Can it be learned or are “the best” just naturals?

Golf  school lessonsI had a healthy discussion with my colleague this morning about an article in The Times looking at Bubba Watson’s triumph in the US Masters in which the journalist praised the fact that Bubba is “self – taught” and had “never had a golf lesson in his life”. The article concentrated on the fact that no one had shown him how to grip the club, control his swing or moulded him with their ideas rather than his own.

The result now being that he is seen as a bit of a maverick within the world of golf with his exceptionally long swing and the ability to produce shots from angles that others wouldn’t dare try. However despite not having had anyone train him or help him ‘improve’ his style he has successfully won the US Masters against the top golfers in the world who are professionally trained sportsmen that utilise the best coaches and sports psychologists to make them…

“be the best the best that they can be!”

In all industries there are high performers and those that appear to be more successful than others. But does that success come from natural talent, desire and work ethic or training? Or of course a combination of these!

For example, can you succeed if you have an exceptional work ethic but limited natural talent and conversely what if you have the natural talent but a limited work ethic?

Personally I believe that of course we need some amount of talent or ability to do a job but without plenty of desire, work ethic and the opportunity to have training many of us will never reach our potential to succeed.

Working within the recruitment industry we meet successful individuals every day and often you can see the importance natural talent and training has played in their career path. When companies hire new employees they are looking for people they believe will be successful within their organisation, a great addition to team and often someone that could be a potential future leader of their business.

Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen and despite all the best intentions at times the following can (although not always!) happen:

Those with talent but no desire may become dissatisfied or unproductive

I’ve met many candidates who have come on to the market not because they can’t do their current job but because it doesn’t inspire them. I’ve even met with some people who admit they aren’t working to their full potential because they have a limited interest in what they are doing. Many companies use Motivation or Personality Questionnaires to understand more about candidates’ drives, preferences and their likely desire to do the job.

Those with no talent but plenty of desire may move on

I’ve also met with people who have struggled on until they decide the job isn’t for them however they choose to move and utilise the drive and talent they do have in a role that is more suited to them. Traditional interviews, ability tests and a many other assessment tools specifically look at the talent or ability of individuals in a recruitment process.

Those with a little bit (or like Bubba – a lot) of talent and plenty of desire & a great work ethic, thrive

These are the people we often see succeed the most in their career. Their natural ability is increased by the fact that they tend to be open to coaching, mentoring and training through their desire to actually do their job.

So although Bubba hasn’t been trained by others he will have picked up things from people along the way, he will have role models and people that he looks up to but most importantly the combination of his desire and natural ability will have contributed to him winning an historic golfing tournament and putting him up there with the greats.


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