This post is about the impact of the talent versus the impact of the hard work. There has been a lot of conversations about how talented some people are (and some direct pointing to some exceptional athletes), and how no sense it makes to compete with them.
First of all I disagree on the definition of talent, which needs a specific definition.
Secondly, since there is nothing absolute – it makes a lot of sense to challenge the perception of invincibility.
And thirdly – I am a believer in work, as in hard work.
God Given Talent
It seems that people simply love to “wash their hands”, handling the responsibility to a divine third-party, as in – “He was given more talent”, making this all sound like some kind of a sacred resolution.
I am absolutely not believing in this narrative.
Indeed, people are born with some certain predispositions, but the “talents” are not given, they are developed. Those kids playing 24 hours per day football on the street, those musicians who starting with tender age of 2-3 and practice those wondrous 10.000 or more hours (a different & much longer conversation would be what they are exactly practicing and wether it “has to be” one certain movement/skill or it is the diversity and the experimentation that will ultimately create “champions”).
There is a certain pre-disposition for some certain tasks. If you are a 1 meter tall, it would incredible difficult to compete at the top-level height jumping competition against the 2 meter-tall opponents. The physics will not be in your favour. Your competition will have some major advantages. The same will apply to the basketball, swimming, boxing – any competition. You will naturally have to choose your battlefield. Even with the predisposition, these biases will not decide 100 % of the outcome, as we keep on seeing rather not too tall basketball players delivering inspiring performances and some professionals/athletes doing stuff they were not “supposed” to do. Think about one of the greatest German football player – Gerd Mueller from the 1970s. Curved Legs, a little bit fat … Some of his records still stand tall to this very day. We can find such examples in every single sport, in every industry, and they are not the exceptions which confirm the rule, but rather show that the world is full of possibilities and no one can see every possible angle.
The football greats of the 2000/2010s
In the football world people will use the example of Ronaldo vs Messi as to discuss that one is a result of hard-work and the other one is a pure god-given talent.
I know, given that I am a Portuguese, it would be at least strange that I would support Messi more than Ronaldo, that is a good point, but this post is ain’t about the football, it is about work ethics and dedication.
I do not know any of those athletes, but the general consensus on the internet will go in the direction that Messi is probably the purest Talent ever and Ronaldo is the hardest worker you would find in the competitive world of football. I do NOT know if this is the truth.
I can share my take on it.
I do not think that Messi is 100% pure talent. He has spent way too much time practicing as a kid, probably giving 150% of what was humanly possible, churning his “talent” to the level he became the player he is.
As for Ronaldo, his work ethics are being described by his colleagues & ex-colleagues as of the level that have no real comparison. Training too much and being in the need of being told to stop. Just like LeBron James. Just like any other major sport/film/art/informatics person who is achieving incredible heights, through their work ethics and dedication.
I value both of them as incredible workers, although from a pure diversity point of view – I personally value more the player who while visibly more “worked” and “tuned”, and who is showing incredible efficiency with both legs, head, body and mind.
It does not mean that I do not see that I would love to see him a little bit more calm, because in the end it is just a game and not life, but hey – it is me talking from the coach.
But in the end, I have no idea if this whole narrative is true – I just have my current impression.
80×20 vs 20×80
During the Techorama 2019 in Netherlands I have a long conversation with my ex-colleague Gabi Muenster, and one part was pretty much about the talent vs hard-work. She have thrown an argument that “even 80% of the hard work for someone with just 20% of the talent will be comparable to the 20% of the hardwork of someone who is incredibly talented with 80%”.
Doing easy calculations with the following formula (talent as an absolute number multiplied by the percentage of the effort) one can arrive to following conclusion:
0.80 * 0,20 = 0.16 (80% talent, 20% effort)
0.20 * 0.80 = 0.16 (20% talent, 80% effort)
meaning that the outcome will be pretty much the same. We can argue until the death about the perceived quality, but in the end the result IS the same.
I will even argue that in the short term, it is LOGICAL to expect that the effort will be able to grow on the one who invests more and that the amount of talent will stay pretty much the same or can get even lower without sufficient practice for someone who does just 20% of the effort.
Meaning that when choosing between more talented and more hard-working individuals/organisation, it seems to me to be a pretty much obvious that talent is very much overrated (and hey, I am not working in Human Resources, but there is so much on this topic and on the current market that I want to write about one day).
More than 100%
Coming back to formula, the expected limit of 100% is always a perceptional limit. It can go way over 100%. I would argue that to stay where one is, she/he/they should be giving more than 100% of the effort.
I see 100% as a think of a definition. The sky is not the limit, it is just the start. :)
The personal note
As you might already guessed (dough!) I am more in the favor of hard-work, maybe because I feel like I have no huge natural talents and those “talents” that I posses were definitely developed step by step, with a lot of sweat and blood.
By the way, hard work is just a phrase, but smart work is a way of life. :)