John C. Maxwell has a collection of fabulous little books in hardcover. Books like “Relationships 101”, “Make Today Count” and “Attitude 101”. Possibly the best $10 you can spend; those courageous little books are jam-packed with thoughts, quotes and insights. Talent is Never Enough is like 11 of those books, rolled into one.
I love this book as it speaks to ‘Luck’. It speaks to the idea of ‘entitlement’ and to the belief that “greatness” is something that someone is born with. Absolutely, talent is inherent in people from birth – there are those that are just naturally more inclined at certain tasks than others. But what Maxwell makes very clear early in his book is that talent is a mere starting point, not a final destination. It is talent supported by strong character traits that leads to greatness. Maxwell quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson in saying,
“Talent for talent’s sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to a new power as a benefactor.”
Joy (or passion) is definitely one of the key elements required for lasting success. So is purpose. In Talent is Never Enough, Maxwell outlines a total of thirteen character traits that, when combined with natural talent, can take someone to the stature of greatness; to a ‘talent-plus’ person.
Get your ego out of the way.
A healthy ego is an invaluable tool; it will give you the confidence to follow through on your convictions, and it will allow you to weather the storms of criticism and doubt. But left unchecked, your ego can also give you blinders to some of the important teachings to be gained from the world around you.
“Blessed are they who laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be entertained.”
As Maxwell points out in his chapter on “Teachability”, one of the biggest obstacles to true success is Pride. Pride stops us from listening to the council of those around us when they try to teach us what they have already learned from experience. Pride keeps us on a path destined to failure, rather than allowing us to admit we were wrong and change course. And, as American journalist Sydney J. Harris wrote,
“A winner knows how much he still has to learn, even when he is considered an expert by others. A loser wants to be considered an expert by others, before he has learned enough to know how little he knows.”
Sydney J. Harris
Harris suggests that your pride can focus you on wanting to be considered an expert before you have earned it. As you strive to maintain that “expert” status, you may begin to focus more on not making mistakes than on generating creative solutions; namely to avoid the embarrassment of being proven wrong. Imagine if Thomas Edison had focused on not appearing foolish. Or if Christopher Columbus had been overly concerned with being proven wrong. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without taking chances. More subtly though, taking the safe route will also dilute your excitement for the task at hand. With diluted excitement, the goal of avoiding mistakes becomes even more significant, (who wants to do a job they dislike again, because they got it wrong the first time?) and so the cycle continues. And I can tell you from experience that this can happen suddenly, and subtly. There is a strong and somewhat natural instinct in people with talent to shut their minds off to growth and advice once they learn a little in a particular field. Everyone wants to be an expert.
As a proactive step in avoiding the arrogance that can come so naturally from a few wins in a new field, I encourage you to delight in your mistakes. Make a conscious effort to turn challenges or mistakes into humor. Absolutely, rectify the situation first and make sure that all parties involved are told what went wrong and the steps you have put into place to avoid such an occurrence again. But once you’ve taken care of the situation, find the humor in it and share it with people. It’s amazing how humor at your own expense not only entertains others, but lightens the load for you and reminds you that you are still learning.
Grow in bite sized pieces.
Here’s a thought in regards to reading. When you read a great book (or a great article in The Goose!) and something hits home for you, how often do you actively apply that thought, idea, model, concept, etc. into your life? What I mean to say is –
How often do you change your actions, based on a great idea?
Aside from finding the time to read it in the first place, I believe that one of the challenges of reading a great development book is not that it fails to provide great insights, but rather that it can be so jammed with great ideas that we are literally overwhelmed on where to begin. I picked up a great tip at a conference hosted by Robin Sharma last year. The idea was this –
Focus on and celebrate 1% gains.
In our quick fix world, people often want the “whole solution” right now. Their ego tells them it can be done. For example, if you decide you want to lose weight, the solution that comes to mind may be to hit the gym 5 times a week for an hour, cut all fatty foods your diet and ride your bike to work rather than drive. Noble thoughts, but often far exceeding what could be considered a reasonable expectation on yourself. And when you fail to accomplish your lofty goals, your ego steps back in again, telling you that you were stupid to think it could be done in the first place. Pretty negative stuff.
The truth is, there are incredible vaults of information all around you – books, seminars, conversations with people you admire or wish to emulate. But rather than trying to adopt every concept, every suggestion, found in these resources, I encourage you to pick just one small action to focus on this week. Just one. Going back to the weight lose example, try going to the gym one more time this week than you normally do. If you want to read more, try reading just 20 pages this week more than usual. Next week, try going to the gym twice more, or reading 30 pages. What you’ll find is that even though the goal is smaller, you’ll still be motivated by the plan for positive change. And even better, when you do accomplish your “bite sized goal”, you can celebrate that, and you’ll be even more motivated to push yourself the next week. Growing in stages is a completely natural event (a tree doesn’t spring to 100 feet tall overnight!) and you’ll find it will be an incredibly liberating experience for you.
There are at least 13 area we could have focused on this week, as presented in Talent is Never Enough. The book is rich with stories, inspirations and discussion. Ultimately though, it all comes down to choice. Everyone has talent in some regard. What you do with that talent, how you cultivate and support that talent, is ultimately the difference between greatness and mediocrity. I encourage you to grow your talent with humility, an open mind and character. I wish you the insight to realize how great you already are, and how high you still have to grow.