Book Review: Talent is Never Enough

December 11, 2009

I find the art of achieving success to be intriguing. Many people attribute success to luck, to being in the right place at the right time. Others argue that you make your own breaks, and being in the right place at the right time without being prepared does you no good at all. What does it take to be prepared? That was the question that leapt into my head when I came across a book titled Talent is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent by John C. Maxwell (Copyright ©2007).

I flipped through the book, and it appeared to have a lot of information in it, so I purchased it for my summer reading, even though I had a few other books already selected. However, I read fast, and I need several books to get me through the summer…

The book began by articulating something that I am in full agreement with, and that is to stop working on your weaknesses, and start working on your strengths. As a manager, I’ve always followed this advice that I got from reading another book several years ago: First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (Copyright © 1999 by The Gallop Organization). Since reading that book, I have always sought to understand the strengths and preferences of those who work for me, so that I could best align the work with the abilities and preferences of my staff, but I digress.

Maxwell raised an interesting point in the introduction to Talent is Never Enough, and that is the observation that people can increase their ability in an area by only 2 points on a scale from 1 to 10. This is an important point because if you happen to be a 4 in a given area, you have the potential of reaching a 6, a little above average. If you are a 7 – where your strength lies – you have the potential of becoming a 9, effectively moving yourself from a 1 in 10,000 talent to a 1 in 100,000 talent.

Find your talent – your strength – and develop that talent to its fullest extent.

However, the main thrust of the book was the talent needs to be accompanied by other things, and that you won’t make it on talent alone. You need to be a “talent-plus” person. Many of the “plus” items were not new to me, but it was the first time that I have seen these articulated in one place, and expanded upon in fantastic detail. What are those “plus” things?

Belief. Believing in yourself, your potential, your mission comes from within, and will remove artificial limits that you may be placing on yourself.

Passion. It energizes and empowers you. It enables people to make the most of whatever talent that they possess.

Focus. It directs your talent. Avoid taking on everything; Attempting everything is like attempting nothing. It will suck the life out of you.

Preparation. It positions your talent. When you don’t prepare, things that you hoped won’t happen do happen.

Practice. It sharpens your talent. You play at the level you practice.

Perseverance. It sustains your talent. It means succeeding because you are determined to, not destined to.

Courage. It what you draw upon when your talent is tested. If you fail to step up and meet a challenge, you will not realize the depth of your talent.

Teachability. It expands your talent because you are willing to discover and grow. It is an desire to listen, learn, and apply.

Character. It protects your talent. Many people with talent make it into the limelight, but the ones who have neglected to develop strong character rarely stay there long.

Relationships. They influence your talent. Some relationships take from us, like critics, gossips, backstabbers, control freaks. Other relationships add to us, like family, creative people, fun people, encouraging people, successful people.

Responsibility. It strengthens your talent. People who handle their responsibilities well get the opportunity to handle additional responsibilities.

Teamwork. It multiplies your talent. Talent may win games, but it is teamwork that wins championships.

Overall, I found Talent is Never Enough to be a very good read, and I recommend it to anyone who wants more insight into why you need more than just talent alone.