(Warning: this post is deliberately long to ward off folks who are not studious or those who have buried or wish to bury their talents)
Ten years ago, I walked into a WHS bookshop at the LHR Airport and picked up a book by one of my favorite authors, globally renowned mentor and coach on Leadership, John C. Maxwell entitled “Talent is Never Enough”. At that time, 2008, I was contemplating quitting my job and going into full-time Agriculture and Witchcraft! I wasn’t doing well, regardless of what my friends and family thought. It was roughly 18 years after I graduated top of my Mass Communication class in the University of Nigeria-and I felt (strongly) I hadn’t met my personal expectations particularly in my career.
So, when I saw the book on display, I remembered the day I sat with Maxwell at a Leadership Conference in Abuja co-sponsored by Vmobile and UBA. Tony Elumelu sat right next to me (add that to my CV, guys!). Ok, I picked up this book with great excitement and expectation, having read the blurb-and resolved to finish it between London and Lagos. And that was precisely what I did. By the time I got to the office the next day, I was a totally different Emeka. My life changed, that is.
Hear Maxwell: “Talent is often overrated and frequently misunderstood. When people achieve great things, others often explain their accomplishments by simply attributing everything to talent. But that is a false and misleading way of looking at success. If talent alone is enough, then why do you and I know highly talented people who are NOT highly successful?”
So, talent is NEVER enough!!! The gospel of Mathew Chapter 25: 14-30 tells the Parable of the Talent. A master who was traveling distributed his property, worth 8 talents, to his servants. Remember, he distributed them in the ratio of 5:2:1. The servants who got 5 and 2 invested their talents and reaped double while that which got 1 simply buried it in the ground and promptly brought it out when the master returned. You all know how it ended for them. But note well what the Holy Bible said about those who have and those who have not in verse 29: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
It might sound or seem unjust but God’s ways are not necessarily our ways or rather are not as simple as they seem. The Great Architect of the Universe, who made heaven and earth, has mercifully and graciously given everyone of us a talent, at least. It is up to us what we do with it (or them). It is isn’t enough to have talent(s). What really matters is what you make of yours.
There are many talented footballers, for example, but George Oppong Weah, now President of Liberia, most definitely put his talent to excellent use and became the first black man to win the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon D’Or. He wasn’t just creative, but he was also mercurial and even imperial in his exploits on the field of soccer. Weah, a poor lad from extremely humble beginnings, finished playing football and went to school and then went into politics and today, he’s back in the limelight rubbing shoulders with other world leaders! What an amazing use of talents! By the way, there were many other footballing talents from Africa plying their trade around the world at the time Weah was, but you know what happened to some of them.
Here’s the thing, my friend. You must aim at what Maxwell called Talent Plus (Talent+). Talent is a gift from God. You must identify your talent and then turn it into your key to success. While I urge you to find a copy of this great book, I will break it down in bullet points for you. I was looking for inspiration for a Motivational Talk to a Youth Seminar and this book jumped right at me from my bibliotheque. There are 13 “secrets” Maxwell revealed that can help you become a Talent Plus:
1. Belief lifts your talent: Believe in your potential, yourself and your mission. It’s only when you have a plan, a direction and believe in it that you can achieve it.
2. Passion energizes talent: Passion is the energy that creates fire in you. If you’re passionate, it doesn’t matter how many times you fail; you’ll keep going till you make the most of your talent. Oft, people say to me “Emeka, you’ve got energy, man!” That’s something very nice to say about a Manager!
3. Initiative activates your talent: You’ve got to take that bold, first step forward.You’ve got move, man! Don’t wait to be pushed. Jump! Many have not gone far in their chosen careers because they were assessed as “lacking initiative”. They were always told what to do.
4. Focus directs your talent: What is your objective? What’s your goal? If you don’t have a destination, you will be roaming all over. So, you must identify and face your target or you will keep trying this and that, one thing or the other until you are finished!
5. Preparation positions your talent: Be Prepared is the motto of the Boys Scout. Nothing builds talent more and better than preparation. Maxwell says, “Talent Plus people who prepare well live by this motto: “All’s well that begins well”. Luck, they say is when opportunity meets with preparation!
6. Practice sharpens your talent: Practice makes perfect, my father told me. David Beckham and our own Jay Jay Okocha used to spend extra hours training/practicing how to play free-kicks. They perfected the art so well that they were naturally called up when free-kicks opportunities arise for the teams! Real Madrid’s Roberto Carlos , one of the best in the world, played a free-kick that made the cover of Time Magazine! Need I say more?
7. Perseverance sustains your talent: You’ve go to keep working at it. Don’t give up! It is called staying power. Hold on to your dream and keep running with it. When you read the story of how GT Bank was established by Fola Adeola, Tayo Aderinokun, Segun Agbaje, Femi Pedro and co, you’ll understand the meaning of perseverance in the sustenance of talent.
8. Courage tests your talent: Sydney Smith writes: “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage.” We must be courageous enough to face truths about ourselves and the realities and vagaries of life itself. You shouldn’t be daunted by challenges or your talent will be wasted! Our courage, like our loyalty, will always be tasted by circumstances.
9. Teachability expands your talent: Teachability is the desire to listen, learn and apply, says Maxwell. I personally go out of my way to seek learning opportunities. As they say, if you stop learning, you start dying. Opening yourself up for further “education” helps you to take your talent to the next levels. Nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. Keep learning!
10. Character 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, say Maxwell. Many who were otherwise talented have fallen off their top perch because they lacked character. Tiger Woods nearly did. Even Bill Clinton almost did. Many weren’t as lucky. You know them better than I do. Emy Winehouse, for instance, died too soon with all her talent!
11. Relationships influence your talent: My father told me early in my life “Emeka, tell me whom you go with and I will tell you who you are!” And MAxwell says, nothing will influence your talent as much as the important relationships in your life.” You must spend most of your time with people who add value to your life, people who inspire and motivate you, people who make you better. Who are your mentors? Who are your friends. A female friend just joined a Book Club. They travel. They party. They catch their fun. They also share books, knowledge and ideas! Iron, they say, sharpeneth iron!
12. Responsibility strengthens your talent: Try and memorize these wise words from Maxwell: Nothing adds “muscle” to talent like responsibility. It lifts talent to a new level and increases its stamina.” Without responsibility, your talent will be “flabby”, he says. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful have…is the ability to take on responsibility.” So, if you want to be successful, you must make responsibility a choice. Note, however, you can’t be responsible in one aspect of life and irresponsible in another. That’s a ready recipe for failure, immediate or later.
13.Teamwork multiplies your talent: No man is an island unto himself. The strongest link in a chain is the weakest. Two good heads are better than one. These are all wise sayings that proclaim the benefits of teamwork. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Partner with people especially those who have what you do not have in terms of talent or skills.
“Talent is NEVER enough” is probably one of my best reads from John C. Maxwell. He’s not aware I’m “marketing” his book(s)-and I’m not- but the incredibly sagacious nuggets of knowledge in this one makes it a perfect gift from me to you on a Monday morning.
God bless you and bless your talent!