I’ll choose to skip the whole nature vs. nurture discussion of talent but offer one quick lens on this statement.
Hard Work and Deliberate Practice
A popular idea in the context of building skill, and therefore central to the talent debate, and tangentially to this hard work riff, is deliberate practice. Coined by researcher Anders Ericsson
, deliberate practice is a specific type of effortful practice that allows an individual to develop expertise.
One of the main findings of Ericsson’s research is that deliberate practice takes many hours (as much as 10,000 ) of repetitive, iterative and difficult training. To many people, this will sound a lot like hard work.
Through this lens, it would seem that hard work and talent are not only linked, but in fact hard work is a pre-requisite for talent.
“To experts, what looks like work from the outside, is play from the inside.”
And hence, the above statement feels incomplete. Anything, done to the extreme that it qualifies to be an expert, feels like it must also imply some hard work.
To use a sporting example, let’s take Cristiano Ronaldo as an expert footballer. Whilst he loves football and surely considers much of it play, it seems unreasonable to me to suggest it doesn’t also involve hard work. Long hours in the gym. Many hours of travel. It’s not all play.
In an office based context, let’s use the example of a programming expert. Whilst the creation of code may be considered play, there are many other facets which are likely less so. Consider problems with the hardware or writing of documentation.
In any job, no matter how much you enjoy it, it would seem incomplete to think that there isn’t at least some part that is less fun. That less fun part is the hard work. Therefore, it follows that hard work and talent feel more connected than in Naval’s statement above.
However, it does seem like good advice to try find an area of work which you enjoy more than others. This way, by virtue of comparative play, you have a comparative advantage.
Some people may idealize this as “finding your passion” but I think Naval says it more concretely below:
“So an area to focus on – find something that feels like play to you but others think is work”.
This is great advice. If you have some natural tendency that allows you to find joy in something that people a) value and b) find hard, double down on it.
Hard Work and Luck
I also wanted to make the connection between hard work and luck, which is missing from Naval’s podcast.
In Marc Andreessen’s essay, Luck and The Entrepreneur
, he discusses four types of luck. The most relevant for this discussion is luck II, which loosely transcribed is the luck we attract through being active, doing stuff and working hard
. Or to take a quote from the book Marc references:
I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down
Charles Kettering, via Chance, Chase and Creativity
The implication here is that hard work makes us lucky.
Then there’s luck that kind of comes through persistence, hard work, hustle, motion, which is when you’re just running around creating lots of opportunities
When your choices have higher leverage, judgment is increasingly important.
Hard work and good judgement are not mutually exclusive. Don’t make this false choice.
The perception of hard work can be important in of itself. Qualify if that is true in your environment.
Hard work and talent are often linked via deliberate practice. If you consider your profession a craft, you’ll likely benefit from deliberate practice.
Be aware of those skills which you find easy, but others find hard. If it is also valued by society, it is the basis of a good career.
Hard work can make us more lucky.