The other night I sat down to watch tv and noticed that we live in a world “starving” for personal talent. It seemed that every channel has a show focused on talent of some kind; Fox – American Idol, ABC – Dancing With The Stars, NBC – Last Comic Standing, and even CBS has Survivor where they look for the most talented lier.
Whether these shows are an accurate judge of personal talent, may be a myth in itself, but it got me thinking, we are fed a lot of superstitions about how and what to develop as talents in the workplace.
I’ve always liked this definition of talent, “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.”
#1 Hard Work and Long Hours Lead to Success
One of the biggest cliches in our world is that the road to success is paved in hard work. What it really should say is “The road to success is paved in hard work, but the successful aren’t doing the paving”.
Think about the hardest working professions. I think of coal miners, construction workers, the cleaning staff of fancy hotels. They put in back breaking, genuinely strenuous HARD WORK. Yet, none of us envy their jobs.
Sometimes we think about how hard the work should be that we disregard the “smarter” way to accomplish our goals. I’m reminded of a fascinating story from NASA that illustrates this point
During the space race back in the 1960’s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen”. Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.
The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.
They used a pencil.
#2 You Should Focus On Your Weaknesses
We are hounded constantly to work on our weaknesses. Even when we interview for an exciting new job, they inevitably ask us what our biggest weakness is. We come home and turn on the tv and there are countless stories of how “insert weakness here” developed this amazing ability to “insert special talent”. We watch this and go, “Wow, if that person with no hands can play the piano that amazingly, surely I can do it half as well.” Then we go off and start this new hobby, only to quit after it gets a bit harder than we originally anticipated.
Working on our weaknesses isn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t become a priority over the talents we truly do have. What would have happened if Michael Jordan started on baseball, and never focused on his basketball talent? Don’t fall in the same trap.
#3 Success Comes From Versatility
The only one stop shop that’s been successful I can think of is Wal-Mart, and even they don’t claim to be the best at everything they do. They focus on low prices in the most popular things people buy.
Have you ever tried being a Wal-Mart. I have. It’s hard work and burns you out.
In volleyball there is a position called the Labaro. Typically, the athletes will have weak areas that strikers on the opposite team will use as targets. The Labaro’s focus is to be aware of these weaknesses, and shine as a defensive player who will do everything they can to cover those spots. Their team mates can then focus on defending their areas of strength and setting the ball for their own strikers.
Malcom Gladwell made the 10,000 hours to skill mastery common knowledge. If it genuinely takes that much time to become an expert, how many skills can you truly afford to master?
Many times focusing on your talents requires some delegation. This can be a tricky game. As a manager, if you “don’t do any of the crap work, your team will think you do nothing”, but if you don’t delegate anything then you are only hurting you and your team.
This is why having a diverse team can be so beneficial. What’s “boring” or “unproductive” to you can be incredibly rewarding to someone else.
Come back Friday, when we will post the remaining 4 myths.
image courtesy of terriseesthings