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Why Hard Work is Better Than Talent

Why Hard Work is Better Than Talent

We live in an achievement-obsessed society that is quick to apply the labels “talented” and “gifted” to everyone who has accomplished anything of note. Successful people are often portrayed as superhuman, born with magical abilities that separate them from the rest of the human race. For instance, award-winning actors are touted as talented, as are people who have succeeded in business. If the person in question is young, they are especially likely to be labeled this way.

The media isn’t interested in hard work, or how much effort so-called gifted and talented people have to put in before they see results. Our society now judges someone on their accomplishments, and assumes that they must have inborn gifts. We don’t stop and appreciate the effort that goes into a bestselling novel, a high-performing company, or a stunning piece of artwork. We tend to just assume that “talent” naturally gives rise to excellent results.

You can see this belief operating across society. For example, operating under the assumption that someone is either born talented or average, companies often use IQ tests to scan their applicant pools for people who supposedly show the most potential to outshine their peers. Businesses are obsessed with spotting and training the “very best.” In many cases, the “very best” is equated to “people who seem to have been born with innate ability.”

The truth about hard work

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    Although the media would have you believe otherwise, hard work really does trump talent. When you first meet or hear about a successful person, it’s easy to believe that they must have been born in possession of fabulous gifts. In reality, there are numerous examples of famous people who have relied on hard work.

    For example, legendary basketball player Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team, but would go on to become one of the greatest sportspeople of all time. Animation pioneer Walt Disney was told that he had “no original ideas” and “lacked imagination” by the newspaper that fired him, and Oprah Winfrey was once advised that she “wasn’t fit for television.” These stories illustrate that not every successful person finds immediate success and recognition. It’s hard work and perseverance that ultimately pays off.

    The power of labels

    What happens when someone is told that they are talented? Sometimes, they will become complacent and lose the incentive to improve themselves. For example, a kid who is told throughout high school that they are naturally smart might assume that they will breeze through college. They might never bother to develop the skills needed to study hard and learn new material, as they think that they will be able to ace any class. College might come as a real shock to them, and because they have not bothered to learn study skills, they might find themselves struggling to cope.

    Someone who has been explicitly told that they are in no way gifted or talented might become discouraged and stop following their dreams. For example, someone who takes up art classes in their thirties or forties and is told by their teacher that they don’t really have an aptitude for painting might become depressed, especially if they have waited for years to build up the confidence levels required to sign up for the class in the first place. The world could miss out on some wonderful paintings as the result of a single comment from the teacher.

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    To call someone “talented” can also be an act of rudeness. It implies that the person did not have to rely on their own hard work to achieve success, which belittles their efforts and shows an ignorance of how personal growth and development really happens behind the scenes. Calling someone talented also lets yourself off the hook and gives you permission to be lazy – after all, if someone else is talented and you are not, why even bother trying to achieve a similar level of success?

    In short, labeling someone “talented” or “gifted” is not a straightforward compliment. The very notion that some people are born innately better than others is not constructive.

    How to master your unique power

    It’s true that we are all stronger in some areas than others, but hard work is the real secret to success. There are three steps you must follow in order to achieve your full potential.

    First, ask yourself what interests you the most.

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      What do you think about most often? What do you care about most? What do you like to do in your spare time? What satisfies you? If you aren’t sure of your tastes and skills, try a few new hobbies or investigate a few new topics.

      Second, work on actively building your strengths in this area.

        For instance, if you have discovered that you love art, choose a medium and find resources that will help you master this specific skill. You could take classes, find a mentor, or track down materials that allow you to teach yourself. Think about the basic skills you need first, and work on acquiring them. Practice is your friend here. The more you do, the better!

        Third, make sure that you keep getting feedback from a range of sources.

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          Let them tell you what is working well, and what needs improvement. Successful people never stop learning, and they appreciate constructive criticism. Take other people’s comments on board, commit yourself to ongoing improvement, and never stop working hard! It doesn’t matter whether other people think you are talented or not. What matters is your personal effort and work.

          Embrace your work and believe in yourself

          When you realize that hard work is what truly matters, you will feel free to pursue your dreams. So what if someone tells you that you don’t have any innate ability, or that you don’t show a great deal of potential in any particular domain? You now know that if you choose to follow a path that holds interest for you, and are willing to devote yourself to building up a strong set of skills, there is no reason why you can’t be incredibly successful. And if someone ever does label you “talented” or “gifted,” be sure to remind them that it was hard work that made all the difference.

          More by this author

          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Last Updated on August 6, 2020

          6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

          6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

          We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

          “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

          Are we speaking the same language?

          My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

          When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

          Am I being lazy?

          When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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          Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

          Early in the relationship:

          “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

          When the relationship is established:

          “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

          It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

          Have I actually got anything to say?

          When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

          A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

          When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

          Am I painting an accurate picture?

          One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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          How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

          Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

          What words am I using?

          It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

          Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

          Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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          Is the map really the territory?

          Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

          A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

          I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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