The great sculptor Michelangelo once said: “No one would call be a genius if they knew how hard I worked.” In his iconic book, On the Road, American writer Jack Kerouac was asked by a friend about how he could learn to write. Kerouac said simply: “You just have to work at it.”
It’s perhaps a general belief among the majority of the population that the great artists, scientists, athletes, and others we admire are “born talented” or with a genius IQ. The idea is that these “lucky” people emerge from the womb with innate skills and gifts. Then it’s just a matter of plugging in their remarkable genetics and – voila! – fame and fortune are achieved.
But all you need do is pick up an in-depth biography about an admired super achiever. Reading their life stories reveals a much more nuanced picture. They show that the greatest luminaries are far more obsessed, driven, and hard-working than talented.
What the inventor Thomas Edison said is true, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” This was echoed by Albert Einstein, who said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.”
New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell offers psychological research showing that adding points to a person’s IQ eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns. He wrote in 2008:
“Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.” (Outlier: The Story of Success),
Some People Are Born to Succeed
Let’s face it, some of the most accomplished people in history were indeed “born geniuses.” A classic example is Wolfgang Mozart. By the age of three, he could already pick out tunes on a piano. He began composing original music by age four, writing10 symphonies before age 12. At 10 years old, Mozart was performing for royalty. He truly is a bona fide child prodigy.
The bottom line, however, is that 99% of people are not born child prodigies.
Geniuses Rarely Equals Success
Studies show that many who were born with genius IQs or amazing talents tend to lead lives of small achievements, mediocrity, and even abject failure.
This proves that all the natural talent in the world is not enough, in itself, to produce a successful career. There is no substitute for hard work – and that’s the good news.
Find Your Motivation
Anyone can achieve great things if they are motivated and are willing to work hard. To achieve something great, you need to nurture what Norman Vincent Peale called a “magnificent obsession” — something you become driven to accomplish.
The key is finding your unique “something” to become obsessed about in a positive way. This works best if you choose something you already love to do. It can be a favorite hobby or some area of life you care deeply about.
Ask yourself: “What would I eagerly do every day even if I never earned a dime doing it?“ That same thing can become your life work and a source of income.
The reason for finding something you love to do is that motivation to work hard comes naturally. That old adage, “A person who loves his/her job will never work another day in his/her life.“
Inspiration = Motivation
The esoteric writer and intellectual Jane Roberts said, “Inspiration is its own motivation.” That means you’ll work hard on that which you love and focus upon. When you realize that working hard is what truly matters – not your level of talent or IQ – you will be more motivated to make your life dreams come true.
History is replete with examples of people of average ability who achieved great things through sheer hard work, grit and an unwillingness to give up.
Kevin Plank got kicked out of high school when he was growing up in Kensington, Maryland. He managed to get into the University of Maryland on a football scholarship. By his own admission, Plank was a “C+ maybe B-minus” college student. But he went on to establish one of the world’s leading sports apparel brand. Today Kevin Plank’s personal net worth is north of $2 billion.
Oprah Winfrey was told early in her broadcast career that she would “never make it on TV.” We all know how that turned out. Even Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team because he lacked “natural talent.”
There’s no secret formula to stellar success – its mostly hard work. Yes, some talent and a few lucky breaks along the way tend to help out. But as NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, said: “I always found that the harder I worked the luckier I got.“