“Hard work beats talent until talent decides to work hard”, is an expression used by Nike on their shirts to promote athlete commitment to training, analogous to, “No hustle, no progress” and “Every. Damn. Day.”
They also have a shirt that says, “Lazy But Talented”.
Of course, Nike just want to sell shirts, and the more shirts they can print, of the same phrase, that they can put into different words, the better. Hence why they do not mind contradicting themselves. So much for branding.
But that’s the face value. Nike understand that, in the world of elite athletics, there are two ways to get there (assuming no one bribes there way onto professional sports teams); supreme, unworldly talent, or – beyond-the-human-limit hard work.
We can argue some middle ground within these, and they do exist, but it’s never at a top-performer level. As in, true success is not achieved by those who are kind-of hardworking and kind-of talented. There’s too much middle-ground there. Nike understands that people, consumers, love athletes that are inexplicably talented, or ones that have defied all odds to get to the highest level of their discipline.
From this, comes the debate; what is ‘better’ – talent or hard work? If I ever had a chance to ask Stephen A. Smith on ESPN a question, this would be it. Now there are many variables to this question but I would hope he would have one direction and explain why he thinks so. I think everyone has an opinion. I just like listening to him, him and Skip Bayliss.
The same goes in business world.
Companies today will do whatever they can to secure whatever they deem is high-potential talent. Many outsource this process to consulting firms, people who are experts in identifying candidates as high-performers. Candidates that demonstrate behavior and have the inherent traits to be successful in a given field.
At the same time, there are companies, pioneering, world-leading companies, whose workforce is comprised solely of hard workers; people who should become massively successful based on how much work they put in.
The problem with talented people is that they believe they can coast through, that success will come to them, without doing much of anything. That being said, this happens often – much to the frustration of the hard-workers. On the contrary, the problem with hard-workers is they might not have the juice, the flare, the instinct, that makes people in their industry ultra-successful.
But what’s preferred? Each to their own, and frequently dictated by industry.
I’m not a fan of hybrid cars because they circumvent what a car, to me, is supposed to be. Fuel-guzzling, throaty, fast, and ultimately raw. Not a hybrid car in the world I would designate any of those adjectives to.
I’d hate Stephen A. Smith to answer the question the way I would answer the question, and so goes hypocrisy.
In this case, a hybrid is the answer. Imagine the success of talented individuals who are the hardest-working individuals findable.
I thought I would saunter through everything I ever came across in my life because that’s how it was for my first eighteen years. I was just good at everything without trying (excuse me). That’s not to say I couldn’t have done a hell-of-a-lot better. But it was enough to surpass all those in my scope of competition. Talent personified.
Fast-forward to 22-years-old when I entered the insurance industry in a foreign country. No presence, no reputation, no credentials.
I worked out pretty quickly that I would have to dig deep to source something that I, for a lot of my life, hadn’t employed before. Ask my mother and she’ll tell you I’ve always been a hard-worker, and many of people that know me now in the professional realm would probably attest that I appear to be grafting. What can often appear as hard work to some is natural to the incumbent.
I played soccer for twenty years and reached some memorable heights, and with that comes intense training. But to me training was just training; a necessity I had to undergo in order to get where I wanted to be. Training never felt hard. Yes, I hated it at times, but it was still easy, natural if you will. I did well in school, so well that I must have been studying hard. In truth I never had a liking for school, mainly because I felt time was wasted with things I didn’t need or things I didn’t want. Even in college they make you take general education classes that simply will not apply, but hey, the more money schools can pry from you the better your life will be… I never studied. This is not a bragging statement; I genuinely believe in the role of education, but in a much more directed way.
The point being, when I started in insurance, I had to reinvent, to re-strategize if I was going to succeed. This process will last the duration of my career.
I would say a hybrid of the two is ideal. However, you can’t teach talent. Detailed, you can’t teach what talent entails (the juice, the flare, the instinct). Many will say you can’t teach hard work, and in some ways you can’t. I will always advocate that, while there are certain levels of hard work that may never be achieved by the talented, it is something that can be learned. Talent is inherent, instinctual, natural.
I’m glad I’ve learned on the trial-by-fire basis. I think that this is the best way to learn the importance of hard work. When talented people experience times when things aren’t going their way, they sometimes have no Plan B. This is where the hard work comes in. Vice versa, when a hard worker’s hard work isn’t working, what can they fall back on? If a talent has learned that hard work will be part and parcel of their career, they can revert to it, and while it should be synonymous with how they handle their business, it will always be their natural state they rely on.
This is why companies pay so much, either directly or indirectly, for talent. Raw talent can be tweaked to the industry and then set alight. Hence why we have the interview process. How many times has the smartest, most-qualified candidate been declined a job because they are unable to be, at the most basic level, personable in an interview? Untold times.
The most successful people are made for their fields and also have an unnatural talent for working hard. They love what they do, it comes easily to them and so the work doesn’t seem hard, yet they are working harder than anyone will ever see.
I conclude that it comes down to what works for the individual. Many will say there is no substitute for hard work, while the other mob will scream, “Work smarter, not harder!” In short, find the remedy you need to succeed.
Hard-working talent will succeed.