Is Talent All You Need To Succeed?

Talent is considered an innate, natural ability. You’re born with it or without it, and supposedly you can neither gain it nor lose it. Talent isn’t learned or developed; it’s discovered by the lucky owner or by the observant talent scout.

Skills, however, are developed. Skill is acquired through training, so unlike talent, we do have some general control over how skillful we are. You can gain skill as quickly as you can learn, and you lose it as quickly as you forget.

Managers often follow a “hire for talent, train for skill” philosophy, leading us to believe that talent is more valuable than skill. What hiring managers often overlook is that highly-developed skills, besides being extremely valuable, are indicative of a strong work ethic. Skills are a testament to a person’s dedication; talent is nothing more than a gift supposedly given at birth.

If you’re wondering if you can succeed on talent alone, ask the talented writer who never got around to finishing his book, or the gifted athlete who missed too many practices to retain his high-paying contract. They’d tell you that the recipe for success has more than one ingredient, and that talent is nothing without the support of skill and dedication.

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. Mike Abasov on the 9th August

    It’s all about hard work.

  2. Fred @ Extra Income Daily on the 9th August

    Very few people are so talented that they don’t need to develop their skills further. I really like what Gladwell says in Outliers that truly successful people need at least 10,000 hours of practice to be top in their field.

    When I hire people, they needed to be intelligent, but the most important thing they need is a good attitude – a willingness to learn, work with others, and a desire to get along with people.

  3. St0iK on the 9th August

    i found this quote on the net and i couldnt agree more

    “Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccesful people with talent….”

    so i aggre with Mike – It’s all about hard work.-

  4. CaptAnon on the 9th August

    This is something that I can relate to quite well. I’m always failing to achieve certain things (particularly in my education) because I’m horrifically unfocused, despite having an IQ level that they had trouble fitting on the scale last time the schools did a national test.

    For me intelligence is more of a burden than a blessing.

  5. Carl @ on the 9th August

    A bad singer can work on his voice and practice singing for 10,000 hours. It will not make him “hireable”.

    This singer might even gain all the “skills” necessary to be a great singer.

    But, if he doesn’t have a good voice – no matter how many hours he puts in will not make a difference.

    A person with a 200 IQ can know everything about being a brain surgeon. But, if she can’t keep her hands steady, she’s not getting the job.

    If your not 6’3 and good looking, you won’t make it as a salesman in a pharmaceutical company.

    I am not disagreeing with your article. I just think you really can’t have one with out the other.

  6. Daquan Wright on the 9th August

    I think as far as sports, video games, programming mathematics….anything that requires practice, dedication and patience to learn must be apparent in order to grow successful and maintain that success. Talent is a nice trait, but I find it to be the weaker portion of the pie chart. Developing skill level, altering your mindset for success with a given subject, patience, resilience, all of those are qualities that companies should be looking for when hiring.

    Skill is indicative of hard work and a person reaching for the moon, if even they cannot grasp it. I would think that’s what a company or recruiter should more often look for, someone who’s willing to grasp and obtain their goals no matter the cost or sacrifice.

  7. Melanie Brooks on the 10th August

    I know a lot of lazy talented people and they don’t amount to much. I also know a lot of people who talk the talk but don’t do anything about it. Ideas are great…but mean nothing if you don’t have the gumption and energy to do something with them.

  8. Abdulrahman Jaber on the 10th August

    All business needs talents to keep the innovation side. But they need skills and commitment more to keep the business it self.

  9. Samuel Mburu on the 18th July

    Awesome post, there is a book out there on this same fact called Talent is Overrated:

    The book takes a scientific approach to talent and disects it and gives you every reason to strive for the best you… as well as help guide you in changing your day-to-day activities in order to become awesome at what you do.

    This is a must read and very inspiring. If you have children, you have to read this book all the more.

  10. Michael Belk on the 24th November

    Peter no where is that more evident than in sports. Some players are just born with an innate ability to perform well, while others have to rely on constantly honing their abilities.

    I do not know if you remember the infamous statement Allen Iverson said about practice. He did not feel he needed practice because he got by on natural talents for years.

    Both are good to have in the long ruin. However, if you do not have the talents then learning is your best bet.

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