During Mahabharata times, there was an old adage that says, despite being trained and taught in the same gurukul and by the same guru at the same time, Arjuna went on to become one of the best archer of all times who was also good at various other weapons, Bhima took to mace with an elan owing to his fearsome muscle strength, Yudhishtir was known for chariot fighting and a balanced mind, Nakul and Sahadev were unparalleled in sword fighting.
Switch to today, and can you imagine MS Dhoni doing anything else other than leading the men in blue? Or Mark Zuckerberg in a desk job? None of us can do that. But much before they became who they are today, the process began within them. The process starts with self-discovery.
A simple question: What are you good at? It's a common one in most of the interviews. But this innocent question can cause a lot of stress in many. Why does this happen? The answer is easy — lack of understanding about true purpose in life and one’s strengths. The word potential is mainly considered from an external angle — it's how others see you. Sometimes that roots the need for external validation and confusion. On the other hand, reflecting on the same word from within becomes the drive to become the best version of yourself.
Talent x skill x effort = achievement
It is all about discovering your talent and fearlessly building your career on it. Even after recognising your talent, finding the path with the least resistance can be a challenge. Only a lucky few of us are aware of our innate talent and pursue a career with it. Say, if someone is great with networking, maybe working in marketing. But the same person is a good fit for politics and fields where relationship building is a crucial criterion.
In such scenarios, singling out the exact right fit will ensure their job satisfaction and excellence. Most people are building a career with acquired skills and experiences. In this consumer-focussed era, skills are taught through education or parental choice instead of depending on talent, making talent unrecognizable or undeveloped.
Your parents play a pivotal role in it. It is always advisable for parents to identify the natural inclination of their children in the early years. Some parents either 'decide' a career or force a 'safe' choice on their children. Either way, it is harmful in the long run, leading them to perform against their natural inclination or towards mediocrity. Ambition shouldn't suffocate talent because, after a while, the side effects start appearing. Regular burnout, dreading to go to work, and secretly dreaming about a different life are some of the symptoms that someone has ignored their natural talent.
Whereas if you have turned your passion into pay checks, you will draw energy from your work and commit to delivering excellent results. Money is not the reward that drives you, but your job will fulfil you mentally and spiritually. When you discover your talent, you also discover a purpose in your life. You are more likely to use your talents to improve the lives of others in some way.
Talent vs skills
There is a significant difference between talent and skills. For example, let's look at Michael Jordan. He has a talent for speed, jump, and hand-to-eye coordination. But shooting and dribbling are skills that he had to master with practice and dedication to the sport. It would help if you had a perfect balance between talent and skills to achieve success. Once you discover your strength, it adds uni-dimensionality to your efforts.
You can solely concentrate on your career — playing on your strengths, working on your shortcomings, action plan, growth monitoring, and evaluating opportunities. Success becomes more feasible.
Re-look, re-evaluate, re-discover.
However, all said and done, realising your true potential or talent isn't that simple. Some of the most well-known success stories begin with career switches. Without re-evaluating their true calling mid-career, comedian and TV host Ellen Degeneres would be a successful paralegal, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos would be a computer professional at Wall Street. Now let's look at the Indian tycoons, old and new; some of the biggest names started as something else.
Then what prompted them to re-look at their inner calling? They all asked the same question, “Am I wasting my potential?” When you race towards empty goals and objectives, you are never at peace. But when you follow your potential, you become the best version of yourself. That's the only true aim there is.
Talents get noticed globally
Today, the world is talking about the talent economy and is slowly moving away from traditional career choices. When it comes to talent, the international market is opening up new doors. The biggest countries are swooping into new countries to acquire top talents because they all know that a few talented people make a huge difference. Even if only 20 per cent of a team is talented, they can deliver up to 80 per cent of the output — which means they are the main drivers of any company's success and deliver a much higher return of investment.
In the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance , by Angela Duckworth, she states that talent cannot predict success. She observes that the naturally talented students lacked 'grit' while students who lacked natural talent had higher 'grit' and finally managed to get the highest GPAs. This same observation compels us to think about what happens if the students with natural talents also had the 'grit'? Success is the result of talent, skills, and grit. Everyone has talent, but without the commitment, it's a waste.
Moving with time, the recruitment process of organisations has changed. Now, it's remarkably holistic to avoid falling into the trap of undervaluing true talent. You can learn a skill, but you can't fake talent. That's the reason why the current hiring policies focus more on innate talents that fit their roles.
None of us are prodigies, but once we discover our natural talent, with a commitment to skill development, time, and dedication, we all can ultimately drive our talent to succeed in life.
(The writer is Founder & CEO, career management platform GenLeap.)