests your talent—How many people are willing to “bet their job” when proposing a recommendation? How many people have the courage to expend their own time and resources in improving their talent? How many people have the courage to spend nights and weekends to accomplish their objective? Courage will help you persevere your objectives. Courage will enable you to accept results even if you fail.
  9. Teachability expands your talents—Teachability is the desire to listen, learn, and employ. The difficulty with talented people is that they believe they have the talent necessary to do their job. Asking for help, or recognizing and compensating for a weakness is often not an attribute associated with talented people. Successful people view learning differently from those who are unsuccessful. Teachable people are always open to a new idea and willing to learn from anyone who has something to offer.
  10. Character protects your talent—Character defines who you are. It is the values and virtues that govern your life. People with character are rarely tempted to take shortcuts. People with character will insist on doing the right thing even if it is unpopular. People with character are consistent in how they approach life and work. Character is so important in protecting your ability to apply your talent consistently because character will not let you give up in the event of adversity.
  11. Relationships influence your talent—Many do not understand the impact of relationships. It is the relationships in our lives that really do make or break us. Relationships lost can cause immense harm to our motivation and use of our talent. In assuring that your talent will be a factor in achieving success you need to build and develop the appropriate relationships.
  12. Responsibility strengthens your talent—Giving people the responsibility and authority they need to do their job improves their confidence in using their talent to accomplish a goal. Giving someone a task to do, but without the appropriate authority and responsibility frustrates most individuals. For example, if I am assigned a task but cannot buy the appropriate supplies or attend conferences or visit other organizations, I may come to believe that I cannot be successful.
  13. Teamwork multiplies your talent—Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships. Basketball teams containing the most highly talented basketball players in the world frequently lose to less talented teams. The reason is that the less talented teams operate as a team which makes them more powerful than the most talented individual on the opposition. Talented people can multiply their talent by surrounding themselves with individuals who can supplement their talent with other needed talents. The combination of the team is always better than the talent of any single individual.