by Jake Thompson

Outwork Your Talent

We’ve heard that hard work can beat talent – but how often do we fo...
Outwork Your Talent

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

We’ve heard that hard work can beat talent – but how often do we forget this?

We open our phones, scroll our social media, and can’t help but see someone else posting something great. They’ve reached a fitness goal, they’ve started a new business, or they’re on yet another vacation with their “perfect” relationship partner.

All the while, we look around and realize we aren’t even close to reaching our goal. We hear that small voice in the back of our head call out our inadequacies in comparison to who we just saw online.

That small voice tries to give us the “out” that the person we see online just has more talent than we do. 

“It’s ok they’ve done so much more than you, they’re just more talented. And talent is something you’re born with, so you can’t help it that you’re not as good. Quit trying to be.”

I created a negative habit during my 20s of listening to that voice. The more I listened to it, the more I started to agree with it. And pretty soon, I had an “out” for the areas in my life that I hadn’t lived up to the standard on – I just “lacked” the talent that others had.

  • Haven’t built as successful of a business as that guy? He’s just more talented.
  • Can’t build strength as easily doing a specific workout movement as that person? They’re just more talented.
  • Not getting as many likes as someone else on social media? She’s just more talented.

We buy into seeing someone else’s small highlight online and compare it to our entire story – both highlights and behind-the-scenes. We fool ourselves into believing the lie that everyone who’s succeeding bigger than us is doing so because they have more talent. 

Because that’s easier than accepting responsibility for our own actions putting us into our current position, right?


In her book GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth defines grit as “the propensity to pursue goals with a sustained passion.”

It’s the ability to go after your goals with relentless inner fire. 

How long are you willing to work for that goal you say you want? How often will you force yourself to get back up after being knocked down? How strong will your effort be day-in and day-out, even when you don’t “feel” motivated?

That’s grit.

Duckworth goes on to explain that our effort is more important than our talent when it comes to succeeding. In her own words, she writes:

“Your talent is not the same as how hard you’ll work. Talent counts – there’s no denying it factors into our success – but effort counts twice as much.” 

Angela Duckworth, GRIT

Using talent as the reason we haven’t succeeded is simply us creating an excuse to remove the responsibility of our own efforts from the equation. If we can say we just “didn’t have the talent,” then we don’t have to put in serious work toward the goal.


How many talented basketball players sit at home and watch less talented athletes make millions of dollars playing in the National Basketball Association each night?


Thousands of incredibly talented players are born with the skills to succeed in a sport and didn’t because most of them were tricked into believing their potential would get the job done. And when they realized otherwise? It was too late.

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea went undrafted in the 2006 NBA Draft. He signed with the Mavericks after spending time on two teams during the NBA’s Summer League.

60 players were drafted in 2006. Barea wasn’t one of them. However, prior to the start of the 2019-2020 season, only seven have played in more NBA games. Barea has earned over $41 million in NBA contracts and even captured a championship in 2011 with the Mavericks.

Not bad for someone who was seen with “not enough talent” (too short, too slow foot speed) to make it in the NBA. Barea is simply someone who was willing to outwork his talent to succeed.

Even the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan wasn’t the most athletic, strongest player when he came into the NBA. He built himself into the greatest.

Jordan astonished his coaches at North Carolina by his commitment to work on his weaknesses (defense, ball handling) daily. He’d practice at all hours and after games (from Mindset).

Things didn’t stop once he made it to the NBA either. According to ESPN 30 for 30 Bad Boysdocumentary, Jordan became a monster in the weight room after being knocked out of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons by the bigger, stronger Detroit Pistons. He was determined to bulk up so he couldn’t be pushed around or fatigued late during a physical game.

“The mental toughness & the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that & I’ve always believed that.”

Michael Jordan (from Mindset)


Talent doesn’t guarantee wins. Potential never promises success. It comes down to what you do with both.

You can make excuses and avoid the responsibility of taking action toward your career, fitness, or life goals. You can chalk up someone else’s success to pure talent and in your mind, be devoid of the responsibility of having to outwork your innate ability.

Or you can be a Competitor.

Some of the most successful leaders you see are those willing to work harder than everyone else. They refused to let their natural ability to be the differentiator on the road to success, instead choosing to put in consistent work every day that built their future.

  • That incredible weightlifter you follow on Instagram? Built through hard work, consistent training, and showing up every day regardless of how they felt.
  • That motivational speaker you want to deliver speeches like? Built through hundreds of hours of practice, rehearsal, and giving bad speeches first.
  • That entrepreneur you want to trade places with? Built through countless nights of little-to-no pay (or sleep) trying to solve problems until finally they found it – after failing to find it the previous 100 (or 1,000) times.

Notice the one common thread? It wasn’t their talent – it was the work they chose to put in building their success.


You can choose to outwork your talent, regardless of how strong/weak you believe it to be.

  • Born with amazing talent? Great. Outwork it.
  • Born with average talent? It’s ok. Outwork it.
  • Born with subpar talent? No excuses. Outwork it.

Science proves that our inherent talents are great – but our effort and what we do with that talent is twice as important.

Great talent is wasted every day by those who rely solely on it. Your future success is not about what you’re born with, but what you choose to build.

Take responsibility. Take action. And outwork your talent every day.

Compete Every Day.

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