You are probably very talented at something. Maybe you’re talented at several things. I discovered when I was young that I had quite a bit of talent. When I was in school — competing against the fairly low expectations set by a typical school — that made it easy for me to stand out.
Once I got into the real world, I still had more talent than most people around me, but I didn’t achieve as much as I should have. I had achieved success as a student without even trying. Without realizing it, I was expecting life to work that way — but nobody showed up at my door to tell me how great I was. The world wasn’t eager to reward my alleged brilliance and talent.
It took me many years to consciously learn this lesson, but I eventually learned that talent is enough to give me a possibility of competing — but talent alone was never enough to let me win.
Steve Ogden has become one of my favorite artists in the last year or so. His art is beautiful and his comic — called Magnificatz — is often filled with unexpected insight. Ogden posted this graphic Sunday about talent and he included the rest of the quote from novelist James Baldwin.
“Something that irritates you and won’t let you go. That’s the anguish of it,” Baldwin said. “Do this book, or die. You have to go through that. Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
If you’re just half committed to something, talent will not allow you to last. Talent won’t allow you to be successful when you compete with less-talented people are are completely committed.
When I was younger, I expected the world to beat a path to my door and tell me how great I was. I expected for my talent and greatness to be recognized, even before I’d don’t anything significant. I know better than that now. Talent is not enough and never will be.
If you want to do something that the market isn’t begging for, you’d better have far more than talent. You’d better have tremendous discipline. You’d better love the work you’re doing. You’d better pray for luck. And you had better have the endurance to keep at your work — even when others don’t understand what you’re doing.
This is the path to pretty much anything worth doing. The easy paths take you to things the world is willing to give you, but that’s not where real rewards lie. The world is wiling to give you a bit of material success, but if you want genuine success — the kind which allows you to do what is important to you — you have to be willing to endure a long and winding road along a painful path. And you have no guarantee of reaching your goal.
But if you have to write this book or die — or make this film, or teach a new way of thinking, or bring a change that no one is asking for — you’ll have no choice by to walk this path. If you endure the hardships, you might just find something far more valuable than the trinkets the world offered you at the start.
I’m thankful to have some talent in certain areas, but I’m also thankful that I’m no longer arrogant enough to expect to have my talents recognized easily. I’ve been on a long and winding road for most of the last decade.
I believe my endurance is going to pay off. In the long run, things such as discipline, luck and endurance are going to matter far more than the talent I was once so proud of.