You Don't Need Talent to Succeed if You Do These Other Things

Bebe Nicholson

Ignore the naysayers and move forward with your dream

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Contrary to what many people think, you don't need talent to succeed. This might sound radical, because you’ve always believed people with the most natural ability are the ones who accomplish their dreams.

But while talent helps, it can also be a hindrance. How many times have we seen people with great talent or natural ability fail because they never developed the necessary perseverance for success?

This happens sometimes when people peek early in high school. They are the most athletic, the smartest, or the most popular, so they don't need to work hard for their achievements. But when real life kicks in and things get tough, they discover they never developed the perseverance necessary to go the extra mile.

They settle for less than what they could have been.

If you do happen to have natural ability in your area of interest, great. Be sure to develop it. But if you don’t, you can compensate.

The Two P's: Passion and Perseverance

Passion and perseverance can go far toward helping you reach your goals.

My seventeen-year-old granddaughter is an example. I had been attending her ballet recitals since she was five and had witnessed her transformation from cute kid in a tutu to accomplished jazz, ballet, hip hop and tap dancer.

At her last recital before graduating from the program, my daughter (her mother) whispered, “Kimberly has really turned out to be a good dancer considering she has no natural ability.”

This might seem like an unusually critical remark from a mother, but my daughter was voicing my own thoughts.

My granddaughter, while gifted in many areas, had no natural talent for dance. She lacked the rhythm and agility so many others seemed born with.

Her first years of ballet were awkward, stilted attempts to keep up with other girls who twirled and pirouetted across the stage as if they were born to it.

But she persevered, and eventually her instructors moved her into an advanced class with others who were top performers. The teachers were impressed by a passion that led her to accomplish far more than anybody expected.

As I watched the flow of her movements and the unwavering smile of a girl happy to be doing what she was doing, I couldn’t help observing that passion and perseverance had made up for any deficit of natural ability.

I’ve seen this in my own endeavors. From time to time, people have read my books or articles have said, “You’re a naturally gifted writer. I wish I had your writing talent.”

Improving Our Skills

But I don’t consider myself gifted or talented. Writing calls for strong powers of observation, and I’m not a naturally observant person. I tend to focus on my own thoughts and internal dialogue, so I’ve trained myself to pay attention to the world around me.

My eye for detail was terrible until I recognized the importance of detail in writing. Only then did I practice observing and recording details that can move a story from mediocre to engaging.

When I read more, my vocabulary and writing flow improve, so I read as much and as often and as deeply as possible.

All these things were done with the intention of improving my writing, because my skills, whether natural and inborn or mastered through hard work, could be refined and improved.

The Importance of Going Above and Beyond

I had not had any significant retail experience when I was hired to manage a nonprofit thrift store.

Despite my lack of experience, I was determined to succeed. I studied business management, visited similar stores to discover what they were doing right (or wrong), drew up business plans and tried to zero in on the things that produced our biggest sales.

I also went above and beyond my job description.

When I didn’t have volunteers (this being a nonprofit, we relied on an unpredictable volunteer labor force), I hauled trash bins to the dumpster and dragged stained mattresses that had been dropped off during the night away from the store.

I arrived early to make sure the store was clean, swept and organized before we opened.

During my years with this organization, sales climbed from $180,000 a year to $1.3 million, making it possible for us to help many more families with food, rent and utilities. People said I was naturally gifted in sales.

I don’t believe natural giftedness led to these amazing results. I’m an introvert and people usually associate exceptional sales expertise with the extrovert.

Some people thought I had an innate ability to merchandise and zero in on what people wanted. I didn’t. I gave other people the authority to merchandise because it was an ability I lacked, and I paid attention to what customers said they wanted. It wasn’t some magical instinctive thing.

The sales increases represented a tremendous amount of hard work and determination. To reach those numbers, I went above and beyond what was expected of me.

When Your Efforts Are Unrewarded

A lot of the time, my efforts were unrecognized. I remember once when I worked on New Year’s Day while the charity was closed so I could organize and put away donations that had arrived the week before.

There was little room to accommodate the overflow and donations were left outside, where they could be ruined by rain or snow. I worked for hours hauling, heaving, and making room for anything salvageable.

The following day when my boss came to work, she said, “The janitor must have come in yesterday and organized these donations!”

The janitor had not even been there, and my boss never assumed I had done the work. But I didn't let that stop me from doing my best.

When we do our best for ourselves or for a cause greater than ourselves, we can truly excel. But if we allow lack of appreciation or what others think deter us, we will never be the best that we can be.

There will always be naysayers, critics, and those who don't give us the credit we feel is our due. My advice is, ignore them and do your best anyway.

We Can All Be Better

Hard work, determination and an overriding desire to reach a certain goal, even when faced with skepticism, lack of appreciation or outright opposition, are as important as talent.

My store didn’t reach $1.3 million in sales through some inexplicable miracle or because I was born with a gift for sales.

My granddaughter didn’t get promoted to the advanced group because she was born to dance.

Talent is a great starting point. Nobody can deny that people who are naturally gifted have an advantage. But lack of talent shouldn’t be a stumbling block.

I’m not naive enough to believe we can do anything we want if we just try hard enough. The person with a low IQ might not be an Einstein and the basketball player who is 5 feet 2 inches probably won’t make it to the NBA.

But we can all be much, much better than we are.

Don’t let your perception that you lack natural talent stop you. Remember the words of best-selling author Stephen King: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

If you are willing to persevere, you are passionate about what you are doing, you go above and beyond what people expect and you don’t allow lack of appreciation or support to slow you down, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible.

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I've worked as editor, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and book publisher. My writing includes lifestyle, humor, travel, relationship, family, politics, faith and health articles, along with three published books. In my various careers, I've been a journalist, retail manager, nonprofit director, flight attendant, freelancer and mom. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Medium.

Alpharetta, GA
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