The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

advice wisdom talent

The best advice I have ever received was from my father.  My dad struggled in school and never went to college.  He wanted better for me but knew that I would have to learn from others.

He told me:

Whatever you want in life, find somebody that has it and ask them how they did it.  Nobody is smarter or better than you.  If they have something you don’t or can do something you can’t, it’s because they know something you don’t and are doing something you’re not.

I grew up believing that the only differences between me and a Michael Jordan were 1) He knew a lot about basketball that I did not and 2) he practiced a lot, and I had not.  I grew up thinking I could be Michael Jordan if I wanted to.

When I failed at something, I did not take it personally.  It just meant I was not working  hard enough or I was doing something wrong, or both.  I tried again harder and smarter until I succeeded.

Decades later, I still love finding successful people and asking them how they achieved their success (hence this blog)!  It is 2nd nature to me.  What shocks me:

  1. NOBODY asks this question.
  2. NOBODY will answer it.

Deep down, people do not want to be successful; they just want to feel good about themselves.  Asking how to achieve success implies an understanding that:

  • Success is your responsibility.  You are not doing something you could be doing to be successful.
  • Successful people are successful because of what they are doing.  It is not luck; it is not talent; they did not cheat.
  • You must be ready to change and struggle to improve yourself.

Attributing success to talent abdicates responsibility.  People are in love with “talent.”  They believe everything comes easily to talented people.  The goal is to find your “talent” and do what is easy for you.  People that believe in talent:

  • Cannot understand, explain, or learn from the limited success they do have.  They want to believe they are special  If someone else could do what they are doing, then they are no longer special.
  • Cannot ask for advice.  They would be admitting that they are not special.
  • Are in denial about their true ability on almost everything.  Their self esteem is tied to being special.
  • Are terrified of failure or trying anything new because struggling means you must not be talented.

In reality:

Smart hard work and PERSEVERANCE  are far more important than talent.  Smart hard work and perseverance will make nearly anyone world class at nearly anything.  Talent is only worth talking about after smart hard work and perseverance (the result is a legend like Michael Jordan).

You should constantly try new things.  Trying, failing, and trying again is the most effective way to learn (I discuss this in more detail here).

Starting out, you should expect to struggle at everything because you have not worked hard and do not know what you are doing yet.  If you systematically apply smart hard work and perseverance, you can expect to be better than most in a very short while.

Thoughts?  Post a comment or ask a question.  I will respond!

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