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Hardwork vs Talent

Have you ever referred to someone heard someone refer to an athlete as a prodigy, or label them as being born with talent? What if I told you there was no such thing and it all boils down to how hard, focused and long someone practices/works on their particular game, subject, sport, etc.?

Think about it. Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, LeBron James, Jerry Rice, Bobby Fisher, Venus/Serena Williams, Einstein, Mozart, Justin Beiber (Ok, I just threw the last one in to see if you were awake). I have heard on many occasions by many different people, announcers, and fans that each one of these individuals is "gifted" or even "blessed with talent." I'm going to challenge these statements and say that each one of them, all very successful in their fields, are not the result of some God given talent, but more importantly, are the result of many, many hours of hard work and practice.

If you don't believe me, I have 2 books for you to read that changed my perspective on this matter. In fact they changed my perspective on many things, including my focus and training style with my clients, my parenting style with my kids, and how I personally workout and practice, both for health and other recreational activities, golf included. (As a side note, as much as I hate to say it, they also gave me a dose of reality on why I never even came close to playing much more than mediocre soccer at the college level. It was tough to admit, but I now realize I just didn't want it bad enough, and therefore didn't put in the work!)

The 2 books are Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, and Bounce by Matthew Syed. In each of these books, both authors delve into the world of sports, entertainment, and other areas, studying the most successful people and athletes. Each of them emphatically stress the undeniable connection between hours of practice and success. In fact, they both flat out say that no one is born with an advantageous amount of talent in their genes. Yes, some may have physical attributes that are suited more for one sport or profession (like height in basketball and smaller builds in gymnastics), but the talent that eventually makes them a super star in their sport is from years and years (in fact they put the number at 10,000 hours) of focused practice and conditioning.

If you take another look at the list of names above, each one of them are noted for how hard they worked as kids and even when they were at the peak of their game. There are countless stories of Jerry Rice being the at practices an hour early and staying an hour late. Michael Jordan speaks of how many shots he had to miss in practice to get him to the point where he could sink those buzzer beaters with his eyes closed (the number is well in the thousands). And Tiger Woods, love him or hate him, was the best in the game, (and may be again). He has been called a practicing machine. Hitting balls and working out from dawn till dusk to earn the most titles of any golfer ever.

Take any successful person, athlete, etc. and take a look at their history. I am willing to bet that what seems to be "overnight success" is more likely "overnight public awareness." Ask the individual how "overnight" their success was and they will tell you they had to work extremely hard to get where they are.

How does Hardwork and Talent affect my training and life?

While many of you reading this article may not be in a position to become a professional athlete or golfer at this stage in your career, it's likely that you are very succesful in your current occupation or business. Let me ask you, was it just God given talent, or did you work your butt off? That's what I thought.


In regards to your training and practicing, I only imagine that if you are reading this blog, you are looking to improve yourself or your game. Thus, proper practice and focus are required to make those improvements. Think about what you have been doing in your training program or when you are out at the course. Are you serious about getting better? Are you challenging yourself everytime to step in the gym or at the practice green/chipping area (notice I didn't say driving range, hint hint!)?

Don't get caught up in the notion that you weren't born with the skills of Rory. He wasn't born with them either. Focus on the fact that concentrated practice, improved fintess (flexibility, strength, balance, overall athletic mobility) is what got him where he is and can get you playing and feeling better that you did yesterday.

What is your take? Is talent born, developed, or a little bit of both? Let me know what you think.

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