Are Natural Gifts Enough For Success?

Are Natural Gifts Enough For Success?

skills

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.

Necessity is The Mother of Skill Building

Necessity is The Mother of Skill Building

skills

Most entrepreneurs I know don’t have the knowledge and skill they have because of their love and aspiration for a broad liberal arts education.  Their desire for knowledge and skills development is typically driven by their desire to build something or create a new method.  Much of their learning is DIY and OJT and most of their skills development was NECESSARY for them to build and create.

With Joshua, our young entrepreneur, we saw this desire to learn and adapt very early.  It started with athletics.  Because he was tall for his age, he played post positions in basketball.  This meant he stood around near the basket and waited for someone to throw him the ball so he could take a shot from no more than six feet away.  When he was around 8 years old he was redrafted onto a new team that had few players with any experience.  While Joshua usually played close to the basket due to his size, he was the only one on the team that could dribble the ball from one end to the other without drop kicking it into the cheap seats.  He was pressed into service as a guard which forced him to get much better at his outside shooting and ball handling skills. His desire to win and play well meant he had to put in quite a bit of practice to learn the skills necessary to play his new position.

Some other great lessons came out of this early sports experience.  Not surprisingly, the team was not very good and Joshua got his first taste of his team losing more that they won.  While it was challenging at times for him to keep a positive attitude, he learned a great deal about fighting through challenges with a team.  While this experience pushed him to improve his basketball skills, it also taught him valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, and dealing with failure.  All lessons that have served him well on his entrepreneurial journey.

Another example of this drive to learn and adapt was on his 5th grade basketball team.  He broke a finger on his shooting hand and had to quickly learn how to shoot and dribble with his opposite hand.  His desire to play and support his team made learning those skills quickly a necessity for him.  Again, those skills served him well in sports far beyond that season.  The lessons he learned about figuring out how to adapt, and putting team over self, will guide him for the rest of his life.

This ability to adapt and learn out of necessity is the basis for our young entrepreneur’s  general  knowledge of business and technology, and his ability to build products.  His knowledge base and skill set today has been driven by his desire to build and create specific products.  His understanding of coding, electronics, microprocessors, product development and business has built up over the years out of his desire to jail break an iPhone, build a phone charging station, create a wireless audio system for his grandfather, develop his own websites, build a voice activated controller, and design a waterproof, underwater speaker to use at his friend’s pool.  Today, the smartphone app and hardware that are the main products of his companies were all conceived and built as a result of the knowledge and skill he developed out of necessity.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Most entrepreneurs do not grasp the breadth of skill and knowledge required to be successful. For many young entrepreneurs, most knowledge and skill develops from the necessity to create and build.  This organic, “as needed” skill development is a great start but does not account for the soft skills, business knowledge and experience required to build successful products and companies.  The proactive, purposeful development of skills and knowledge over years is required to build out the vast entrepreneurial skill set.  Start now and have a plan.