Confidence and Talent

At the beginning of an episode of America’s Got Talent (opens in a new link), Simon Cowell (opens in a new link) said that two things are needed for success: confidence and talent. I found two things intriguing in that statement: the sequence of the two things and what is missing.

Confidence and talent sequence

Since my focus is on confidence I doubt that you’ll be surprised that I was intrigued by the fact that he placed confidence ahead of talent in his statement. I wondered if it was just a fluke or intentional.

As I pondered that question, I discovered that the most successful people are the ones who are confident. I came to this conclusion because of the people I know who are talented, but lack confidence. They rarely acknowledge, much less employ, their talents. I’m certain that you know people like these as well.

You and I also know people with little talent who are incredibly successful…whose confidence enables them to achieve more than their talent would indicate possible. Yet confidence alone doesn’t explain their success…which brings us to the second part of my observation: what’s missing.

What’s missing

I believe that there’s a third element to success that Simon Cowell didn’t state and that is passion. While confident people can, and often do, enjoy greater success than those who possess greater talent but less confidence, what determines the level of success that a person achieves is desire (passion).

I’m going to use sports to illustrate my point simply because it’s easy to visualize. The concept applies equally well to any endeavor. 

A recreational tennis player enjoys playing, but winning isn’t so important that they’re willing to invest time or energy in practicing or learning how to become more proficient.

Those who are more competitive by nature will:

  • Join club that has a ladder (competition levels).
  • Hire a coach.
  • Get videotaped.
  • Review the tapes along with their coach.
  • Spend more hours practicing than competing.

Yet, they’re still operating at the recreational level…albeit a more competitive recreational level.

Those who are really passionate about tennis will strive to become professional. Tennis is their job. They work at it consistently day in and day out. They study the game, tapes of top tier professionals to see what they do with their footwork, their serve, how they position the racquet, etc.

The elite in tennis, like any other sport, are the most passionate. They invest more time and energy into developing their skills than the other athletes in their sport. It’s what makes them the best of the best. In addition to their tennis coach, they hire fitness coaches, nutritionists and other professionals to improve their health, strength, agility and stamina.

For you

First, acknowledge the fact that few people are as passionate about what they do as the elite in their field…whatever field that may be. Their passion requires them to make tradeoffs that most are unwilling to make. Second, recognize that being among the elite isn’t the only measure of success.

Let’s continue our tennis example. If you’re a purely recreational player and you enjoy the game and, more importantly, the company of those with whom you play, then you’re successful. You are happy doing something you enjoy.

If you’re a more competitive recreational player and you find your game improving as a result of your efforts, and that makes you happy, you’re successful.

You’ve turned pro and are making money doing what you love, you’re successful.

If your goal is to be among the elite and you’re passionate enough to do what it takes to get there, you too will be successful.

While success at all levels is influenced by confidence and talent, the success enjoyed at each level depends upon your passion. As Simon Cowell indicated, whether intentional or not, talent is the least relevant to the level of success achieved.

For our kids

As you see kids bemoaning that someone is better at something than they are, ask them:

  • How much time and energy are they willing invest to become as good as the other person?
  • What would you have to give up to be able to invest that much time and energy?
  • Is that a tradeoff you’re willing to make? In other words, is it important enough to you to put forth the effort?

By helping them evaluate their passion, you enable them to enjoy the success they achieve based on the level of passion they possess for that endeavor.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Hi Dale, This past week the most professional golf tournament on the planet was held, the FedX Cup featuring the best golfers in the world. First prize was $15 million.

    The winner was Patrick Cantlay. As an amateur, Cantlay was the PGA rookie of the year in 2011. He had a lower spine injury and the doctor’s told him he should give up playing professional golf. In his third year of suffering pain described by Cantlay as someone plunging a knife down his back, his best friend and caddie was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident while the two were crossing the street. No matter what doctors tried, and no matter how much better he felt in every day life, it still hurt to play golf.

    He returned to playing golf professionally in 2017 where he was able to play only 12 tournaments competitively. Recently Cantlay commented that he is a “better person having gone through those dark days”. It made him tough and grateful to be playing.

    Do you think Patrick Cantley qualifies as an example of someone who might be passionate in addition to being talented and confident?

  2. Dale Furtwengler

    Absolutely! If he weren’t passionate about golf, he’d have quickly abandoned the game to avoid pain. We all know what a deterrent pain is. With passion he first looked for ways to alleviate the pain, then to resume play and, finally, to compete professionally again. Plus he did all this with patience over an extended period of time…years. It’s hard for me to assess how much of his win is related to talent and how much to his passion for the game. I’ve witnessed athletes who weren’t particularly talented excel by overcoming their shortcomings. Their passion helped them find ways to accomplish what they wanted despite not having as much talent as other athletes.

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