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This False Belief Maybe The Reason Why You Aren’t Successful Yet

This False Belief Maybe The Reason Why You Aren’t Successful Yet

We very often call successful people ‘talented’. We somehow believe that they are good at what they do because they have the talent for it, and that some people were simply born with talent that guarantees success.

Some even go so far as to say that if you’re not talented enough, you should just give up: maybe you’re just not cut out to be a tennis player/pianist/painter—stop wasting your time!

But this is a very toxic idea.

While it’s true that talent maybe an advantage for some people, successful people don’t rely on talent alone. They have done lots of other things that you don’t know of to achieve success.

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So, before you blame your mediocrity on your lack of talent, realize what’s actually getting in your way may be you yourself.

What we think of as natural talent is just the result of having started practice early.

Talent doesn’t automagically make you good at something, whether it is playing tennis or solving maths problems. Even if you do have the talent, if you don’t use it properly, it will only be wasted.

And since talent alone does not determine success, there are ways you can succeed even if you think you’re not talented. Indeed, you can become talented—if ‘talented’ means better than many others at what you do.

The reason why successful people seem to be naturally good at something is often simple: they have started practicing much earlier than you even notice them.[1] They have been putting in effort continuously for a long enough time.

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It’s an illusion that they were born to be successful, which is why you should start practicing whatever you think you don’t have the talent for, and keep practicing it if you want to be very very good at it.

Most of us are just impatient; we’re not untalented.

Keep in mind that when you say you’re not talented to do something, what you actually mean is that it’s really hard—at the beginning. You have to be patient, and trust that practice will bring progress over time. Don’t give up.

Federer never gave up. Nor did Lang Lang.

Having picked up a racket at 4, Federer is surely talented. But he didn’t win 18 Grand Slam trophies without having practiced hard for years: he began serious training at a tennis club at the tender age of 8, and have continued to do so till this day.[2]

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It’s pretty much the same story for the talented pianist Lang Lang, who started learning to play the piano at 3.[3] He, ironically, was actually rejected by a piano teacher for his ‘lack of talent’ when he was 9.[4] Luckily, he was able to get over the heartbreak and kept playing.

World champion surfer Nic Lamb once said,

“Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret.”[5]

What he means is that you have to be brave in face of challenges. If you come across difficulties when practicing, instead of giving up, you should keep going, or you will never succeed.

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Success, now it seems, depends more on a combination of practice and patience than talent itself. But practice isn’t simply the repetition of the same skill. You also have to learn the how-to of practice.

Successful people don’t just practice more; they practice smart.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that how much improvement you can make by practicing a skill does not only depend on how many times you practice, but also on whether the way you practice is effective.[6]

Results from the study suggest that trying out different ways of practicing, compared to repeating the same practice routine, helps your brain learn more efficiently, leading to more improvement within a given period of time. This is because small changes in practice can speed up the learning process.

That is to say, you should structure your practice sessions when you’re trying to develop better skills for a certain activity.

For example, if you’re learning the piano, instead of playing the same list of songs many times, you can try to split your time and focus on a different area (technique) each time you practice. You can practice scales, slower/faster pieces, etc. on different days of the week. Besides improving learning efficiency, this also prevents practice sessions from getting boring, giving you extra incentive to keep practicing.

Now that you know practice is the real cause behind success, as well as how you should practice, it’s time to forget about (your lack of) talent and start practicing whatever you’ve always dreamed of doing!

Reference

More by this author

Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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