Talent Will Only Get Us So Far

During my college years, friends of mine that were on the football team would often share with me hilarious stories from the head coach and things he would say during practices. If a player wasn’t receiving any playing time and they were brave enough to ask the coach why, he would respond with “You just don’t have “IT” son. You need “IT”!” Lacking “IT” kept the players on the bench.

Sticking with the college football analogy for a minute, did you know that there are there are:

  • 127 Division 1 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams in the country
  • Of the 127, there are at least 85 scholarship players per team totaling at minimum 10, 795 athletes
  • 3,500 of them are draft eligible each year
  • Only 224 players are drafted each year into the NFL, not including supplemental draft and undrafted free agents

With all of that talent out there, why is the number of those making it to the top level of their industry so small? I mean, they all had some type of talent to be noticed in the first place right? Yeah, they did. They had potential and skill, but it takes something extra and different to make it to the playing field…the boardroom…the “table”.

To be the best and to set one’s self apart from the crowd, they have to want it more than the next person. While others are being motivated by external factors, those with heart and an internal burning desire to succeed are planning how they will pass their competition. The best must have the right balance of skill and desire, but when talent fades (and it will), heart can compensate and fill the void.

Do you expect it or do you want it? Will you wait until it’s given or will you take it? The answer to those questions will ultimately determine success.

Work Ethic
Listening to sports analysts and reporters talk about the best in the game, they will talk about on-field stuff, but the conversation always go back to what that person does after the cameras go off and their teammates go home. We’ll often hear of how much time the person invests in developing their craft or niche in the weight room, film room or with personal trainers and coaches. They study the greats in their industry and incorporate their failures and successes into how they approach their business.

I know you’re good and all but can you be taught? Can someone who’s made it help you learn how to harness and control your raw talent…when to and when not to…how much and/or how little?

03cad5f27b2166fa39cc7387a03d7f37The biggest and fastest football players may have moderate success based on their biggestness and fastestness alone, but it’s the smart ones that last and have long-term success. Long-term success comes from not just being able to outdo your competition but being able to outsmart them. Long-term success comes from being a student of the game, learning how everyone’s role effects the bottom line and the success of the team. Understanding the culture, the industry, and the people that surround you will yield better results than just being the best “performer” in the room, as most decision makers will tell you that they’d prefer your long-term consistency and reliability over short-term, temporary flashes of greatness any day.

One thing that I’ve learned in my career is that getting in the door does no good if I can’t navigate inside the room. That smile, that degree or certification, that charisma, works until someone puts you to work, and that’s when your talent on its own means nothing. That’s when people find out what kind of person you are beyond your skill set. When results are needed, capabilities don’t pay the bills. To prosper and to perform on a championship level in any organization, we cannot rely on our talent alone. It is our determination, our dedication and our creativity that drives our performance…and it is these that will help us to rise to the top.


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