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The Talent Conundrum!

A few years back my son, Nikhil, like many smart boys his age, got a thought stuck in his head which said that results would come without much effort; he had scored 98 in Math in Std–X and a fairly high score in the Sciences too. Hence, it appeared to his teenage mind that his talent would ensure that the marks come automatically; he did not put in a huge effort to study for the Std-XII examinations. When the results were announced he got a huge shock! He had only managed to score what can be called a fair score – there were no numbers in the late eighties or nineties. That was five years back – since then he has graduated from college and works now for a leading Indian organisation.

The reason for providing this anecdote here is to tell the millions of youngsters out there that talent is not enough to make them succeed – talent just ensures that you get there, to stay on you need to perform and that happens only when you are on a planned program of activities. There are dozens of examples in sport, business and the entertainment business to show how while a few succeed many fall by the wayside.

What was / is the differentiator?

Young professionals who join the workplace after achieving excellent grades in college and even seasoned professionals who have seen a consistently good set of results soon get the wrong notion planted in their head – that they just need to turn up and things just happen.

I have to disappoint you, Folks! That is a myth!

Talented people sometimes convince themselves on the following:

  • They believe that there is nothing more to learn – they know it all!
  • They are convinced that effort is for lesser mortals, people without talent.
  • They don’t commit to do any work because it is boring and a waste of time

Remember, it wasn’t your presence that got the results, but it’s more about what you did!

To all the talented people I have this to say – Congratulations! You have qualified to stand on Step-1. Now it is time to put in the efforts that in due course would slowly, yet steadily, take you to the top step.

Here are a few things you could do:

–          Define / Decide, where you want to go or what you wish to achieve!

–          Understand what can get you there!

–          Put in the effort to improve – persistently and in a planned manner.

–          Find the weapons needed to make you invincible.

–          Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

–          Don’t be afraid to accept failure – stay motivated!

–          Get feedback on your performance – get a coach.

–          Iron out the kinks!

–          Be committed to the plan – don’t give up!

–          Accept criticism that is useful! (I know, it is a bitter pill to swallow.)

–          Believe you are good but don’t let it go to your head!

An example easily recognised in India comes for cricket, the national madness – a hugely talented cricketer named Vinod Kambli shone for a short while and faded away while his classmate, Sachin Tendulkar, went on to achieve glory. Many experts said that Kambli was more talented of the two, and that went to his head. While he frittered away his chances Tendulkar stuck to a plan and the rest they say is history.

The challenge for employers who have a bunch of talented people in their ranks is to create a program to utilize their energy and brilliance – if they are put on routine work that can be done at half-steam frustration and restlessness would set in. Managers leading talented team members need to be keep creating challenges that keep them busy and using their potential. Their results need to be recognised and rewarded suitably.

All talent people need to realise early in life that recognition comes after performance and not prior to it. Results need effort and only constant learning can keep them at the top. While they need to be encouraged and nurtured by the people around them, but both sides need to get real and work on shaping the talent into something useful.

Goals win matches, not the ability to score goals!

P.S: In the book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell provides some amazing insights on how Champions are created – be they scientists, cricketers, guitarists or businessmen – each put herself or himself through the grind and went through a painful process of failure, disappointments and learning before appearing as the awe-inspiring wonders on the world stage.

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  1. Raji sumanth
    May 25, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Complacence is the biggest of sins. Once we allow ourselves to become complacent, we’ll find that things start going haywire! You’ve done well to reiterate the importance of hard work allied with talent. J, I’d like to add something else to this…the X factor. There’s always that extra something that really great achievers have that transcends hard work and talent. It cannot be explained and it cannot be imitated and it never is a formula to work by!

    • JayadevM
      May 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Raji,

      Yes, the X-factor …. hard to explain, isn’t it? That is why I stuck to the realm of the known and the possible.

      Maybe, I should try to explain … or should I say hazard a few guesses on that inexplicable component of talent and success!

      As for complacence … that’s a terrible malaise – best left alone.

  2. Jamy
    May 27, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Taking things for granted is the biggest mistake a professional or an organisation can make! Good stuff Jay!

  3. Malovika
    May 29, 2012 at 9:04 am

    This is just at the right time for me…the XII board results are out & my daughter is embarking into the tough world of college & deciding careers etc. Will definitely forward it to her & hope she has the good sense to grasp something of it in the euphoria of success….

    • JayadevM
      May 29, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Hi Malovika

      Am glad you found the article useful and timely. With two competent professionals to guide her young Priyanjali will take the right decision for sure. If my article helps in some small way I will be thrilled. Best wishes to the young lady for an enriching and successful career.

  4. Kailash
    June 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Good Thought J. I heard this in one of Harsha Bhogle’s speech….In Australian Army they will not select you if you have not failed anywhere in your life till then? the reason is if you haven’t failed you don’t know what is the pain and you don’t know how to fight back and come good.

    I able to read this one today as i was on tour to Egypt. YOu can check the snaps.

  5. Meen
    July 8, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Thanks Jay, good article indeed, keep writing.. it gives small dose of wisdom which we know but have forgotten in our day today firefighting. Hey want to recommend “Go Kiss the World” book by Subroto Bagchi… read it for sure… I found it inspiring and honest book.

    • JayadevM
      July 8, 2012 at 6:57 am

      Thank you for reading … and for the book reco.


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