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Hard Work Beats Talent

Those are the words I see on someone's t-shirt at the gym. He is running on the treadmill in front of me. I'm obviously at the gym beating myself up to get better, healthier, more fit ... so, I'm putting in some hard work. It takes motivation and a lot of willpower to wake up and come here instead of sitting in bed with coffee and a donut. (Who am I kidding? It would be at least three delicious sugary treats!) But here is the question quite literally staring me in the face: Does hard work really beat talent?

I remember putting in countless hours of practice trying to perfect my basketball skills — at home in my driveway, at open gyms during the summer. I was young, naturally athletic, and had this dream of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in high school. That dream included mad basketball skills.

My goal was to dress for a varsity game my freshman year. I put in so much time practicing (which I hated) to get better at a sport that I was okay at, but not talented in. I dressed varsity one night after killing it in a previous JV game and ended up sitting on the bench the majority of the time. Who was out on the court? All of the talented kids that didn't have to work as hard as me. It was effortless for them and they enjoyed it. I was miserable.

Fast forward to today. I often wonder why people do this in their personal and professional lives. People work hard at relationships that aren't worth it. They focus their efforts on giving back or pleasing a boss only to receive little reward. They set their sights on a paycheck, hoping for more responsibilities, thinking that achieving these goals will equate to more respect and higher rewards.

In reality, people generally chase the wrong dream. My professional life began in a similar fashion as my high school dreams of varsity basketball. I worked my ass off for little pay and virtually no recognition—all the while thinking that's how it worked. You put in the time and you eventually get what you deserve, right? (I seriously just laughed out loud typing that statement while I sweat at the gym. Yes, I recognize the irony.)

Life isn't fair. It's not a give and take. It's more of a give, give, give, eventually ask, maybe get, take if you don't, and so on and so forth. I quickly realized I'd have to take a different approach. Instead, I learned what I could, gathered anything helpful, and then I'd move on. I did that a few times along my winding career path.

People call us Millennials. They say we are indecisive, lazy, and entitled. I'm an old Millennial (can't believe I admitted that I'm old). I have to disagree with the "we don't work hard enough" philosophy. I believe these unfavorable opinions come about because Millennials know what they want (and leave when they don't get it in a timely fashion), work more efficiently (I get more done in two hours than my former 50+ year old coworker would in eight hours, choosing instead to gossip for several hours a day), and I think we feel we deserve to be compensated for our skills. This is why I would previously stay with a company for a couple of years and then move on.

I didn't give up or put in any less work ... I simply outgrew whatever I was doing. Things progressed naturally, and over time I found my talent. Now I am doing what I feel I'm good at—working with people. Everyday, I talk to clients and candidates about their wants, needs, and circumstances. Then, I play matchmaker. It's fun, rewarding, and it's a good fit for me. It seems to come easier to me than it does to others, but that's just because fostering relationships is what I do best. I found a sincere talent in listening and I enjoy devising plans to fix a problem.

The other day, a good friend of mine commented, "If recruiting doesn't work out, you'd make an amazing therapist!" His statement came about in response to the probing questions I asked to find out why he was unhappy with certain things in his life. I studied Psychology in college, so there might be something to that. It's very similar to what I do professionally.

So my point is this: Mr. T-Shirt guy ... I applaud your effort and dedication. But if it's something you're not excited to do, doesn't give you satisfaction, and involves doing things you aren't especially good at it ... maybe you should get another hobby. Instead, work hard at finding what you like to do.

Mandi's Two Cents: I still see this guy at the gym but haven't seen the shirt since. Maybe he reads my blog??

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