Professional sports is full of what we call busts. Players who received a lot of attention and big contracts due to their talents, but didn’t perform at the levels expected of them.
The athletes on TV get all the attention for being busts, but there are many more of them who never get large-scale attention for it.
There are people who have something about them – natural ability, a certain affiliation, a fortuitous circumstance – gets them noticed and talked about and good fortune follows. The, for whatever reason, the momentum of the crowd attention dies and this person can’t keep it going themselves. Slowly they die off without a sound.
What really makes busts, busts is not the attention or rewards, whether earned or not. It’s the fact that talent allows talented people to pass over certain benchmarks of character and discipline that the not-so-talented must pass in order to survive.
A person can sometimes be called talented when it’s not really talent you’re looking at. It’s skill, developed and honed over years of disciplined effort. But if the observer picks up the movie halfway through the story, they only understand what they see: a lot of ability and no struggle. Which is what we define as talent.
Character is not developed through attention or celebration or unearned rewards. It’s built when things are not going well, no one is paying you (attention or money), and the average person would quit. Which is what makes character, character: staying disciplined and committed to the work even when you are getting zero – or even negative – results.
For some people, talent is the worst gift they could ever receive. Bypassing the necessity for developing discipline, when the gravy train of talent runs out of gas the talented person has no character to hold him up. And that’s when everything collapses.
So does this mean you’re damned to failure if you have talent? Not at all. You just need few tools.
- “No” People in your circle. You’re heard of “Yes Men” – the enablers who help talent run itself into the ground. No People are the people in your circle who will tell you, loud and clear, when you’re off your job. When your game is falling off. When your performance isn’t worthy of your price tag.
- Look at the work ethics of the least-talented people you see. Don’t let them outwork you. Harder than it sounds. Much harder.
- Remember that Talent is not a renewable resource: once you run out of it, you better have something else to fall back on. The fall without it will be a hard one.