Editorial Notebook

Hard work or talent?

Talent or hard work: which leads to success? According to Google, talent is “a natural aptitude or skill.” To me, the word “natural” implies that talent is something people are born with—it can’t be developed over time. Now that we have a definition for talent, do we believe everyone has it? From a quick Google search, I found arguments for both “yes” and “no,” but nothing concrete. Since this is completely based on personal perception, I will assume worst case scenario and answer “no.” For the purpose of this article, I will refer to this definition and interpretation; however, I understand it may be translated in other ways. 

I’m a believer in hard work. What can I say, for a cynical person, I practice some hopeful thinking. I have no control over what talents I may or may not be born with—but I do have control over my actions. As a control freak, I find comfort in that. But, I’d also like to argue that hard working people are persistent. That’s fair, isn’t it? Hard work calls for perseverance. In fact, hard working people are ambitious. They must be motivated by something, if they’re working relentlessly. Finally, “hard work” is sustainable. When someone says, “Bob is a hard worker,” that’s a long-term description. This person thinks Bob is a hard worker and he will most likely continue to be hard working. If we combine these characteristics, I think Bob is on a good path. Because of this persistence and ambition, he is likely to survive life’s hardships, and because of his continued efforts, Bob will keep digging until he hits gold.

Those are my two cents. Now, I’ve heard this conversation around campus and I’d like to share some alternate interpretations that have come up. The strongest alternative I have heard is “neither.” Two reasons have come up. One is that neither talent nor hard work is relevant compared to networking. It’s about who you know. In my opinion, this argument ties more closely with “talent”—if your talent is based in social interactions. The other is that it ultimately doesn’t matter. We don’t need an answer. In a company, your boss does not care how you get your work done. It’s all about the end result; it’s all about the numbers.

There are a lot of ways to argue this and I welcome any new observations. Ultimately, I am Bob. I want Bob to succeed because I want to succeed. Whether or not I have talent, I want to believe that I can be successful using brute force. Here’s to giving it all I got.