I believe we are all born with gifts. Sometimes our gifts are obvious like running faster than all the other kids, picking out tunes on a piano, or solving math problems easily. Sometimes our gifts are not so obvious like being a good listener, understanding electronics or the logic of coding. It is to our great advantage if we can identify our gifts when we are young. It may take extra effort and trying a many things before we figure it out. However, having and identifying gifts are not enough to insure that we will take full advantage of those gifts and have a full and happy life using them. Our gifts are raw. They must be practiced, directed, honed and coached to reach their potential.
When I was eight years old, my parents bought an inexpensive guitar and a set of bongo drums for Christmas. I had shown signs of an interest in music. I quickly realized that playing the guitar would require hours and hours of practice. Not interested. However, I could easily play the drums along with portions of songs from the radio or my favorite TV shows. I didn’t have much to do with the guitar, although it did have a cool sound if you turned it over and tapped on the back of it like bongo drums. The drums were another story. I willingly spent my free time trying to perfect my ability to play. The more I practiced, the better I became. Funny how that happens. When I turned twelve, my parents bought a small drum kit. I continued my DIY journey, continued to get better and played with a few local garage bands in my small town. I’m certain that I contributed to my parent’s hearing loss as they endured hours of loud drum practice in our very small home. My mother took me to a local music store for a few lessons with a drum teacher, but practicing the different beats and reading music were of no interest to me. I just wanted to play!! Bottom line – I had some natural ability to play the drums and enough passion to try to learn more on my own time. Not enough passion, however, to be devoted to more structured, disciplined practice that might have made me much better. Good skill, not enough passion.
Sports were another story. I was a big, strong kid with some level of coordination. There were three big differences between learning to play sports and learning to play the drums. First, while I practiced certain skills in my yard, most of my practice was structured, routine and directed by coaches trained in teaching the sports of football, baseball, basketball and track. Also, these were team sports. The pressure to perform and loyalty to team mates also pushed me to get better. Finally, I had enough passion for sports that I did extra things outside of our scheduled practices to get better including running and lifting weights in the heat of the summer, shooting basketball outside in the winter, not to mention enduring aches, pains, and injuries. Ultimately, my passion for sports began to fade as it became apparent that my skills were good, but limited, and that college scholarships and a career in sports were not likely. Strong passion, not enough skill.
Mastering entrepreneurial skills, or any other skill for that matter, has these same elements. Discovering our natural gifts is step one. It is what we do about making those skills better and whether we have the passion to do what it takes, that makes the difference. Gifts and passion, coupled with good coaching, opportunity to practice consistently and frequently, and some peer pressure and expectations that are bigger than us, give us the best chance of being successful at making a career out of our gifts and passion.
THE TAKEAWAY: We all have gifts and we will all have passion for certain things. The question is whether our passion and gifts will align and whether we have enough of both to go pro in something we love. We can’t leave these opportunities to chance. We must spend hours each day and each week in structured skill development with people and resources that will help us get better. Otherwise, our greatest skill and our greatest passion will be a hobby.