Talent Versus Attitude: Which One Is The Key To Success?

talent or attitude
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“Natural talent or a high IQ cannot explain future achievement.” ~Robert Greene, Mastery

I would like to leave you with this quote and begin by asking you a simple question. If you had to choose one person from among a group of equally talented singers, on what basis would you choose? Now you’ll probably be wondering that all of them are talented so it would be like a Hobson’s choice. I will answer my own question with a single word – attitude. Aren’t we all fascinated by people who excel in a particular field and outperform everyone else, be it Roger Federer bagging another Grand Slam or Lionel Messi winning another Ballon d’Or? We often attribute their success to their talent. As a society we place too much emphasis on talent or luck while trying to explain how they achieve such a feat. 

However, I believe it is wrong to label people as ‘talented’ or worse, ‘gifted’ for achieving something that they actually worked extremely hard for. Of course, talent and destiny play an important role, but they would be absolutely useless if those people did not have the correct attitude. Everyone does have a unique talent, something that they are excellent at, but the real question is how well do you use your talent, are you able to fight for it and rise to the occasion every time you are faced with challenges, difficult decisions or a hostile enemy? It is at this point that attitude comes into play. Talent is a natural aptitude or skill. Attitude is the way you perceive a particular situation and decides your behaviour when you approach a challenge. I feel attitude is an extremely important, and in fact, the sole component to any success story. Behind every success story goes hours of dedication, sweat, training, mental preparation; therefore, attributing success to purely talent is completely wrong.

Take for example, J.K. Rowling, we have all heard of her, haven’t we?  Rowling’s fame did not come easy. A single mother living on welfare, she was trying to support her daughter. It The story of ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’, took her 7 years to write, and when she finished, all twelve major publishing houses rejected the book. She, however, did not give up; and today she is a best-selling author. Of course, she was talented, but how far could talent have taken her without the correct attitude? Being a high school student, I know these are probably the most important years in our lives, where we nurture our talent and shape our future. Hence, I feel it is very important for us to understand the difference now. 

The right attitude often results in people proactively developing the various skills they need for a particular role and mastering them. Talent does not take the initiative, in fact the right attitude does. Sachin Tendulkar had a tennis elbow at the age of around 32 in 2004 and he was told he would never be able to lift a cricket bat ever again in his life.  Just imagine, a person who has always dreamt of only playing cricket for his country is suddenly told he cannot. However, he came back after surgery and went on to become the first batsman in the world to score 100 centuries and also score the first double century in One Day Internationals in 2011, later bagging the Cricket World Cup in the same year, along with his team, for India. He came back from an injury that could have shortened his career for good, showing his sheer determination and passion for the sport, an attitude so integral to any talent. 

Excellence is chasing your goals and letting the result take care of itself. Worrying about the fruit of our performance often makes us anxious and we often leave out the essence of the journey. We fail to realise that if the journey itself is incredible, the destination at the end will always be something you are satisfied with, whether it is success or failure. The right attitude and adherence to ethics allows you to put the end where it deserves to be and concentrate on path instead. 

In this competitive world, we often aspire to be the best and there is nothing wrong with that, but forsaking the essence of the journey is not correct. If we fail, we lose hope and feel like we are not talented enough, or we tend to accuse something else for our failure. However, isn’t failure what teaches us the requirements for success? If our examinations are approaching, for example, we get choked with nervousness because we are so worried about the result. It is something so relatable. Are we forgetting excellence exists in not only performance, but the preparation? There are so many people who are incredibly talented, but the moment they face a road block they do not know what to do because they have never had to struggle to succeed. They always use their talent to gain success. 

Harsha Bhogle, in his speech at IIM Ahmedabad, used an interesting example that instantly drew my attention. In the Australian army, when they are building an elite core team, they look at ones’ track record, career record; and if one has never failed, they do not pick them. This is because they feel, “If this man or woman experiences failure will he or she know what to do?” They pick people who have failed at some point in life, and then bounced back from that failure. This is where ones’ attitude comes through. Hence, I strongly feel the path to excellence lies not only in talent, but also in ones’ attitude towards your talent. I would like to end with a simple, yet powerful quote, “Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.” ~ Ralph Marston.


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