I am very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work one-on-one with many amazing athletes during the course of my career, and from those experiences I can emphatically state that in the vast majority of cases the success these athletes accomplished did not happen as a result of casual efforts, but instead due to a lot of hard work, mental toughness, and perseverance. Similarly, I have also been lucky to teach many college psychology courses over the years, and again, the most successful students I have had in class weren’t “naturally gifted,” but instead the hardest workers in class. Are you starting to see a connection here?
Nature v. Nurture
Often we make the mistake of attributing the success seen in others (athletes, students, etc.) to their natural abilities, and while genetics certainly do contribute to our abilities, it’s actually the work we put in that matters the most. In sports, some athletes do have an advantage over others because of their natural size, speed, or strength — but if they rely exclusively on those gifts and do not put in the work needed to continually improve, it’s very likely they will “max out” early in life and fall short of reaching their full potential. Conversely, and perhaps more interestingly, athletes who are average in natural abilities – but develop a strong work ethic and mental toughness – often make up for their average physical abilities through their motivation and effort.
Excellence in the classroom is really no different — simply having natural abilities in math, science, or foreign language will only take a person so far without putting in the work needed to continue to excel. Most students can only “show up” for so long before being awakened to the fact that if you want to acheive excellence, it won’t happen through casual efforts.
We often do not see all the extra time, work, and effort great athletes, students, and business people put into their craft that allows them to become the best. Instead, we tend to overlook or ignore all of these efforts, and falsely assume these people had God-given natural abilities that lead to their success.
The Value of a Strong Work Ethic
In my direct experience working with many outstanding athletes, as well as everyday people, the common denominator to their success has always been a strong work ethic. These are the people who are first to practice and the last to leave — and they are the most resilient when it comes to dealing with stress, frustration, adversity, and failure. They really don’t have as many natural advantages over the competition as you might think. Instead, they simply want it more.
Yes, it really is the “blood, sweat, and tears” that is at the core of champions, or everyday people who seem to excel at whatever it is they do. The reality is there is no substitute for hard work, and our natural abilities can compensate for causal work efforts for only so long. The good news, however, is that a strong work ethic will not only level the playing field, but it can actually lead to even greater success when compared to the individual with the natural talent but a minimal work ethic.
Find passion and purpose in what you do, and develop a conviction toward your future success. If you do, you will be amazed at how quickly things change for the better in your life, and how these positive changes will be a result of the efforts you put into your craft.