When I see successful athletes, entertainers, artists or entrepreneurs I often think how easy they make it look to be successful. They are so good at what they do that it can make the rest of us think that with just a little effort we too can make a one handed catch in the end zone, hit a 400-foot homerun or a three point shot to win the game, or achieve fame and wealth as an entrepreneur. However, what we don’t see that led up to this level of achievement is important to understanding how they can do what they do.
- It starts with natural gifts – Early in their lives most of these high achievers figured out special gifts and talents they were born with. While it was not always obvious what those gifts were, they somehow figured out that they were faster or stronger than most of the other kids in the neighborhood, they could pick out tunes on a piano by ear, or that engineering projects or seeing things through an entrepreneurial lens came easy for them.
- Passion – Being naturally good at something is great, but if you don’t have the passion to make it “the thing you must do”, you aren’t likely to become world class at it. Are you willing to use almost all your free time to pursue it? Would you do it all day if someone didn’t stop you? Can you do it over and over and never tire of it? Do you feel incomplete if you don’t do it? That is exactly how many successful people feel about what they do.
- Perseverance – I’ve written about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Rule several times in this blog and I believe it is a key element in great success. The concept states that it takes a person 10,000 hours to master a set of skills. That’s approximately 20 hours per week, 52 weeks per year for 10 years. There are plenty of examples of how this played out with folks like Bill Gates, a host of professional athletes and others. The point is that natural gifts and passion are great, but the perseverance required to push yourself to get better, to work on a project, finish a painting, or expose your body to intense physical training even when you don’t really want to or don’t think you can, is absolutely necessary to success. Our entrepreneurial son Joshua (Battle Map) likes this quote from Lionel Messi, a world class soccer player, “I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”. Natural gifts and passion are inherent, but perseverance can be taught and is driven by heart.
- Support – I don’t know of any truly successful athlete, artist or entrepreneur who didn’t have great support from some source. Parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors all play a role in the lives of successful people. Sometimes it’s a network of support and sometimes it’s just one person who has a profound influence. This support must be there because there will be many obstacles along the path to success. Without strong support, any of these obstacles, including injury, death of a loved one or friend, poverty, self-doubt, drugs or alcohol, can stop all progress toward the ultimate goal.
Young entrepreneurs, if you can combine these elements, people may one day say about you, “she’s an overnight success”, “man, he’s got it easy”, and “I wish I had her life”. What most people will never understand, because you make it look so easy, is what it takes to get there.
THE TAKEAWAY – Finding your gifts and passion is a bit of a scavenger hunt. You have to try many things and be open to the clues that indicate your gifts and passion. Once discovered, we must identify those who can support us and then do whatever it takes to get to better each day, each year until we achieve success.