10 Reasons Talent is Super, Way, Totally Overrated

10 Reasons Talent is Super, Way, Totally Overrated

Take a second to think about your favorite actor, leader, or athlete. Who is the one person that you look up to or admire the most? What qualities does that person possess? What characteristics make them so admirable? Are they charismatic? Are they strong leaders who are firm in their word and driven in their thoughts? Are they the best of the best both on and off the field?

There are quite a few people in this world who are star athletes, avid leaders, and very dynamic actors. There are a lot of individuals that others look up to and admire. What makes these individuals, in particular, so likable? Is their likeability based on their level of talent? Has their talent gotten them to where they are today?

The chances are that talent accounts for a relatively small portion of their success. Sure, some of us are born with certain traits that perhaps set us up for a greater level of success than others. Take Michael Phelps, for instance. Michael Phelps is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest swimmers to ever live. He is the most decorated Olympic athlete in Olympic history. While nothing is for certain, some speculate that his size and stature are what have driven his incredible athletic accomplishments. His wing span, torso length, and lung capacity are prime indicators of his excellent abilities in the pool. Is this talent or natural aptitude the only thing that has gotten him this far in his career? Chances are, no.  Here are ten reasons why talent is super, way, totally overrated.

  1. Awareness Trumps Talent

So, why is talent so overrated? When we think of our favorite athletes, actors, or leaders, we probably think about how talented they are. Perhaps they have an uncanny ability to kick a ball far across a field or lead a country with no sweat off their back. Does this mean they are more talented than anyone else? Not necessarily. It could just mean that they possess certain characteristics that they have learned to tap into at a much greater level than others.

One of the most exceptional features is awareness. Many of the most prominent leaders and athletes in the world have a high degree of self-awareness, as well as a keen awareness for those around them. Self-awareness is the ability to decipher one’s thoughts, feelings, moods, or desires. It is the capacity to determine how you are feeling and then plan your response accordingly. Too often, people speak before they think and act out when they are actively angry, upset, or hurting. Many times, this only serves to exacerbate the situation, not alleviate it. Many times, the greatest of leaders are so great at what they do because they can regulate their emotions with ease. Not only this, but they are keen on other people’s emotions. They can direct their responses to certain people and situations based on how others are feeling. This makes them more effective at what they do than those who are not as well regulated.

In truth, real leaders aren’t successful because they are more talented or naturally gifted than the ordinary Joe. A high level of self-awareness breeds success. Many of the greatest people in the world have figured out how to regulate their emotions effectively.

  1. Courtesy Trumps Talent

Talent is overrated because it doesn’t take into account common courtesy. Holding the door open for someone and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ doesn’t require talent. It does, however, require some degree of care. When it comes to being a fantastic leader, athlete, or actor, for instance, courtesy trumps talent any day. Care and compassion are two things that can drive a person past success better than talent ever can.

Think, again, about your favorite person. Reflect on the one person that you look up to or admire more so than anyone else. What makes this person so great? Chances are this person is smart, extremely dedicated, compassionate, or brave. Perhaps they are nice to everyone they meet. Now think about this person again, only this time, think about what they would be like if they were the polar opposite. What if the one person that you admired most was cold-hearted, careless, cowardly, and rude? Would you like them as much if they treated everyone they met poorly? While some people may admire this type of behavior, the majority of people would turn their heads on someone who was rude and undignified.

Being nice and showing compassion for others doesn’t require talent. It does, however, require some degree of thoughtfulness and care. A high level of common courtesy and kindness, not talent, makes good people great.

  1. Passion Trumps Talent

Mother Theresa is one of the greatest and most well-recognized humanitarians of the 21st century. She was the founder of a Roman Catholic congregation that was committed to helping those in poverty. Throughout her life, she committed herself to selflessly helping those in need. Her compassion and dedication to helping others far surpassed any racial, religious, or demographic barrier. Mother Theresa was committed to helping all people who needed it regardless of who they were, where they came from, or where they lived.

Mother Theresa didn’t become one of the greatest humanitarians because she was any more talented than any of the other nuns in her ministry. Her heart wasn’t any larger than anyone else’s, and she wasn’t given any unique advantages throughout her life. In truth, she became one of the most memorable and celebrated humanitarians because of her constant kindness and acts of compassion. She had an undeniable passion that led her to carry out her mission of being kind to others. She provided mental, emotional, and social support for those who needed it most.

Talent is overrated because it doesn’t take into account passion. A person doesn’t have to be the best athlete on the court to play the best game of their life, as long as they are playing with everything that they have. If they are giving 100% of their energy, they can’t lose. Some of the greatest leaders, humanitarians, and athletes in the world have a level of passion that simply cannot be beaten. Their passion fuels their hearts, their brains, and their bodies to do the best they can do each and every day.

  1. Commitment Trumps Talent

As a kid, did you play a sport? Do you recall your mom, dad, or coach telling you how important it was to practice? You may not have given it a second thought at the time, but practice does, indeed, make perfect.

There is a reason that the statement ‘practice makes perfect’ exists. It exists because it is true. No great leader, athlete, actor, movie star, or writer ever became great because of a lack of practice. There is no denying that the greatest individuals in the world had to practice, practice, and practice to get where they are today. Countless hours were spent on the court, in the pool, on the track, behind the podium, or on a movie screen before they became the great leaders and fearless athletes that you know and love today.

One of the top sociologists claims that you need to practice at least 10,000 hours to become great at anything you put your mind to. He cites that Venus and Serena Williams, for instance, didn’t become two of the greatest tennis players on earth because of talent, alone. They practiced their sport for hours, days, months, and years to become two of the top tennis players in the world. When they failed, they tried again. When they fell, they got right back up and back in the game. They never took ‘no’ for an answer. Failing, to them, wasn’t an option.

When it comes to being the best of the best, it doesn’t require much talent to outperform the rest. In fact, all it requires is a steadfast commitment to a skill and the motivation needed to continue against all the odds.

  1. Attitude Trumps Talent

When it comes to being a successful individual, attitude is everything. Those who show up to work every day with a smile on their face and a ‘can-do’ attitude are more likely to succeed than those who do not.

There are many people in this world who have talent but don’t have the will to succeed. These individuals may be naturally gifted at a skill, in particular, but don’t possess the willpower or determination it takes to dedicate themselves to the art of perfection.

When it comes to attitude, think about the people that you work with most closely in your life. Chances are that you know of a few people who always show up with a positive attitude, a smile on their face, and the perseverance needed to successfully get through the day. The chances are that you also know people who show up to work and are always grumpy or grumbling about something. These individuals always have a poor attitude and let that bias cloud their judgment and impression of their abilities and the world around them. Who is better to work with? Who accomplishes more throughout the day? Who is more likely to succeed? There is no secret that attitude is everything. Maintaining a positive outlook on things and always striving to do better is the key to success. This far outweighs talent, any day.

  1. Morals Trump Talent

While attitude, passion, and self-awareness are certainly all important qualities, a solid moral compass is critical in achieving success.

Morals are standards of behavior that one develops over the course of his or her lifetime. Many people learn morals, or what is right versus what is wrong, from their parents. At a young age, most people learn that hitting their sibling, stealing, lying, and cheating are all wrong. These are things that don’t make you look like a very nice person or a very honest and kind member of society. They also learn that doing kind things for others, treating others as you want to be treated, and speaking to elders in a respectful tone, for instance, are all good things to do. People also develop their moral compass as they age. They learn the difference between right and wrong from the people that they associate with, the community in which they are raised, the schools in which they attend, and the jobs in which they work. We continue to develop these moral groundings over time.

Morals are important because they help shape who we are as people. Having high values helps to establish a high level of self-esteem and self-awareness. Values can help motivate individuals and keep them on track with achieving their goals. Values help a person navigate successfully through life. When it comes to being a great athlete, leader, or actor, for instance, it takes a solid moral grounding to be successful. People who do not have strong values may find it difficult to get where they want to be, despite the level of talent they possess. In truth, a strong moral compass far outweighs talent in the workforce, in leadership roles, on television, and in many other avenues.

  1. Courage Trumps Talent

If you have ever watched the movie the Wizard of Oz, you probably remember seeing the cowardly lion. The cowardly lion, despite having a heart of gold, was such a weak and scared character. He could hardly get anything done because he was always too fearful to take a leap of faith. He was afraid of trying because he was so frightened that he would not be able to do it or that if he tried, he would fail.

When it comes to being successful, a person can be very talented, but without courage, they are not going to get very far in their endeavors. Regardless of whether a person is aiming to be an all-star athlete, a big-screen television or movie actor, or the leader of a country, there is nothing stronger than courage.

There are too many occasions where fear has held a person back from doing exactly what they wish to do. Even if a person is super talented or has a high level of natural ability, they are never going to be great unless they move past this level of fear. To be great, a person has to be willing and able to take a chance. They need to move past fear and exude a level of courage that will help them overcome barriers and get them to where they need to be in anything that they do.

  1. Creativity Trumps Talent

Some of the most successful individuals in the world aren’t as talented as they are creative. Talent is super, way over-rated on the basis that it doesn’t take into account a person’s level of creativity. Creativity is everything when it comes to achieving success.

Have you ever had a boss who has had to make a decision on the fly? Perhaps they had something happen at work that wasn’t quite a part of the original plan. Perhaps, they needed to make a game time decision that wasn’t all that easy to make. Chances are it took a great deal of courage to make such a split decision. It also probably took some creativity to pull off a decision that wasn’t quite a part of the original equation.

Some of the greatest leaders in the world have also been the most creative. When you think about your boss that had to make a game-time decision, or perhaps, some of the greatest supervisors you have ever had, chances are they possessed a high level of creativity or creative thinking. When it comes to being successful, especially in the workplace, leaders are often called to step out of the box and make decisions that may be rather non-traditional. You don’t have to be talented to be able to think creatively. All it takes is a little bit of courage to step out of the box and try something new. Sometimes, success hinges on the ability to take a step back, analyze the situation, and select an option that might not be the most conventional or obvious choice.

  1. Confidence Trumps Talent

There are many traits that are important when it comes to being successful. Talent isn’t everything. A person who is committed, dedicated, motivated and passionate can go just as far, if not further, in life than someone who is just naturally gifted.

While attitude, commitment, and courage are all important, confidence is another characteristic that can make all the difference. Think, again, about your favorite athlete, actor, or leader. Chances are, the individuals that you look up to the most, have a high level of self-confidence. They take the time needed to practice and fine tune their skills. Even if they don’t have much natural ability, they are dedicated to the cause and are committed to being the best of the best. Even when they fail, fall, or things don’t go quite as planned, they have the confidence needed to get back up and try again.

Confidence is all about knowing what you are capable of and believing that you can always do better. It is all about taking the criticism you are given and using it constructively to make yourself better. It about taking chances and getting back up when you fall. When it comes to being successful, it is not about talent. Success is all about having the confidence needed to get you there.

  1. Approach Trumps Talent

Another reason why talent is so over-rated is that it doesn’t take into account a person’s approach to perfection. A person can be the most talented individual in the world, but without courage, self-awareness, passion, confidence, and a graceful approach, they are most likely not going to be the best that they can be.

In the workplace or a leadership role, for instance, a person’s approach is everything. A person’s approach will essentially dictate how other people perceive him or her, how they respond to him or her, and the level of respect that is granted to him or her. It will also dictate how successfully they are when working with others.

Think about your current workplace.  Most workplaces, nowadays, are very diverse. People are all different. They speak different languages, they follow different religions, comes from different backgrounds, and were all raised differently. If you, as a manager, were to treat everyone the same and use the same approach across the board, chances are you would come across language barriers and issues with understanding and comprehension.

The most successful leaders take the time needed to understand the population that they are working with. This doesn’t require a great deal of talent; but rather, patience and understanding. The most effective leaders are those who cater their approach to each that they work with. They seek to listen, learn, and understand the people that they work with so that they can establish a solid working and productive relationship.


What does it take to be successful? Is it talent, alone, that leads an individual on the path of perfection? Is it something more that enables a person to be the best version of them that they can be?

Talent, nowadays, is way over-rated. Some of the best athletes and leaders in the world aren’t the most talented at what they do. In fact, many of them lack talent. What they lack in talent, however, they make up in other ways. They possess unique qualities that enable them to perfect their art and fine tune their skill sets so that they can achieve success.

When it comes to being successful in virtually any industry or avenue, it is all about confidence, attitude, commitment, courage, and so much more. If a person is dedicated to what they do and always aiming to do better, they much more likely to become the best that they can be in anything that they set their mind to.


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Dave is a voracious reader and ferocious writer of top 10 lists. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his wife, mountain biking in Southern California, and running.