Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character. – John Wooden
Remember the kid in school who did everything at the last minute but still excelled? The one who only half-studied, winged it and triumphed?
Seeing a person effortlessly (even begrudgingly) perform at a high level can be frustrating. It’s like watching someone solve the meaning of life on a chalkboard while rolling their eyes.
Fast forward to your professional life. Colleagues show flashes of brilliance in an off-the-cuff way that sparks the inner dialogue, “Can I keep up? How could I possibly compete?”
Part of us might feel threatened by these nonchalant displays. I’ve found myself looking on with a hypnotic admiration as if watching a savant accomplish the impossible.
The truth is: no matter how many Rubik’s Cubes we toil over, Sudoku grids we pencil-in or Ted Talks we absorb like a sponge, some of us will always be more gifted than others. That’s reality, and it’s out of our control. But what can we control? How do we harness what we have?
Although no one can choose their gifts, we can all choose how we shape ourselves.
A career philosophy, I’ve found, is no small thing. Why do we get out of bed in the morning? What on Earth do we stand for?
In my experiences from desk job to executive, it’s clear that some people just don’t know. They aimlessly stumble through life like a zombie in the post-apocalypse: grasping for whatever moves.
While a destination should always be on the horizon, knowing what it takes to get there is as vital as the air we breathe. Therein lies the “shaping” of ourselves and the journeys we are willing to take on a daily basis to go somewhere.
I’ve met plenty of brilliant people in my professional life. Genius – personified. They, however, weren’t the ones who consistently became successful. Actually, many of them seemed to believe that being talented was enough; that somehow everything would click because they were skilled and capable.
Turns out, they were wrong.
People who truly excelled were persistent. They out-worked and out-hustled the smartest folks in the room because they didn’t rest on their talents, never took the lazy route and came into work every day with a palpable thirst for achievement.
Living by small victories from offhand talent cannot compare to the tenacity of someone who has chosen to shape themselves with dedication and grit. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that committing to persistence in work and life is a commitment to ourselves and infinitely more valuable than natural ability.
Plutarch, the Greek historian, said “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
This is our story to write, and a good story takes some effort.