Being Intelligent Or Talented Isn’t Enough

In fifth grade our teacher asked who was excited to eventually get their driver’s license. Everyone’s hand went up except for mine. Perplexed, the teacher asked me why I wasn’t looked forward to getting my license.

I replied that, “Getting my license doesn’t matter to me because by the time I’m 16 I’ll be rich enough to have a chauffeur drive me around anyway.” I was completely serious and confident in what I said, but I think it made everyone else in the room somewhat uncomfortable and the teacher played it off as if what I said was a joke. She gave a polite chuckle before quickly changing the subject.

My 16th birthday rolled around in the beginning of 2013, and to my surprise I wasn’t a millionaire yet. Another year has passed and I’m not measurably closer to being a millionaire. At my current rate of progression it’ll be another 10-15 years before I’m living the luxurious life I once imagined I’d be living before the end of high school.

What mistake did fifth-grade Cameron and millions of people who fall short of their goals have in common? They believed that being intelligent alone was enough to succeed.

The Truth About Intelligence…

is it isn’t as important as you’d think. I’m not saying that if you’re a super geek you need to bang your head against the wall to lose brain cells; rather that intelligence alone isn’t enough to produce success.

I’m currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and he makes an interesting analogy comparing height in basketball to intelligence and success. If you’re an NBA scout looking for players to draft height is an important thing to consider. Nobody under 5″ will be successful in the NBA, and even people that are 5’11” or 6″ could benefit from being a little taller.

However, once you reach a certain height being taller has less and less significance. 6’1” is a big difference from 5’10”, but being 6’9” isn’t a major difference from 6’6”. That height difference may change the position you’d play, but once you reach the basketball height threshold of say 6’4”, other variables become more important.

You might be tall, but can you shoot? Can you handle the ball well? Are you conditioned? Height may be a prerequisite to being a superstar NBA player, but at an elite level height alone will not make you a game changer.

The same is true of intelligence (though luckily for you, intelligence can be cultivated to a far greater extent than height). You may be intelligent or have natural inclinations toward certain activities, but relying on God-given abilities alone will not lead to you standing out from elite competitors.

There are lots of teenagers who are equally or even more naturally talented than me as a writer. However, because they don’t write regularly they have nothing to show for it while I have thousands of blog readers each month.

Similarly, I have natural talent as a long-distance runner. However, because I don’t work to cultivate this talent I can only run at a turtle’s pace 5.5-6 minute mile while other runners are receiving full-ride scholarships to college for their running.

Just like everyone else you have natural inclinations and “unfair” advantages. You might not be 7 feet tall or think analytically in the same way I do, but maybe you have perfect pitch or come from a wealthy family that can afford to send you to summer study abroad programs and the college of your choice.

Regardless, understand that while having “unfair” advantages may make the journey a little easier or provide you with a higher-ceiling of success, a massive element of action is still required.

I may have had the potential to become a millionaire by age 16 or 17, but because I didn’t hustle enough (and my priorities changed) I’m not. You may have the potential to be successful in your chosen endeavor, but realize you can’t live in potential the rest of your life.

While it’s certain your life will change over time, positive progress isn’t guaranteed and if you want to make your dreams become a reality you’re going to have to hustle regardless of your natural abilities.

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