It takes more than talent to find your true potential

“Talent will out.” If that old aphorism were really true, those with the highest potential to make the world better would inevitably have the opportunities and power to provide a constant supply of art masterpieces, to lead medical, political and business organizations, or otherwise realize their advanced potentials.

What keeps so many high potential people from realizing their abilities?

Jeffery Combs, author of the article More Heart Than Talent (and related book), thinks talent “is one of the most overrated attributes when evaluating what is required to be successful.

“The world is filled with talented people, yet why is it that so few people live and achieve their dreams?”

He goes on to emphasize the need to overcome fear and take risks.

Like the challenges faced by film directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, pictured here directing a scene from ‘The Hurt Locker.’


“Heart is the magic,” Combs continues, “the juice, the stuff, fifth gear, the overdrive that great achievers in life tap into when challenges and obstacles appear.

“Heart is making a conscious choice to live an exceptional life rather than an average one. …

“Virtually everyone has raw, untapped talent. The problem is that most people never get out of their talent. Instead, they hide behind it, too afraid to take risks, to be vulnerable, and most of all, to risk not being perfect.”

Other personal development leaders have expressed helpful perspectives on making talent actualized, not just potential.



Self-limiting beliefs

In his article Overcoming Self-Limiting Beliefs, Brian Tracy writes about “the worst beliefs you can have” – self-limiting beliefs. “These exist whenever you believe yourself to be limited in some way.

“For example, you may think yourself to be less talented or capable than others. You may think that others are superior to you in some way. You may have fallen into the common trap of selling yourself short and settling for far less than you are truly capable of.

“These self-limiting beliefs act like brakes on your potential. They hold you back. They generate the two greatest enemies of personal success – doubt and fear. They paralyze you and cause you to hesitate to take the intelligent risks that are necessary for you to fulfill your true potential.”

Business philosopher Jim Rohn has declared “Everything we would ever need to become rich and powerful and sophisticated is within our reach. The major reason that so few take advantage of all that we have is simply neglect.

“Neglect is like an infection. Left unchecked it will spread throughout our entire system of disciplines and eventually lead to a complete breakdown of a potentially joy-filled and prosperous human life.”

[From his article Success is Easy, but So is Neglect. Also see more Jim Rohn articles.]

Transforming and action

Marcel ProustAs writer Marcel Proust saw it (in his book In Search of Lost Time), “Genius, and even great talent, springs less from seeds of intellect and social refinement superior to those of other people than from the faculty of transforming and transposing them….

“Those who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive… but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.”

The challenge of so many talents

Sally M. Reis, Ph.D. writes about the challenges of having many talents. Much of what she says also applies to men.

She notes, “Women with high potential and multiple interests often have multiple academic, career, and leisure possibilities, and these choices constitute multipotentiality.

“For some, having many choices is beneficial because they result in a variety of options.

“Others, however, often can not find their niche, make it on their own, or choose a vocational path.

“Many women with multipotentiality find decision making difficult since it is not possible to do all that they would like to do and are capable of doing.

“Students may commit to a career too quickly in order to reduce tensions caused by a vast array of competing options… career choices may be externally imposed on them by their parents or teachers who believe they know the appropriate field.”

[From article Internal barriers, personal issues, and decisions faced by gifted and talented females.]

Motivation is a key component

Carol S. Dweck, PhD, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford, thinks “our society tends to believe that geniuses are born, not made. And I wouldn’t dispute that there might be a strong innate component, but it’s just clear from the histories of so many geniuses that motivation is a key component.

“And when you sift through the literature on creative genius, the researchers agree that motivation is perhaps the number one component in the realization of genius.

“Many of our most illustrious geniuses in every field were people who were considered ordinary as children, and then just caught fire around their topic and achieved amazing things that we know about today – from Darwin, to Coleridge, to Cézanne.

“All of these people were not necessarily extraordinary children.” [From post: Adult genius, unexceptional kid.]

Also see her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Professor John Eliot, PhD has noted that one myth “is that success can only be obtained if you select your goals early on, know exactly where you’re headed, develop a road map and focus on specific steps toward your long-term goal. The problem with that approach is that your path to success becomes very narrow.

“You can become so focused on a distant goal you lose your sense of creativity and your ability to overcome obstacles along the way. Another myth is the notion that those who try harder are more likely to be successful.

“I found that people who try less, who find a way to judge themselves a little less and allow themselves more freedom and flexibility in approach, are more apt to be successful.” [From article: A new model for exceptional performance.]

A Psychology Today article, The Winning Edge, by Peter Doskoch says, “We’re primed to think that talent is the key to success. But what counts even more is a fusion of passion and perseverance. In a world of instant gratification, grit may yield the biggest payoff of all.”

From post: Grit and perseverance mean more than talent.

Related article: Genius: The Modern View [NY Times op-ed, with added video, book links etc]

Related posts:
Developing our talents: the Growth Mindset
Creative talent: genetics, a muse, or hard work?

Related site: Developing Multiple Talents

gifted adults, gifted adult information, gifted adult personality, psychology of giftedness, high ability, high aptitude


  1. A very informative and well-researched post. I look forward to checking out some of the links.

    I certainly agree that talent alone doesn’t get you far. I also think that motivation is only a small part of the deal too. In order to turn ideas into physical reality you need to go through a whole process. You have to have clear answers to the questions of:
    Why do I want to do this?
    What specifically do I want to achieve?
    How specifically do I turn this desire into a reality (design and process)?
    What resources do I need to turn this desire into a reality (physical and personal)?
    How long will it take?
    How can I do all of this with a minimum of physical or emotional pain?

    Here’s a video on the subject

    When you have a method that allows you to answer these questions and that systematically takes you through all of the preparation needed to get the thing done, then getting things done becomes easy.

    The factors of talent and motivation pale in comparison to the practicalities of getting something done. What you need is a robust method that turns any idea into a reality with a minimum of fuss and bother.

    That’s what we do at the 1-Day Habit. We’ve created a Personal Operating System for just such a purpose.

  2. I guess a little deconstruction is in order. Talent has always been one of the conceived factors that lead to success. It’s evident in the number of so-called talent shows all over the world. What happens is that people who have not recognized their “talents” from the beginning believe themselves to be average and unable to reach the same successes as other “talented” people have.

What do you think about these topics?