talent

We all have a talent for something, although we’re not talented in all areas. Our talents are what enable us to achieve extraordinary results at work or in our personal life. What’s more, they can be developed. In this article we’ll look at how to do this.

  • Motivation. No talent can flourish without an underlying passion for something; the activity that we are engaged in must really motivate us. At the beginning of our lives, when we are very young, this motivation often comes from external forces, such as when parents are bent on their children doing a particular sport or choose a hobby for them. However, even if children win great plaudits, they will often end up casting aside their racket, running shoes or sheets of music if they don’t enjoy what they’re doing. This is equally true of the world of work. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group, says that his main motto in business is: ‘Come on, let’s have some fun!’
  • Knowledge. If we want to hone our skills, we need to have the right knowledge and skills base to work on. If we enjoy doing something, we will to improve the skills and knowledge that we have already acquired. The biographer of Thomas Edison recounts how he devoured all the books on physics he could lay his hands on in the bookshop where he worked. This prior reading gave him the necessary technical background (given that he hadn’t gone to university) to patent, among other inventions, the incandescent light bulb. If motivation leads us to do a particular activity, the relevant knowledge can improve how we perform.
  • Perseverance. Talent is enhanced by repeated action. We need time, effort and a great deal of repetition to create new habits. As Larry Bird, one of the all-time great players in the NBA, put it: ‘It’s funny, the more we train, the luckier we get.’
  • Resources. We need time and the right conditions to be able to develop. It’s not enough to have the best of intentions if external factors don’t support our efforts. Sport is a clear example of this, as the great leap in the number of medals obtained by Spain in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona showed. In the previous Games, in Seoul, Spain had amassed the grand total of four medals. Faced with an all-too-likely repetition of this failure on home territory, the Olympic Sport Aid programme was set up to invest in the development of Spanish athletes. The outcome was a resounding success: 64 million euros contributed by the private sector and 22 medals won at the Barcelona games. ‘The difference was enormous: I went from scraping by on a grant of 25,000 pesetas to having a salary of 150,000 pesetas,’ recalls Sandra Myers, the Spanish record-holder at 100, 200 y 400 metres. Although since Barcelona the number of medals achieved by Spain has gone down (and let’s see what happens in the next Games in Brazil, what with all the cuts currently being applied), the Olympic Sport Aid programme brought to light a critical element in the development of talent: if we want to nurture people’s gifts, we need to devote resources to the task. Obviously, this is equally true for companies and for us as individuals in our quest for improvement.

Take-aways

  1. If you want to find out where your talents lie, you should first identify what you’re really passionate about. Ask yourself if what you want to achieve is something that you really love.
  2. If you want to get better at doing something, you should devote time to studying it, practising it or being with people who do it very well. Rub shoulders with the best to help yourself achieve your aims.
  3. Practice, practice and more practice. You can’t develop your talents without the right habits, and you can’t develop your talents without effort. So, draw up an action plan that involves practice once a week at the very least.

The formula

Developing talent = Motivation + Knowledge + Perseverance + Resources

Based on the book La Nueva Gestión del Talento (New Approaches in Talent Management)

Photo: JONATHAN EVANS (GETTY)

 

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