In The Absence Of Talent

In addition to mentoring CEOs, I often speak to promising young persons — usually sent my way by their parents — to give them wise counsel as to how to fashion their career or to find the right career.

A good many of them have an entrepreneurial bent — so they think — and a good many of them have just left the armed forces. They are all at the starting line of their career.

I always start with one bit of wisdom: Do not be in a hurry, young person; experiment and try some different things.

Sometimes, I will have a young person say, “I have no talents” to which I reply, “You just haven’t discovered them yet. Everybody has talents that you continue to discover for the next 75 years. In ten years, you will be amazed at what was inside you waiting to be freed.”

“So what do I do until I discover my talents, Big Red Car?”

It is quite simple really.

 1. Get a job, almost any job, but one that puts you in the workforce. You will not discover your talents in your mother’s basement.

No work is beneath you. This is how you start. Every successful person of my generation washed dishes, dug ditches, shoveled snow, babysat, or cut grass. I did all of those things.

 2. Be the first one at work, stay late, and work as hard as you can. Finding your talents will be hard work, so work hard.

Be patient and persistent. Don’t take the easy path. Go over the mountain, not around it.

Nobody ever drowned in their own sweat.

Go to sleep tired, that good kind of tired when you know you’ve worked your ass off.

 3. Develop a positive attitude about everything. Attitude is the one thing you can control completely. Have an attitude that encourages your bosses to invest in you.

Attitude is essential to success and it doesn’t take a drop of talent or skill to be positive.

 4. Read an hour a day on the economy, the startup racket, and industries in which you believe your future may lie.

Read biographies of great men and women and delve into what they did when they were your age. Shoplift their experience.

This one thing — reading hard — is the secret sauce that only you can create.

Read hard — book or tablet in hand, cup of coffee/glass of wine/beer in hand, and with complete focus and no distractions. Keep notes.

It is useful to do it the same time and in the same place.

When you finish a book, take a second to write 1,000 words on what you learned — sometimes what to emulate and sometimes what to never do. Identify and commit to writing the learnings.

The 4 things above are how you narrow your focus and figure out where you’re going.

 5. Network like you intend to run for County Commissioner as a Democrat. Network in the office, socially, church, athletically, and wherever you live. Work at networking.

Join organizations, go to MeetUps, join a church, and accumulate friends/colleagues/peers/interesting people.

In the near term, you will build yourself by stealing the best characteristics, traits, talents, and skills of this broad cross-section of persons.

Keep track of y0ur network digitally and inject energy into those relationships. You get back 2X what you invest.

Send a handwritten note card to everybody you meet. You would be amazed where these cards end up.

 6. Make high quality friends. If you have four friends who are all successful, your likelihood of being successful is enormously higher. They wouldn’t be friends with a dummie, right?

Make friends with folks who reflect the values, traits, and character of where you want to go even before you know the final destination.

 7. As you begin to develop traction, map out the person you want to become in writing and become that person — traits, character, work habits. Invent yourself with a hard purpose and work at it.

Stop — read that again — design the person you want to be from a blank page. 

 8. Make a written plan once you have gotten your feet wet — not now, but when you have had a taste and your plan is more enlightened and informed.

This too, making a written plan, is something rarely done. Just do it.

 9. Take risks, not reckless risks, but take risks and live with the consequences.

The learning — even when you fail miserably — is permanent. You become comfortable with risk which most persons do not.

Introduce yourself to others in similar situations. You will be amazed who you can meet.

 10. Be lucky. The earlier you get to work, the harder you work — the luckier you get. You can only prove this by doing it.

 11. Learn — you have to listen to learn — how to do something new every day.

When I was in the Army, I decided I would become an expert knot tier and I did, but it started by my mining the knot tying expertise of a bunch of sergeants. I would ask them to teach me how to tie some knot.

Even today, I have two hanks of rope that I tie from time to time.

 12. Respect everyone at every stage of life in every condition. Never ever assume you know anybody’s story and why they are like they are.

You will never treat yourself better than you treat others. Sounds odd, but it is true.

 13. Keep a journal. Write every day even if it’s only 500 words.

When you have a big win or you get your teeth kicked in write about how it made you feel, what you learned, and what you’re going to do in the future.

Let life educate you, but keep notes.

 14. Do not worry about what others think about you. It’s wasted because they really don’t care. Blow it off. Never do anything to impress anybody other than yourself. Believe in yourself.

 15. Never make decisions when you are emotional. Never make decisions when you are drinking. Quit drinking.

 16. Do not ever quit. When you quit, you lose, and only then do you fail. Do not be afraid to fail — cliche alert — as it is wildly instructive.

That’s it, Big Red Car?

Yes, amigo, that’s it. Do all of the above for 2-3 years and your talents will appear and the path of your life will be laid out for you. I promise.

Remember this: every person has 5-7 careers within them. Now, go bite the ass off a grizzly bear and get on with it.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.