7 Common Mistakes That Block Your Talent From Fulfilling Its Potential

Max Phillips

7 Common Mistakes That Block Your Talent From Fulfilling Its Potential

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of football’s most decorated players, once said:

“Talent is useless without hard work.”

He’s not wrong.

We all have talent, just at different things. Learning how to exploit that is what sets you apart from everyone else. You must learn what parts of your life need altering.

If you’re struggling, you might opt to blame outside influences. I propose taking a look at yourself. Have you done any of the following things?

If so, it might be time to cut them out.

#1 — Trying to please everyone

When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

There are some people, perhaps even your friends and family, who will turn from trusted confidants to naysayers. Forbes reported Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz struggles:

“Even his own business partners didn’t think Americans would pay for lattes and cappuccinos.”

How wrong those business partners were.

If anything, a hater is a good sign. It shows people are taking note of you and your work.

When I had my first negative comment on an article, I was initially disappointed, but I soon changed my tune. I realized my work had evoked such a reaction it caused a stranger to take time out of his day and try to drag me down. I found it hilarious.

Tips to avoid this:

  • When creating something, create it for one person — you six months ago. This way, you’re helping yourself out and not trying to please some random strangers on the internet. You can let your talent shine and come across like an expert.
  • Instead of thinking about how your work will please others, think about improving your current ability. For example, I see every article I publish as a mini-experiment. One piece at a time, I grow my following and improve my ability. The better you get, the more people will want to consume your work.

#2 — Copying other people’s desires

After I graduated from university, many of my friends were starting their careers. I was left behind, wallowing in a retail job I didn’t want. My life felt like it had reached a dead end.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I began applying for various graduate schemes. That’s what my friends did, and I figured it would work for me.

I was wrong.

What I wanted was to work for myself and build income my way. I wanted to go freelance. I was just too scared. I didn’t know anyone like that; therefore I didn’t have anyone to speak with.

I wasted months on pointless applications and dragged myself into a pit. It wasn’t pleasant.

I’m telling you this because copying other’s desires is a futile venture. You’re not letting your talents shine, but riding on the coattails of others instead.

Tips to avoid this:

  • Before hopping on board with other people’s desires, imagine yourself in a similar situation. Are you genuinely happy? Or are you lying to yourself? Imagine your daily routine and the realities of your potential life. Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of visualization to see the truth.
  • In terms of work, take note of which job applications excite you and which don't. None are particularly thrilling, but the ones you believe in are a good indicator of where your talents lie.

#3 — Not clearly defining their why

Let me ask you this: why are you doing what you do? Is it out of necessity? Or are you too scared to explore your talents in fear of rejection? Whatever it is, defining your why is an efficient way of removing the training wheels and speeding into the distance.

If you're going to explore your talent “because I want to make money” is not good enough. It may feel like it at the start, but what about six months in? A year, perhaps?

Your why is your fuel. If you want to keep your engine running, you can’t let it run out.

Tips to avoid this:

  • Instead of predicting how you will feel, ask someone who has been in the same situation for advice. For example, if you wanted to quit your boring cooperate and go freelance, speak to someone with skin in the game. Get an accurate picture of what it would be like and determine for yourself.

#4 — Temporary persistence

To be successful in anything, you must have persistence.

When I first started writing, I thought every article needed to be the best thing I’d ever written. In reality, I needed quantity over quality.

The only way talent can improve is through training. If your persistence lasts a few hours or days, then it won’t get far.

Put it this way: any overnight success is far from it, barring lottery winners. It’s the result of years of hard work, most of which will go unseen.

Tips to avoid this:

#5 — Splitting attention between too many projects

When I was working in retail, I longed for the day I quit and write full-time. But I never quite knew when that would be. I didn’t have enough free time to gain traction, so I kept postponing everything. Too many projects, not enough time.

If you have too many fingers in too many pies, none of them will get the attention they deserve. Take that attention into one or two projects, and the growth will exceed your wildest expectations. Trust me.

There was a time when I was focusing on getting my first 1000 views. Now I’m searching for 50,000 and above. A lot has changed, but the main thing was my attention.

It’s now undivided.

Tips to avoid this:

  • Understand something for me: success isn’t linear. It will be chaotic, and there’s no natural way of pinning it down. The sooner you understand that the sooner you can focus on using your talent.

#6 — Suffering from main character syndrome

“If I do it by myself, then my achievements will be worth even more praise.”

That was my thought process when I first started writing. I thought it was me vs the internet, fighting other writers for precious views like Gollum and the one true ring.

This is idiotic.

There are no superheroes here, nor do you get a medal for doing it by yourself. In fact, all you’re doing is blocking any talent from surfacing.

Since I opened myself up to others, I’ve come across many superb writers, all of whom want to help. It’s enabled me to feel comfortable in the community and, above all, improve my talent.

Tips to avoid this:

  • Actively seek people in your industry. Usually, other like-minded people are more than happy to give advice and fulfill a mentor role, as they were once in the same position as you.
  • The worst thing that could happen is they say no. If that happens, move on. There’s no harm done, and there are plenty of people out there to speak with.

#7 — Listening to everyone but themselves

A few years ago, I was in the car with my mum and her friend. Unsure of where my life was headed, I discussed writing and laid out its viability. Within seconds, I was bombarded with suggestions.

While I know it was from a good place, the amount of misguided help did my head in. I knew I didn’t want to do anything suggested, which made me even more confused.

I realized I should listen to myself and do the thing I was talking about in the first place.

Most of the time, you know best. It’s time to listen.

Tips to avoid this:

  • As I mentioned, take note of what you find yourself talking about a lot. Chances are, the thing you talk about most is where your talent lies, even if you don’t realize it. Once you recognize a skill, you can go all in.
  • If they’re not peers, most people won’t understand your talent and therefore can’t give useful advice. Pick who you listen to very carefully.

You could have all the talent in the world, but if it’s misdirected, it is useless. Think of it like a gas pedal. When you’ve got the entire vehicle working, you can floor it and speed off into the distance. However, when the car is broken, you’re going nowhere.

Talent is glamorous. It’s speed, acceleration — the thrill you feel when you’re better than others. But it needs help.

The habits you form now will determine how your talent will flourish in the future. If Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t put the correct systems in place at the beginning of his career, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be writing about him now.

Don’t leave it up to chance. Take the wheel.

Push your talent through the floor.

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