We all have our talents. Things we naturally gravitate to and find easy. For some it's languages, sports or maybe cooking. I've just read about a man in New York who managed to consume sixty-two hotdogs in ten minutes. Now that's a talent. Seeing a great artist sketch a portrait or a businessman turn a failing company around can leave us thinking, “I could never do that; it's easy for them, they're gifted”. There's a paradox here. Successful people make everything they do look effortless, but to make anything look easy takes a lot of hard work. Natural ability can take a person a long way but rarely is it enough to get them to the top. That takes self-belief, determination, dedication, and single-mindedness.
This is important stuff. In the absence of our own God given talent it's tempting to not bother trying at all. If we're honest, we're always looking for an excuse to avoid hard work.
Twenty years ago (I don't feel old enough to have done anything twenty years ago), running a small fire safety company, I realised I needed to learn how to sell. I'd never sold anything before. I had no one to teach me so I bought a set of audio tapes from a charity shop, studied them and got to work. I made myself a little script and telephoned my first “prospect”. The first goal was simply to arrange an appointment. Sounds easy, but I remember being so nervous that my hand was trembling and my palms sweating. I survived and made more calls, one hundred every week in fact. As you can imagine my confidence slowly grew. After around four hundred calls I'd heard and dealt with just about every possible response. I read books, booked myself on sales training days and listened to more tapes. After six months and over 2500 calls, I was getting pretty good. Years went by, the business grew and I was in a position to employ my own sales people. If they struggled to reach their targets they'd say it was easy for me (or anyone else meeting their targets) because we had “The gift of the gab”. They didn't care to see the hours we'd spent reading, practising and sweating! It was their excuse for not putting the effort in. They didn't want it badly enough.
The same thing happens now. I spent the best part of 2011 learning my act in Portuguese. It was something I wanted to do, but I knew it could be a challenge too far. To say languages are not my strong point is quite the understatement. In school my average test result in Spanish was 11%. The last seven months of 2011 were spent listening to the same short phrases over again and trying to memorise them. £100s spent on countless, tedious lessons trying to perfect my accent. In the car, the shower, walking down the street - over and over I'd practise the same few phrases. When I eventually performed the show, people said, “Lucky you, you've obviously got a knack for languages.” Go figure.
"I put weight on easily and love nothing more than an evening eating a tub of chocolate ice-cream and a bag of popcorn the size of a pillowcase"
The truth is we all want a shortcut to success. A miracle diet, learn a language in 7 days (really?), 8 minutes a day for perfect abs...
In our hearts we know it's nonsense but we we keep falling for it. The reality of hard work and self-sacrifice is just too depressing.
Want to know the secret to saving money and paying off your debts? Spend less.
The secret to stopping smoking? Stop smoking.
How about the secret to losing weight and feeling healthier? Eat less and exercise.
The real question is how much do we really want it? I mean, really want it?
I am in reasonable shape for my age. People just think I have a fast metabolism so I can eat anything and get away with it. Well I don't. I put weight on easily and love nothing more than an evening eating a tub of chocolate ice-cream and a bag of popcorn the size of a pillowcase. I'm not fat because I sweat my guts out at the gym every day. When they ask me for workout tips I say, “Put that pie down and go to the gym,” but that's not what they want to hear. They want to have their cake (or pie) and eat it.
So if you're lucky enough to be able to exploit your genetic advantage – good for you, but it won't win you many prizes. Real success comes to those of us with an average ability but a burning desire to succeed. So decide what you want, roll your sleeves up and get to work. If it's being able to eat more than sixty-two hotdogs in ten minutes, go for it, but please save one for me, I'm starving.