One of my old bosses, CEO of a FTSE 250 Application Software business at the time, believed you could always spot the people who would go on to be successful in their chosen field. He deduced this from their work ethic and attitude towards the job. The ones who will make it, he said are those who apply themselves when their colleagues are all down the pub on a Friday night. They’re the ones who are first to arrive for work and last to leave because they’re committed to the cause.
This is not to be confused with a culture of ‘presenteism’ which this organisation had in abundance. I’ve worked in those environments for much of my career and I know for a fact that I achieve more and I’m more effective now that I work in a balanced way. It isn’t about the number of hours you put in; rather it’s the way you apply yourself during the hours you are working. Moreover, application to our work is self-driven whereas a culture of presenteism is imposed by the organisation in which you work.
For those of us who do apply ourselves and adopt a strong work ethic, is that to make up for a lack of natural talent? What about those we would consider naturally gifted – have they realised their full potential or sat back and ultimately achieved less because it all came so easily? Perhaps being blessed with natural talent is also a curse? You could argue that it is if those who have it rest on their laurels, complacent in their ability.
My mother once commented “The great thing about you Robyn is that you always make a point of becoming highly competent at anything you set your mind to. It’s just a pity you haven’t discovered what your natural talents are!” That was painful to hear, for a grafter like me and I took it badly at the time. On hindsight, I realise that the ability to become really good at whatever I apply myself to is in fact a talent in itself.
I’m running a business that develops the (latent) leadership capability in all of us and delivers bottom-line results for people and their organisations. It hasn’t happened overnight and I have no doubt there will be others out there who would have been successful faster – against conventional metrics anyway. And that doesn’t matter to me one iota. I’m where I want to be, doing what I love and I’m good at it.
So, the next time someone questions your natural ability, flash them a knowing smile and remind yourself that it’s your application toward the realisation of your goals, not the talent you were born with, that wins the day!