A previous university study showed that unconsciously and sometimes, consciously, people tend to favor those who demonstrate natural talent over the “strivers” – those who work hard over the years to become really good at something. This is true even though many people often claim to prefer those who work hard, and demonstrate persistence and grit.
However, a large body of literature continues to show that success is more closely related to a strong work ethic characterized by determination, deliberate practice, consistency and a strong routine based on productivity and goal attainment.
Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance studied teachers, spelling bee contestants, students in public school, salespeople, and West Point cadets, and found that the top achievers in all these fields were not always the ones with the highest level of intelligence; they were the ones with the most steadfast determination and a gritty work ethic.
Earlier studies by Benjamin Bloom in his book Developing Talent in Young People (1985) found no indicators that could have predicted the future success of elite performer in fields as diverse as art, music, mathematics and neurology. His findings and other subsequent findings found no correlation between IQ, talent, and superior performance.
What scientific findings do agree upon is that talent alone does not predispose a person to success or elite performance. On the contrary, hard work, intensive practice and support from devoted coaches and mentors are the most crucial elements in determining a person’s success.
Does this mean that talent does not play any role in the dynamic equation of achievement or everyday success?
Not at all; talent certainly gives one an edge especially when coupled with a strong work ethic.
Life is littered with many examples of ‘naturally’ talented people who have let their talent go to waste because they could not be bothered to nurture what already occurs naturally to them.
The problem with paying too much attention to natural talent at the expense of a strong work ethic is that it can lead to complacency. The talented can believe that their peers, who have to strive hard to accomplish similar results, cannot outdo them.
In the long run, pure talent alone does not deliver exceptional results. On the contrary, talented individuals who have a strong work ethic not only create exceptional achievement in their lives; they are also extremely rare.
From Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Johnson to Jeff Bezos, Floyd Mayweather to Tony Robbins, and Beyoncé to Tom Cruise , all are incredibly talented but they also have a remarkable work ethic. In spite of their talent in their respective fields, they practice for hours on end to stay on top of their game.
Few people were born with genius in their DNA but that does not mean you cannot perform better than naturally talented or intelligent people can. Indeed, as the studies mentioned earlier show, consistent hard work can transform average achievers into elite performers.
Talent is great to have but hard work, whether or not you are naturally talented, elevates you to a higher level of performance and success.
Once you develop a strong work ethic characterized by attributes such as grit, passion, commitment, optimism, determination and persistence, it becomes part of you for the long-run.
With such attributes, you are certainly ready to handle the different curveballs life will throw at you.
Compare this to pure talent only—you may be naturally talented in a certain area but may lack the determination and grit required to endure the different challenges in your life. In the long term, talent alone does not guarantee sustained success but a strong work ethic does.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, musician, artist, manager, athlete or an employee with modest talent, it is possible to become really good at what you do by nurturing your latent talent through hard work.
Deliberate practice helps you to not only develop talent and expertise; it also allows you to develop a strong work ethic.
Deliberate practice is a different kind of practice—instead of focusing on what you already know, it involves consistent effort applied toward something you are only modestly good at or not good at, at all.
According to research, people become really good at specific things by deliberately working on what they cannot do naturally. This reiterates the fact that even people with modest talent can outperform natural talents by applying sustained, focused and deliberate practice i.e. working hard to eventually develop superior expertise.
To become and remain truly successful in any given field, latent talent alone will not suffice. Talent is just that—talent—and it will eventually become passive without a disciplined work ethic required to nurture it to greater heights. Without a doubt, the development of long-term success and expertise requires sheer grit, persistence and deliberate practice, whether or not you are talented.