Harness your Talent

Harness your Talent


The iconic actor Will Smith once said in an interview that he had never viewed himself as talented.

His comments got me thinking though. If Will doesn’t see himself as talented, what does that mean for us mere mortals and our own talents, dreams and ambitions? The first question we need to ask is:

Is talent important?

The talent factor

Do you remember the kids at school who were incredibly talented? They got the best marks. They were great at sports. They were popular. And all of their successes were put down to innate talent.

In many cases, those shining stars at school end up living in the land of mediocrity. Most of them do not reach the stars, like everybody expects. The question is why?

Talent is no guarantee for success

Will Smith puts his success down to hard work. In his own words, where he excels is in a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. “When the others are sleeping, I’m working. When the others are eating, I’m working,” he says.

There’s an important lesson here for business owners too. Although no-one would deny that he is indeed a talented actor, Will doesn’t see talent as the reason for his success, but hard, relentless and dedicated work. In other words, nothing comes free – you have to work at it. Talent without total focus, dedication and hard work isn’t worth much after all.

Talent can be our worst enemy

Before you dismiss this notion as crazy, think about yourself as a talented person. At first, since you’re so talented, everything comes easily to you. You excel over your peers by simply using your talent. You like it. Soon you start expecting to excel without investing too much time and effort. But the reality is that true success cannot be bought with talent alone.

On the other side of the coin to the talented superstars are the people who might not be looking for attention, may or may not be incredibly talented, but who truly believe in themselves. And there is our second lesson: talent and self-belief are not mutually inclusive. People who believe in hard work and focus, and who know that they have what it takes, often surpass the talented individuals who are coasting through life. They aren’t as immediately noticeable as the talented individuals, mainly because they aren’t showing off – they’re working hard. And the real kicker: that hard worker will carry on working hard, improving themselves and focusing on personal growth. And success will follow.

To remain on top, whether you are gifted with great talent or not, takes time, focus and a strong work ethic. Just ask Will, who insists that “Your talent is going to be a failure if you are not skilled and not dedicating yourself to becoming better every single day.”

Become as successful as you want to be

So, how can you harness your inner-self and reach for the stars? First, if it’s not clear already, never rest on your laurels. Maybe you are extremely talented, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. With focus you can achieve anything. As any sportsman will tell you, the competitor with the most willpower and persistence wins the race, regardless of physical strength, fitness or natural talent. These attributes all help, but they are only ingredients in the final mix.

Never let the opinions of others bring you down. To quote Will again, this time talking to his son in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness: “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. People will tell you, you can’t do something, because they can’t do it. If you got a dream, protect it.” Whatever your goal is, it’s your dream, and it’s in your reach. Only you can realise it.

The ‘10 000 hours’ rule for experts

Studies have proven that it takes up to 10 000 hours of hard, dedicated work to become an expert in any topic. This rule applies to all of us. No matter how talented! The studies verified that talented individuals have greater early successes. That’s all fine and well, but in order to achieve real growth and lasting success something more is needed – or pretty soon they are going to be outpaced by individuals who are not as talented, but far more focused, and with a better work ethic.

Axel Rittershaus
Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.
  • Yeti Snow

    Perception, or how you are perceived, is I think most critical in your rise through corporate ranks. I have seen hard workers overlooked, and those who are well-perceived – not necessarily the smartest, although they have been smart enough to network and manage their careers very effectively – cruise through promotion after promotion.

    Work smart, not work hard!