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America’s Got Talent or America’s Got Hard Work?

America’s Got Talent or America’s Got Hard Work?

Have you noticed that there’s a current trend about having talents? One obvious example is the mega-hit TV show America’s Got Talent, which regularly attracts an audience of up to 14 million viewers.

This show is not just popular in America, however. Hugely successful versions of it can be found in countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

I’m sure you’ve seen at least one episode of the TV show, so you’ll know the format: lots of unknown people performing entertaining and sometimes unique acts (e.g. dance, magic and songs).

As the name of the show suggests, the judges are looking for people or acts with an abundance of talent. For the average viewer at home, it’s easy to believe that talent is all that is needed to get on the show – and to potentially become rich and famous.

However, the reality is somewhat different.

Are We Putting Too Much Emphasis on Talent?

These days, people are quick to praise a person’s natural talent.

It’s as if people believe that natural talents count for more than skills developed over months and years. For instance, when watching a gifted sports person you’ve probably thought to yourself just how awesome they are.

And then there are the famous IQ and aptitude tests – which quickly separate the elites from the masses. (Companies choose to hire those with natural talents.)

Just take a look around at the news. Whoever has any major achievements will receive praise from the media and public for being so talented.

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The problem with this, is that talent gets continually put into the spotlight, while the real causes of success – effort and persistence – is seldom mentioned. This leads the majority of people to think that the only way to succeed in life is by having a strong or unique natural talent.

The present heavy focus on talent could be preventing a lot of people from achieving success.

    Don’t believe me? Just watch any of the current crop of dancing and singing contents. The majority of the time the judges will simply comment on skill and talent, and rarely (if ever), judge someone on how much effort or time they have put into learning something.

    This constant repetition of talent over effort is the cause of faulty beliefs, such as:

    • When someone is being praised for having talent, they may begin to rely on their talent, and stop putting in more effort to improve.
    • On the other hand, someone who’s been told they’re not talented may begin to doubt their own abilities, and believing that they aren’t talented they stop trying to develop.

    It’s easy to see how people can fall into the above traps, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    For example, think about Celine who got on the show. Was her success really just because of pure talent? Or could it be that for years she practiced and studied?

      In most cases, behind the natural talent, you’ll find people have also put in significant time and effort into developing it.

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      So, to say that someone is “talented” actually rudely neglects all the effort they have likely put into doing what they do. It’s a bit like an iceberg. We only see the visible part of the iceberg, while the bulk of the iceberg remains invisible to us below the water.

      And then there’s the problem of people using talent as an excuse to do nothing. You hear it all the time: “I just don’t have talent in that area, so why should I bother competing with people who do?”

      In the above case, talent becomes a self-made wall that blocks people from reaching their true potential… which is on the other side of the wall.

        It’s Really About the Effort You Put In

        For sure, there are such things as natural talents. These are the inborn abilities that we are gifted from our family’s gene pool. It’s the same reason why some people are small, and some people are tall.

        Everyone of us has unique talents and abilities. You may remember from school how some of your friends could ‘naturally’ jump higher or run faster than you. And if you ever did gymnastics or martial arts, you’ll have seen the wide-range of natural flexibility that people exhibited.

        People’s unique talents and abilities don’t have to be obvious either. For example, over the years I’ve come to realize that I read much quicker than the average person. However, unless you and I participated in a speed-reading contest, then you’d probably remain blissfully unaware of my talent.

        But forget what you’ve been told. It’s not a talent race. It’s about the effort you put in.

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          Hidden behind every so-called talented person is a great deal of effort and persistence. For example, Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “having no original ideas” and “lacking imagination”; Michael Jordan locked himself in his room and cried, after being dropped from his high school basketball team; and Oprah Winfrey actually lost her job as a news anchor after producers said she “wasn’t fit for television.”

          Despite their individual setbacks, these three people went on to be tremendously successful, and of course, world famous. Looking back on their careers now, most people would assume that Disney, Jordan and Winfrey were blessed with natural talents. The truth, however, was very different. Sure, they were talented, but it was their efforts that really set them apart from the pack.

          Here’s how to discover your own unique talent and make it your biggest strength.

          1. Locate your interest

          People are much more satisfied with what they do, when they do things that match their personal interests. Ask yourself:

          • What do you care about most?
          • What do you enjoy doing the most?
          • What is the thing that you can’t bear at all?

          Then, spend some time narrowing down the options, until you find your key interest. And, if after this exercise, you’re still unsure what you’re really into, try doing different things.

          For instance, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines knew from a very young age that he loved sports. When he reached high school, he tried baseball, basketball, football, golf and tennis before settling for swimming. In other words, he kept trying out different things until he found something that he fell in love with.

          2. Build your strengths

          Once you’ve set your heart on a particular interest, think about whether you have the basic skills to make a success of it.

          What skills do you need to be equipped with? What skills and knowledge can you enhance? What other areas could you improve upon?

          Let’s say that you’ve determined that your interest is in singing. To have a chance at success, you’ll need to invest regular amounts of your time in practicing singing. You’ll also probably want to enlist the help of a singing tutor.

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          3. Get feedback and improve

          Once you start building up your strengths, you should turn to others for feedback.

          This is where a good tutor comes in. They can tell you where your weaknesses are, and how you can improve them. They can also offer you valuable support and encouragement as you develop your knowledge and skills.

          The high-achievers in life never stop learning. They continue to look for new ways to improve and keep reflecting on what they can do better. Instead of shunning feedback from others, they actively seek it. And then use this feedback to help them keep improving.

          Effort Will Get You Much Further Than Talent

          Great accomplishments don’t come simply from talent; instead, they come from immense effort.

          It’s this hard effort and persistence that separates the losers from the winners. The former just find it too easy to give on the road to success. While the latter make sure they reach their destination.

          I really hope this article has opened your eyes to the root causes of success. And if you need any help keeping going towards your goals, then check out one of my previous articles: The Only Time That Change Doesn’t Make You Better

          Find your interest. Dedicate yourself to it. And discover a life of success that you never thought was possible.

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on November 18, 2019

          How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

          How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

          Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

          Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

          How do we manage that?

          I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

          The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

          How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

            One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

            At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

            After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

            • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
            • She could publish all her articles on time
            • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

            Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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            1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

            When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

            My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

            Use this time to:

            • Look at the big picture.
            • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
            • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

            2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

            This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

            It works like this:

            Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

            By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

              To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

              Low Cost + High Benefit

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              Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

              Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

              High Cost + High Benefit

              Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

              Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

              Low Cost + Low Benefit

              This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

              These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

              High Cost + Low Benefit

              Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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              For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

              Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

                After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

                  And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

                  Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

                  Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

                  What to do in these cases?

                  Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

                  For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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                  Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

                    Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

                    The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

                    By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

                    And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

                    Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

                    Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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                    Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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