19. Don’t Let Talent Be Your Handicap

Have you ever felt envious of someone who seems to be good at everything? While discussing finances with a friend, I asked, “How are you always broke?” I know he makes good money, but he often complains about trying to make ends meet. His response opened up a discussion that made both of us reflect on our choices in life.

Why Does Life Seem Easy For Some People?

My friend has always been “a natural.” He’s one of those guys who never had to study hard to get an “A” on a test. He is tall, and he has an athletic build even when he doesn’t work out much. He just has good genetics.

Early in life, success came easily, but he feels that his natural talent can be a curse. He never had to practice self-discipline to succeed. My friend noticed that as he grows older, anything that requires discipline is much harder for him. He failed to develop the skills and building blocks for success, making commitments in adult life a real struggle. He said,

“laziness is a hard habit to break. I developed that laziness of just riding on my natural talent because I didn’t have to practice to be good at anything.”

In many sports, a “handicap” is given to balance the odds between competitors. For example, two cars in a drag race might be staggered, so the faster car has to recover an extra two seconds to beat his opponent. In real life, natural talent can work just like this handicap. It places you ahead of everyone else in a given area. The problem is that if you start two seconds ahead, you’ll never understand what it took to make up those two seconds. You don’t need to develop the planning and execution necessary to excel because it comes naturally. Then when you move into an area where your talent is lacking, if you don’t have the discipline needed to make it work, you fall on your face.

Natural Talent Can Breed A Lack Of Appreciation

During our discussion, my friend mentioned that another issue with having natural talent is that it can lead to a lack of appreciation. Like the trust-fund baby who has no idea how to manage their inheritance, it’s easy for a naturally talented individual to squander their gifts. My friend says that early on, it was difficult not to look down on people who weren’t as tall, smart, or naturally athletic as he was. He commented,

“It’s hard to appreciate something if you never had to earn it.”

We all know a naturally beautiful girl who gains favor on her looks alone. Problems may come when those looks start to fade. If she never developed the discipline to work on her personality or people skills, folks aren’t going to stick around. Being a “natural” can be a curse. My friend mentioned that his brother was always envious of his natural talent. When his brother asked why my friend is so good at everything, my friend said:

“I’m not good at it; I just don’t have to try.”

He told me his brother had become very successful but was never a natural at anything. Because of this, his brother is very methodical at everything he does. He dedicates an incredible amount of time practicing to excel. He appreciates the achievements of others because he knows the value of self-discipline.

Why Is Life So Hard For Some People?

I was never a “natural” myself. In school, I got good grades because I studied tirelessly to be an excellent student. I was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes when I was 27 months old and didn’t grow an inch for two years. I was always the “small kid” until later in high school. I’d have been weaker than the others but did pushups, pullups, and spent all summer working until I could do bodyweight dips to gain strength. Many mornings, I got up early, ran 6.8 miles to school, attended classes, practiced wrestling or football, and ran home. I also volunteered to help neighbors load up their trailers with hay bales so I could gain strength and endurance.

I made varsity in multiple sports and was selected to compete in wrestling tournaments in multiple states because of my work ethic, not my natural talent. For me, it was difficult not to be jealous of the guys who were natural athletes.

If you weren’t born with a lot of natural talent, realize this can be a blessing. You have learned to work hard for your goals. If you want something, devote every ounce of energy. Invest everything you have to succeed, even if it seems out of reach! Create an outstanding work ethic. It will pay off significantly. Being forced to work hard to achieve your goals may have been an enormous blessing!

Natural Talent Doesn’t Make You Successful

Some athletes don’t have great genetics, but they’re still able to become successful in sports because of their sheer work ethic and refusal to accept anything less than perfection. There have been more than twenty NBA players who are 5’9″ or shorter.

  • Standing 5’9″ tall, Isaiah Thomas is currently the shortest player to be included in an All-NBA Team. He is also the shortest player to play in multiple All-Star games. Isaiah Thomas is the shortest player to record a triple-double in a game.
  • At only 5’5″, Earl Boykins played for a total of ten different NBA teams from 1999-2012.
  • Standing only 5’3″, Muggsy Bogues played for multiple NBA teams. During the 1987–1988 season, he played alongside the two tallest NBA players in history. Their difference in height was 28 inches.

Many people with an average IQ become incredibly successful entrepreneurs, not because of their intellect but simply because of their unwillingness to give up. Many college dropouts have built entrepreneurial empires despite their “lack of talent.”

I have to work my guts out for every victory, but I realized that was a huge blessing. I learned early on that winning isn’t easy. Winning takes work! If you’re naturally good at everything, make sure you develop the self-discipline to push yourself to excellence. If you aren’t a “natural,” don’t use that as an excuse to fail, let it create a burning desire for you to succeed!