At first glance talent seems to be the biggest indicator of success in any field. Those who have it rise to the top and those without it are left behind. It’s the basic premise behind all the success stories you see in movies or TV.
But talent isn’t everything. It’s very useful and certainly helps, but it doesn’t seem to be the main underlying force behind success. And if you look at it closely, you’ll realize why.
Failure Exists for Talent Too
Most people only pay attention to those who have successfully made it in their profession. Writers, actors and businesspeople all have enough to become well known in their field. After all, the reason you know who they are is because they’ve all become successful at what they do.
But this doesn’t take into account all of the people who have just as much talent or even more who you’ve never heard of. These are people who for one reason or another have decided to quit pursuing their dreams despite having enough talent for success. And there are more out there like this than you might realize.
Everyone has setbacks and failures, but how you respond to them makes all the difference in pursuit of your goals. Some famous examples of failures include Michael Jordan being cut from his High School basketball team or Lucille Ball being told early in her career that she would never make it as an actress.
These could just be considered humorous quirks of history. But what if both of these obviously talented people had taken to heart these setbacks and quit? Everyone has to face and overcome their self-doubts. If either of these famous people had never overcome their doubts, they would have led much different lives.
Of course you don’t hear about the people who gave up despite their talent. They never pushed themselves to develop their talent further and become famous because of it. And unfortunately, people like this are much more common than you think.
No Early Support for Talent
One of the biggest obstacles you have to overcome is simply being able to recognize your own talent. If you aren’t aware of your own abilities and how you compare to others, it can be difficult to build confidence in yourself. This is especially true when you are just starting out.
For example, you could be a great actor, but if you don’t get any parts that showcase your talent, it can be difficult for you to realize how good you really are. This isn’t too far from reality either. Many great actors have to struggle for years and take dozens of bit parts before making it big.
And then there is the difficulty of getting others to realize your talent. An informal study was conducted a few years ago where researchers had a famous and hugely talented violinist, Josh Bell, play for money in a New York Subway Terminal. Despite his ability to fill massive concert halls, he received little attention from passers-by.
If more talent means more success, than he should have received more money than average. However this wasn’t the case. The money he earned was typical of other violinists who play for money in the area. There was one exception though. One person who listened for about an hour left a $20 bill. It turns out that this person had recognized him and was a fan.
Untalented People DO succeed
Then you have to take into account the untalented. People without any discernible talent do succeed sometimes. Look at the field of acting again. There are many actors who have little to no talent, but still find work.
For instance, Keanu Reeves was cast as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing. While there are a few roles suitable for him to play, Shakespeare is not one of them. Just watching his terrible performance makes you wonder why all those other actors who would excel in the role were not hired instead.
What Matters then?
So if talent isn’t completely necessary, than what is? There are many factors that seem to play their part along with talent such as confidence, opportunity and luck. All of them are very important for success, but the biggest one seems to be persistence despite setbacks.
I’ve read a lot of success stories and they all seem to be similar. The person fails, fails, fails and fails again. There are very minor victories along the way. Despite all of this, the person continues and believes in what they are doing. Eventually a lucky opportunity comes around and they succeed.
Only after that happens do people look back and think how inevitable their success really was. But until that time, you get nothing but setbacks and doubt. Despite all those failures, talented people continue to persist until they reach their goals. That’s something so few movies with rags-to-riches stories seem to realize.
photo credit: Dörnveek Märkkstyrn