Path to success: Talent or hard work?
Which is more important for success, talent or hard work? The answer is clear, as I will demonstrate, but first – what do we mean by success?
If by success we mean the completion of a task, hard work is often the only thing that matters. If my goal is to dig a three-foot deep hole in the ground by lunchtime, I can achieve this purely by making an effort; talent doesn’t come into it.
However, if we’re discussing career success, with its accompaniments of money, fame and recognition, both talent and hard work are important factors. Actually, I think there are probably four essential elements to career success, and these are: talent, hard work, desire and opportunity.
A degree of talent is crucial. If I want to be a concert pianist, it’s obviously vital that I have more than just a spark of natural ability at playing the piano. If I want to be a top-earning accountant or actuary, I need to have a good head for figures. Clearly we all have varying kinds of natural ability, and the amount each of us possesses will vary a lot, but there has to be some to begin with.
Hard work or effort is required too. I might be a naturally gifted musician, but to get to Carnegie Hall I would need to practice, practice, practice. Likewise, to become a top lawyer, architect, engineer, pilot or programmer I’d need to study the subject, sweat through exams, serve an apprenticeship, put in the hours, experience any number of failures and successes on the road to mastery. These things don’t happen by themselves.
Desire is important. To become a top chef, I’d have to be passionately interested in food. To strive to be an accomplished violinist, acrobat, dancer, racing driver or graphic artist, I’d have to really want to do these things. Otherwise, I’d just be wasting my life.
And there’s opportunity. Among the remote villages of sub-Saharan Africa, there may be quite a few concert pianists, mathematical geniuses and outstanding novelists hidden away. But we may never get to listen to their music, marvel at their theories or thrill to their stories. If they never get the chance to develop their talent, they might not even be aware they had one, let alone get to enjoy the huge success it could reap for them.
Returning to the first question: talent or hard work, which of them is more important? Both are needed, but the answer is clear, really. Think about a person who has great talent but who cannot or will not make much of an effort to succeed, due to adverse circumstances or lack of interest, or perhaps pure laziness. Will that person enjoy great or sustained success? Unlikely.
Now think of a person who is moderately talented but who has the drive and the sheer grit and motivation to put in solid hours, days, months and years of hard work in the pursuit of his or her goal. Will that person succeed? Definitely, in time. Inspiration provides the spark, but it is perspiration that gets the job done.
Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise is a perfect illustration of the advantages of hard work over mere talent; the race was won, not by the hare’s innate ability to run fast, but by the tortoise’s determination, steadfast attitude and application to the task. Plodders may lack the lustre of genius, but they stay the course, and make the modest talent they have go very far indeed. In the unglamorous daily grind of work, where it is important to, as Kipling once said, “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,” hard work beats talent where it counts.
Both of these elements help to provide the makings of a meteoric career, however. Hard work and talent plus desire and opportunity; get all of these four ducks lined up in a row, and bam! Success will be yours.