27 September 2023

Talent without effort: An empty promise

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Jeff Haden* says crunch time for highly talented people often comes when they realise they still have to work hard to rise above the rest.

Every year, close to 10 per cent of the incoming class of the elite Manhattan School of Music drops out.

Why would so many talented musicians leave, never to return? President of the school, James Gandre has this answer.

“They were the best in their home town, and now they’re with a bunch of other people who were the best in their home towns.

“Suddenly they’re not sitting in the principal seat of the orchestra; they’re sitting at the back of the section.

“They realise: ‘Oh, this is going to be harder than I thought. Talent alone isn’t going to do it. I actually have to work really hard’.”

Hold that thought.

We all have limits, but in most cases, those limits are self-imposed.

One of those limits involves effort; that little voice inside that says: “I’m exhausted and can’t do more.”

That little voice is wrong. Under the right circumstances, with the right motivation, with the right goal… we can always do more.

This is why one Navy SEAL ascribes to the 40 per cent rule which states: When your mind says you’re done, you’re only 40 per cent done.

The same is true with skill; once you reach a certain level of expertise, your rate of improvement typically slows and that little voice inside says your limit is near.

This causes you to assume you’re as good as you can ever be.

The result is what Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset: The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill are inborn and relatively fixed.

Like: “I’m not that smart”; “I’m not that good”; “I don’t have that kind of willpower”.

One of the hardest things a parent has to do is help their children be objective about expectations.

Dreams are great, but reality eventually steps in.

Not just the reality of physical, mental, or emotional limitations, but also the reality of effort.

At some point, talent isn’t enough. People who achieve at the highest level may be talented, but they also have worked really, really hard.

Consistent, relentless effort is the difference between good and great; between star and superstar; between start-up founder and successful entrepreneur.

It’s just as hard to be objective about your own expectations.

If you want to run a marathon, you also have to want to go out every day and follow your training plan.

You can’t just want the goal; you have to want the routine. Otherwise, you don’t really want to run a marathon. You just say you do.

If you want to be a great leader, you have to want the nuts and bolts involved in motivating, inspiring, developing, and coaching people.

You have to accept that your current limits are self-imposed, because in order to achieve whatever goal you set, you’ll have to do more.

Decide what you want to actually do, then find a way to spend time around — or better yet, with — a superstar in the field.

Don’t just focus on what they have achieved. Focus on what they actually do to achieve those things.

Ask yourself if you want to do the same things.

If you don’t, save yourself the anguish and turn your focus to a goal where you don’t just want the result but also the process.

Why torment yourself by dreaming about a goal you will never really try to accomplish?

Deciding what you don’t want is just as important — especially to your happiness — as deciding what you do want.

If you do want to do the things required to achieve a goal, you get an added bonus.

By experiencing first-hand what is actually possible, you’ll not only learn what you need to do to reach the same level.

When superstar performance is the bar, you automatically set your internal limits higher. You’ll realise you’re capable of more.

Everyone wants the end result, yet few people want the effort required to get there.

If you do — if you want not just the struggle, but also the victory — you’ll not only achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.

You’ll also feel a greater sense of satisfaction, each and every step along the way.

Can’t beat that.

*Jeff Haden is a keynote speaker, contributing editor to Inc. Magazine and g host-writer of more than 60 non-fiction books. He can be contacted at jeffhaden.com.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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