Talent Is Not Enough

Jun 29, 2021

Hot take here, you being talented is not enough.

That’s right, being really smart, or really good looking, or even highly skilled, is not enough to be truly successful. I know this isn’t the primary message we have learned from society. Society makes everyone, starting in kindergarten, take standardized tests that are supposed to tell us who is the smartest and most likely to succeed. Hollywood and professional sports give us this idea that talent determines who the winners are. But this isn’t how the real world actually works.

If you really want to thrive at something, it requires more than you being talented. It requires grit, perseverance, passion, work ethic. It requires that you take the talent that you were born with and putting in the work to develop it. The researcher Angela Duckworth wrote in her book Grit that 80% of success relies on passion and perseverance. 20% can be owed to talent.

All of us, but especially our young people need to know this. I think too many people go through life thinking they can’t succeed because they’re not talented enough, or some people go through life thinking that they’re owed something because of their talent. That’s not how it works. What we need to do is teach students in a way that talent isn’t the only thing required to succeed in school. Being smart should not be the only thing that makes you successful In the classroom. Yes it’s important, but that being the only determining factor if a student is successful or not is not accurate to the actual world we live in.

As a teacher or speaker, if all I have is the ability to present well, that might work for a time, but it’s not sustainable. There is more to being a teacher than being a strong communicator. I have to be able to put in the hours of study and diligence to create engaging lessons and talks. I have to have leadership skills so I can direct my students. I’ve got to critically think and figure out how to overcome problems, whether it’s Wi-Fi going out in the middle of my lesson, or how I’m going to get my students interested in learning about the subject matter of my class. Not to mention, I’ve got to have the grit and perseverance to put in the hours that this job requires.

It’s not just teachers who are required to be multifaceted in their careers. Everyone who wants to be successful in their job and life has to be more than just talented. And we need to make sure our students know this. Let’s design learning experiences that require more from students than just book smarts. Set them up to collaborate, solve real problems, communicate their ideas with public audiences, give them work that is authentic and meaningful to them, where they are willing to put in the extra time and effort in order to accomplish it. We need to help them see that being successful and really excelling at something requires more than just being smart.

Being talented is great , but LeBron James is more than some guy who is 6′ 8″ and built like a transformer; he is also a tireless worker. Adele can sing like an angel, but you would never have heard of her if she didn’t put in the countless hours to create her music and then tour all over the place to make herself known.

If you are a successful professional right now, I’m guessing you had to work for it. I’m guessing some blood, sweat, and tears went into your success, And I also bet that there was something driving that hard work, some underlying passion that made overcoming obstacles worth it for you. And that passion, and the perseverance that inevitably follows, is worth more than any kind of talent.

So whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a coach, an entrepreneur, a computer programmer, doctor, or student, Use your talent to work hard, develop these intangible essential skills, and overcome any obstacle that stands in your way.

Check out The Epic Classroom book on Amazon.

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