The Two Things That Trump Talent

One of the big secrets in the professional world is that talent is not the most valuable thing to clients, employers, coworkers, and investors.  I’ve written before about a skill that beats talent every time.  I’m going to expand on that a little bit today.  A combination of two traits will win out over a lot of talent.

Hard work and self-esteem.

Hard work is the ability and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done.  Be the person who never misses a deadline, never drops the ball, never requires additional prompting, never needs to be checked-in on, never induces worry.  It doesn’t mean someone who just  generates a lot of meaningless activity and sweat, and brags about the all-nighters or the amount of effort.  The key here is the word “work”.  The kind of hard work that will beat talent is really hard-won results.  Work needs to mean valuable outcomes, not inputs.  Tangible value created.

Self-esteem is a deep connection with ones own value and meaning, derived from something other than external circumstances or the approval of others.  Those who can win over a room and keep it aren’t the ones who crave attention or approval for their self-worth, or those who naturally have people skills, but those who don’t fear looking foolish or failing because their self-esteem is much deeper than the opinion of others.  They don’t need to win to feel valuable, they want to win and believe they will because they already feel valuable.

These two traits are very connected.  People are a lot less willing to work their butts off if their identity is wrapped up in external validation.  Working hard – really hard – means being vulnerable.  Being a little too cool to break a sweat shields you from potential embarrassment, but rolling up your sleeves and diving in ratchets up the risk of failing, because people may really pity you or think less if you fail when you were trying your hardest.  Those with low self-esteem experience failure as catastrophic, so they rarely work at 100%.

The good news is, unlike some talents or personality traits, hard work and self-esteem can be built.  You can deliberately cultivate and improve on both of them.  The sooner you stop looking at external measures for your sense of worth, the easier it will be to throw yourself into something the results of which may be judged by others.  The sooner you dive in to your work and resolve to consistently produce, the more you’ll gain a sense of worth from your effort and the less you’ll care what others say.  They feed each other.

Stop worrying about how you stack up talent-wise and become unshakable in your self-esteem and unequaled in your hard work.  These two things supersede all the rest, and will result in the rapid accumulation of opportunity, experience, and yes, even other highly valuable talents and skills.