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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 October 22, 2020

          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

          How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

          Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

          When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

          Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

          What Makes People Poor Listeners?

          Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

          1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

          Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

          Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

          It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

          2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

          This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

          Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

          3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

          It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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          I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

          If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

          4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

          While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

          To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

          My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

          Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

          Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

          How To Be a Better Listener

          For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

          1. Pay Attention

          A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

          According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

          As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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          I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

          2. Use Positive Body Language

          You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

          A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

          People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

          But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

          According to Alan Gurney,[2]

          “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

          Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

          3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

          I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

          Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

          Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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          Be polite and wait your turn!

          4. Ask Questions

          Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

          5. Just Listen

          This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

          I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

          I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

          6. Remember and Follow Up

          Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

          For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

          According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

          It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

          7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

          If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

          Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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          Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

          Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

          NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

          1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
          2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

          8. Maintain Eye Contact

          When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

          Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

          By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

          Final Thoughts

          Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

          You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

          And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

          More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
          [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
          [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
          [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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