You’re probably familiar with the saying ‘Hard work beats talent’. I could say that the phrase is often used by untalented people who try to compensate for their lack of what naturally comes to those they admire, but that could be perceived as me throwing shade. And I’m not here to throw shade in any way, shape, or form. I actually agree with the statement.
Hard work will beat talent every time. Especially if that talent is not developed to its full potential, and equipped with the right techniques that can take an individual from amateur to professional. That is, if the individual in question would like to elevate their raw talent and cultivate their craft to the next level. I have a lot of respect for those autodidactic people who have managed to successfully amplify their natural gifts without any guidance, but I also think we can agree that autodidacticism is a gift by itself. For most common folks like myself, having pure and raw talent is not enough. You have to invest in your growth, and seek to learn from those who have walked a similar path to the one you pursue. Any talent you possess, has been around for centuries before you got here and previous generations have had the time to study it and figure out techniques to do it effectively. There is a ‘right way’ to do things, though some may disagree. Fact is: there really is nothing new under the sun. So if you’re a talented person, no matter what your talents are, if you feel there is something more to what you can already do, it’s probably because there is. I’ve put together a list of 7 steps, which I believe are essential to elevating your natural talents to their full potential.
1. Formulate your WHY
Why do you do what you do? I’ve listened to countless coaches, lectures and motivational speakers explaining this concept, and each give it their own meaning. But what it comes down to is simply knowing your Purpose. Why do you sing? Why do you act? Why do you write? Why do you make people laugh? Taking time to answer this question for yourself and giving it the right formulation, will lay solid ground for you to build on in your pursue of growth and improvement. The tricky part is that some of us look at external factors to answer this question for ourselves, while it should be all about discovering and celebrating your personal identity. What you need to look for is your intrinsic motivation. When you have clearly defined your WHY for yourself, it will help you focus on what’s most important. It will boost your determination and give you the kind of resilience you need to continue when you experience setbacks or obstacles. Because trust me; the obstacles are right there waiting for you to make your move and you’ll need your purpose to help you face them. So be sure of your WHY.
2. Find out the required techniques
Figure out what you need to learn in order to take your natural talent to the next level. What are the techniques required that will enable you to improve your performance? Do some research about your craft. Are there other variations or forms? What are the studies that have been done regarding your discipline? Let’s say you’re a talented dancer. Find out the basics. What are the genres? Evaluate your skills. What category do you qualify for? What is your dance style called? What other forms would you like to learn? This is how you create common ground for being able to collaborate with others, and it’s also a way to protect your abilities. I know very talented singers with the most beautiful voices who end up with a sore throat or lose their voice after every performance, because they haven’t invested time in learning the ‘right way’ to sing. So taking time to know and master techniques is of utmost importance. Also keep in mind that this is not a one-time thing. The more you learn, the more you’ll find room for improvement, but only when you know the possibilities will you reach for more. So find out what you should be able to do.
3. Know your strengths and weaknesses, then focus on your strengths
As students we’ve often been bombed with SWOT-analysis assignments, to the point where we literally get sick of it. But being able to clearly indicate your strengths and weaknesses has its benefits. One of my weaknesses for example is that I’m not much of a performer. I could care less about the extravaganza and theatrics people want to see, and knowing that this is a weakness has brought me to working with others who can teach me a thing or two about stage presence. Some would say I chose the easy way out by partnering with others, but trying to eliminate your weaknesses with someone else’s complementary skills is one of the most effective ways you can learn. Solely focusing on your weaknesses will enlarge your self-doubt and does absolutely nothing for your confidence. You will gain more by zooming in on your strengths. Watching yourself make progress in the things you’re good at brings more fulfillment and will keep you motivated to push forward beyond your limits.
4. Create your own formula
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. According to the Internet this is a quote by Pablo Picasso… I have my doubts about that, but the statement does make a lot of sense. When you’ve spend some time learning skills and techniques for your craft, after a while you’ll get to the conclusion that you don’t need them all. That’s when you start putting together your own system for getting results, and filter out what works for you. We may have similar talents, but each authentic soul has a personal touch that makes his/her work unique. That personal touch and your most beneficial lessons brought together create your own special formula. Teachers can show you how they got it done, and they can try to get you to duplicate their work, but remember that you have your own blueprint. Their journey may look like yours, but you have another path to follow. So whatever you chose to put in that bag you pack before hitting the road, make sure to take those tried and proven tools that work for you. Make sure you bring your own formula.
5. Take constructive advice, but don’t ask for permission
We sometimes find ourselves in a predicament where even when we’ve reached the capability of standing on our own two feet, we still feel the need to turn to our mentors for advice or feedback. Which is ok. There’s nothing wrong with getting feedback on your work from those who have taught you how. Also because I believe it’s normal to need some validation from your teachers, but asking permission to do what you want to do, should never be the case. That’s a category of power which is assigned to you and you alone. And let’s just put it out there: any teacher or mentor who doesn’t guide you to fully relying on your own strength, cannot be trusted. Whenever you are certain you have what it takes to DO, by all means, start your journey. Don’t wait on anyone’s opinion. Don’t ask for their votes on your decision. The only permission you need is yours. Just go.
6. Do the work
The only thing that matters is your work. This is something I had to learn the hard way, being someone who’s always trying to see the bigger picture and navigate within what I believe is the framework of what I’m doing. It’s also a good thing, but if we’re not careful we can get caught up with everything in that framework except that which is our actual craft. What I take away in the end, is that when it comes to developing your talents, you have to put in the hours and do the work. Everything else is next on the list, but your work, your actual product, needs to be a priority. Of course this is not the same situation with everybody. Sometimes we’re willing to put in the work, but not ready. Then when we’re ready, life happens and all of the sudden we find ourselves in a place where we’re forced to change priorities. But regardless of what the situation may be, you have to find the balance which will enable you to produce. You may have to postpone your goals, and allowing yourself to slow down is ok as well, but do not stop. Forget the obstacles. Forget the time it took. In the end your work will speak for itself.
7. Celebrate your progress
I’ve made a habit of celebrating my successes after listening to a Bishop TD Jakes Sermon a few years ago. I can’t remember the title of the message, but he said: ‘When you celebrate success, big or small, you encourage yourself to do it again.’ I never quite looked at it like that before and it stuck in my head. If for example you’re trying to master certain skills or techniques and you hit a wall, you might get demotivated to continue. But when you consistently celebrate your climb to the next level, no matter how small the step, you feed that intrinsic motivation that keeps you going and reaching for more. So always be grateful for your growth and celebrate your progress. Even if people would try to intimidate you out of acknowledging and being proud of your improvement. You’re the only one who truly knows and understands how much your progress cost you. So with every new accomplished stage of further developing your talents: celebrate!
There’s a lot more we can add to the list, but I believe you can have a go with these 7 steps: begin with formulating your WHY and start your journey to improving your natural abilities. If you have some other essential steps, feel free to comment below. Let’s talk Talent and Growth ;)
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