Talent alone won’t make you successful…or happy

by | Sep 10, 2023 | Trend

Hello and happy September! 

I want to start us off today with a famous quote from Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games; 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan is arguably one of the most talented athletes of all-time. And yet, the statistics show that he failed to deliver the ultimate results many times. So, it seems that despite his natural talent for basketball, his build, his athleticism…all those aspects are just one piece of what makes him who he is. Another big and important piece is his mindset, and–in particular–his growth mindset. This mindset is the crux of his success story. 

The truth is, you are more than the sum of your parts. Whether talent is a part of the equation or not. It’s not everything. And it will only get you so far. Today we’ll talk about why talent is overrated. Why you don’t need to be particularly talented at anything to be successful or–more importantly–to be a happier being.

Replacing “talent” with “growth mindset”

Growth mindset is a term coined by Carol Dweck, PhD, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation. The idea is that when you have a growth mindset, you focus on your efforts to improve and succeed rather than the results. 

Dweck’s research centers on why people succeed and foster success. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck explains that people with a fixed mindset often don’t believe in effort. With a fixed mindset, failure means you aren’t smart or talented. In a growth mindset world, your efforts, not the results of them, make you smart and talented. 

Effort through self-development, no matter what stage of life you’re in, will allow you to grow toward success and happiness. You are not doomed to fail because you weren’t born with talent or because you lost some ability due to a chronic disease or accident. 

By taking on a growth mindset, you close the gap between who you are being and who you are becoming, moment to moment, small changes, EVENTUALLY add to big differences.

I want to point out that those who have a growth mindset certainly don’t believe that everyone can become anything. Without proper motivation or education, no one can become Einstein or Beethoven. But a diligent, patient, and persistent effort will get you where you want to go.

The only way you can know how much you can grow is by taking action. Thinking won’t suffice.

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset 

Someone with a fixed mindset believes:

  • Intelligence and talent are set in stone. 

  • Their self-worth is tied to outcomes.

  • There’s no point in going outside their comfort zone. 

  • It’s better to avoid failure. 

Someone with a growth mindset believes:

  • Gifts or talent you’re born with are just a starting point.

  • It’s important to commit to the process and effort.

  • It’s crucial to step outside of your comfort zone. 

  • Failing is a stepping stone. 

Here are some examples of fixed vs growth mindset statements:  

Fixed mindset: “I’m afraid to try new things because I might fail.”
Growth mindset: “I’m excited to try new things and learn from the potential of successes and failures.“

Fixed mindset: “I can’t do it, why bother attempting.“
Growth mindset: “I might face challenges, but I believe in my ability to learn and improve through practice and being persistent.”

Fixed mindset: “I’ve never been a creative person.”
Growth mindset: “I can develop my creativity by exploring new ideas and practicing creative activities.”

Remember, that which you focus on grows…Effort + Persistence = Growth 

Next Steps for Happier Beings

  1. Orient your attention around the “Focus gap,” not the “talent gap”: The talent gap turns your attention toward what you think you can’t achieve. Whereas, the focus gap centers your attention on how you can learn and grow. In other words, have the attitude of a learner that focuses on EFFORT. Break down your efforts into practical and manageable challenges. Think SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.) 

  2. Talk to yourself like you’re a kid: Think about how we talk to kids. When your child or nephew tries to ride a bike for the first time and falls, we don’t tell them, “Meh you should just quit now, clearly you don’t have the balance for this.” Instead we say, “Great try! If you keep it up, you’ll be cruising along in no time!” Celebrate your hard work, small steps, progress, and dedication…even when you don’t succeed YET at what you’re aiming to do.  

  3. Get out of your comfort zone, but keep realistic expectations: If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you’ll never progress and grow in the direction you want. But remember progress can be a slow process and if you’re not failing from time to time, you’re probably not progressing either. Don’t expect to have expert-level status right away. Instead, persist and persevere through the ups and downs. Whenever you feel discouraged or unmotivated, change your internal dialogue…Even if it’s been months…or years…Just keep repeating to yourself: “I’m not there YET.”


Dr. Tal

PS Here is the newsletter version of this blog post.



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