Very often, I'll have a conversation with a student that either touches a nerve, or simply makes me unable to think about anything else for a week. I was lucky enough to experience this last week.
Trying to explain to me why there wasn't any way she'd be able to win...
"The other girl is just way too talented. She was born like that!"
Is talent enough, or is there more to achieving? I've had this discussion/debate with many students and other coaches over the years, all of which come to a similar conclusion: "Who knows?"
I KNOW!! I know the answer, because I've lived it first hand.
I've listened to a countless number of "experts" talk on this topic, many of them saying that talent will always be the determining factor in one's success. To put it bluntly... BULLCRAP!!!! Most of these so-called experts haven't ever been in the trenches of competition, and never will, making it impossible for them to ever know this answer. They'll never understand what it feels like to either be such an underdog, that extreme hard work is the only way to overcome the odds... or conversely, be such a favorite, that you feel such hard work isn't necessary. I can talk on this subject with such confidence because I was the latter!
I'm the same age as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, two of the best tennis players of all time. When we were each 10 years old, I was easily as talented (if not more, actually) than both of them. My hand-eye coordination, athletic ability, and concentration levels were off the charts. I was hitting the ball over the net with my dad when I was 2 1/2 years old. To put that into context, look at your 3 year old son, daughter, or grandchild, and picture him doing that... not easy!
The public has always been in awe of the video of Agassi rallying with an adult on the tennis court when he was 7 or 8 years old. I was doing this at age 4! To say the least, the talent that I was born with was more than enough to launch me to the top of the tennis world~ easily, not even a question.
I say all of this, not to brag or seem arrogant... but instead, to prove to you that talent is only a tiny piece of the "success puzzle." There must be something else that we must include, on a daily basis: Blue collar, hard work! The kind of work that we wake up craving, and go to bed wishing we had more time to continue. This work ethic must come first over everything if we wish to get to that next level... that level that others are unwilling to "work" for. This level, with all my natural talent, was never going to be for me. Why? Because I wasn't willing to put in the time to reach that high. I wasn't willing to sacrifice my childhood, as Sampras and Agassi did, in order to become top 10 in the tennis world. This same sacrifice is what Agassi now blames for his incredible unhappiness growing up... but that's for another conversation.
Talent, alone will never take us to the top, whether that's athletic, business, or our personal challenges we face everyday. If we want to become the best, become the highest paid at work, or lose that extra weight, we must put in the time... EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Having that kind of commitment means we must love what we're doing, otherwise we won't continue when the pain comes... and you know the pain's coming! If we have a passion for what we're doing, we'll be willing to put in the extra time necessary to reach the levels we strive for.
Yep, I was born with an incredible amount of natural talent... but the passion needed to make that talent shine wasn't there (sorry, dad -- I know you wished I had that love). If you're the most talented at what you do, work harder than the next guy. If you're that "next guy," without the natural talent, make sure you're grinding harder and longer than the one with that talent... because if you do, you'll go farther -- guaran-freakin-teed!
Let me finish with the most obvious example I can come up with:
Look at Tiger's body compared to Phil's. Are you kidding me??!! Phil was actually thought of to be more naturally talented than tiger growing up. There were stories about Mickelson, and the unimaginable things he could do with the golf ball... but as you can see, he isn't willing to put in the same hard work as tiger, resulting in what some would say, an underachieved career.
Who would you rather be?