From Pop Warner to the Pros – Talent is Never Enough

In sports and in business, climbing the ladder from one level to the next always has its challenges. Talent increases, experience grows, and the speed of the game increases. One thing that becomes abundantly clear is that the talent that got you here is not enough to keep you here.

When Everyone Has Talent

I have a friend and John Maxwell Company colleague who has a son playing football in an elite college football program. As this college team climbed higher and higher in the college football rankings, eventually winning the College Football National Championship, news stories about the talent on this team were frequent. I asked my friend’s son about all this talent, and he said something I will never forget. He said, “As I have moved from Pop Warner (a junior football league for a player who has not entered High School yet) to High School to college, the talent level has always increased. What separates one talented player from another is the work that each talented player is willing to do.” I was immediately reminded of NBA coach Tim Notke who said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Talent is Given, You Must Earn Success

Professional golfer Tiger Woods, often considered the most talented golfer on the planet, acknowledges that his talent is not what makes him successful. “Other golfers may outplay me from time to time, but they’ll never outwork me.”

If you find yourself in a group of highly talented individuals, and I hope you do, consider these five ideas to help you move from being talented to being successful.

#1: Belief in yourself and your talent

It might be easy to fall into the comparison trap when you find yourself in a group of very talented people. What matters most is not what other people think of you, but what you think of yourself. Your self-concept (self-image, self-esteem, self-confidence) will determine how successful you can become. You will never exceed your own belief in yourself.

#2: Take the Initiative

You must be willing to jump in and do things. It can be tempting to wait for others to notice you and hope they invite you into the game, but since everyone at this level has talent, taking the initiative often separates talented people from successful people. Successful people are willing to do things that others won’t.

#3: Focus

John Maxwell says that your talent and abilities gain direction and intentionality with focus. Stay focused on your mission and your goals. Don’t be distracted by what others are doing. Don’t be tempted to back off or slow down because others have decided not to work hard.

#4: Preparation

It’s not unusual to see people with exceptional talent believe they don’t need to prepare for the game. Successful people, however, know that talent is not enough; you have not arrived—there is always room to improve and grow. Don’t be caught unprepared.

#5: Perseverance

If you play at an elite level, you will face setbacks and disappointments. You may even question yourself and whether you have what it takes to remain at this level. Another talented person may be getting recognition and praise. The truth is that you succeed because you are determined to, not because you are destined to. Truly elite-level individuals persevere.

Constantly be developing your talent, but never rest on your talent. Be determined to be the hardest working talented person on your team. When you do this, you can move beyond talented to successful.

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.