I told my son a lie last night. I didn’t mean to, but it just slipped out. As a certified talent analyst, I should definitely know better.
I told him, “You know, you can be anything you want to be.”
This type of toxic talent-related advice has been handed down from generation to generation. I’m certain we have all heard some form of it:
- “Just put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything you want!”
- “Just try hard and you can be anything you want!”
- “All things are possible!”
- “You just have to want it!”
As coaches, managers, parents, and people, we should all know better. This advice is complete nonsense.
I remember as a little girl hearing that I could be anything I wanted:
- An Artist perhaps? Never mind the fact that I can’t even draw a good stick figure.
- A WNBA champion? Never mind the fact that I am only 5’2” tall and lack the ability to dribble.
- Perhaps a mathematician? Never mind that every algebra class I took was absolute torture as I lack the ability to read number sentences.
I’m not being hard on myself. I’m being honest. I can’t grow taller, and it’s not possible “teach” a person without drawing talent how to draw or someone without a head for numbers to suddenly grow one. Those things have to be there naturally (and when they are, of course, teaching can help). We all have an extremely long list of things we are not good at. That is reality.
We do, however, all possess a short list of specific things we are good at. These things make us valuable and lead us to the success we enjoy in life. A good coach will focus on these natural strengths. I remember a teacher I had in high school, Mr. Gunder, pointing me in the right direction. I turned in a paper analyzing a movie and he said some magic words to me.
He said, “There is a career in here for you.” I will never forget that. He was right! I’m not a film critic but I am a talent analyst, I love to analyze results, and I can proudly say that I love my job. It fits.
Some of you may want to challenge these statements, because you still believe that anyone can be anything they want to be.
Not without talent.
When you have the underlying talent and apply hard work and dedication—really put your mind to it—you can and will accomplish greatness! That is how we achieve success. We base our practice and mastery on natural strengths. Never on weaknesses.
Think about the people you are currently coaching. Are you catching yourself in this trap? Are you lying to them, even by accident? Pause, reflect, and stop. Focus instead on their strengths! Is this what they are naturally good at? Is this even the right career for them? Is it the right fit? The right position? The right timing? Are you pushing them too far outside their comfort zone? Is it mind over matter or a matter of talent?
Setting the right expectations based on talent can be amazing! The right expectations, coaching, and encouragement based on talent can propel people to greatness. The wrong expectations and encouragement can destroy a person when they fall short on the talents needed to meet that expectation.
After all, I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”