Talent is an often-overrated contributor to success. In fact, talent alone is not at all predictive of success. It can actually distract from and undermine success unless it is supported by other complimentary behaviors.
Certainly, talent can be a significant contributor to success, but assurance of success resides in the supportive behaviors, not in the presence of talent alone. Talent can be nice to have, to be sure, but it is not the most important element in achieving long-term success. The truth is that significant, long-term success can as easily be achieved without a special talent as it can be when talent is present.
Unfortunately, our excessive valuing of talent often ignores the behaviors that hold the greatest potential to drive success. The result is that people who believe they have talent can become overly dependent on their talent—to the exclusion of the success drivers that really matter. At the same time, people who do not necessarily see themselves as talented often lower their aspirations and expect not to enjoy significant success.
Our challenge is to teach students—regardless of whether they see themselves as talented—to practice the key behaviors that can generate success. In short, these behaviors can be practiced by almost anyone who wants to succeed regardless of their level of talent. Here are seven success-generating behaviors that we can teach to our students and coach them to practice:
First, listen carefully. While listening is a skill that is often taken for granted, people who practice deep listening set themselves apart. They hear more, understand more, and can respond with greater sensitivity and accuracy than most casual listeners. Listening is a skill and a habit, but it does not require special talent.
Second, be curious. Curiosity acts much like a radar to scan the environment. Curious people are often the first to notice emerging changes and issues. They ask questions that reveal important and useful information, and they are among the first to engage the unknown.
Third, be enthusiastic. Enthusiastic people are generally given encouragement, support, and opportunities not offered to reluctant or disinterested people. The absence of whining and complaining make enthusiastic people easier to work with and more desirable as partners and co-workers.
Fourth, be dependable. Keeping one’s word matters. Those who show up on time and when needed are valuable team members and co-workers. They engender the confidence of others. Dependable people often are given opportunities and responsibilities not offered to more talented, but less responsible individuals.
Fifth, focus on solutions. It is said that anyone can point out a problem. Those who are willing to face and solve problems are far more valuable to any team or organization. Understanding a problem is important, but solutions add value.
Sixth, always give your best effort. Perfection is rarely possible, but a habit of always doing one’s best paves the path to success. Mistakes are inevitable, but when they occur as the result of good effort, they are not cause for shame. Rather, they represent a starting place for new learning.
Seventh, appreciate others. Significant, lasting success is almost never achieved in isolation. Recognizing the efforts and contributions of others and sharing appreciation build teams, strengthen relationships, and demonstrate good character.
When students consistently practice these behaviors, regardless of whether they have a special talent, their path to success becomes clearer and their opportunities grow. Equally important, as students engage in these behaviors, they are also likely to discover special talents they did not realize they possess.