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Discipline vs. The Talent Trap

August 10, 2023 • Discipline

In the world of sports, we often come across athletes who are hailed as prodigies, gifted with extraordinary talent from a young age. They are showered with praise and admiration, being referred to as “The Natural” or “The Next Big Thing.” While encouragement and recognition are powerful motivators, solely relying on talent can lead to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. The “why?” is simple. People overestimate talent and underestimate discipline. 

The Trap of Talent

Do not get me wrong. Talent is undoubtedly a wonderful gift and I believe in encouraging everyone from children to our colleagues.  From strangers to neighbors.  It’s powerful, but also limiting. The listener hears and starts to believe “it’s enough.” At a young age, we are fed words of encouragement. We become so full we think our talent will be enough. But really, it is only a matter of time till you get stuffed by someone who works harder for it. Yes, natural ability can kick-start the journey of what could be, but only if it’s threaded with consistent discipline. 

Discipline > Talent

Troy Aikman: The Definition of Discipline

Troy Aikman, a Hall of Fame quarterback who enjoyed a remarkable career in the NFL, is an exemplary model of discipline over talent. Throughout his twelve-year NFL tenure, he achieved great success, winning three Super Bowl rings and earning six Pro Bowl appearances. After retiring from football, Aikman transitioned to become an Emmy-nominated broadcaster with over two decades of experience in front of the camera.

Aikman is the definition of discipline. The definition of never relying on solely talent.  He told me when he joined me on, my podcast – “Game Changers With Molly Fletcher”- that he set goals, completed them, and then set more. He embraced the hard work – and still does.

Aikman’s disciplined approach to life was instilled in him during his upbringing on a working farm in Oklahoma. He grew up with high expectations and a long list of chores. He witnessed the relentless hard work of his father and learned the value of discipline and persistence. For Aikman, setting goals and diligently working towards them became second nature. He embraced the notion of hard work and continued to do so even after reaching the pinnacle of his football career.

To get things done, you work for it. Doing what you want most, not what you want right now. 

The Power of Discipline

While Aikman’s natural talent as a quarterback was evident, it was his unwavering discipline that truly set him apart. He understood that talent alone could only take him so far. By combining his innate abilities with consistent and focused effort, he was able to achieve greatness and continually set new milestones in his life.

Unlocking Your Full Potential

Aikman’s story serves as a powerful lesson for all of us. Instead of relying solely on our talents, we should strive to complement them with discipline. Discipline enables us to push beyond our comfort zones, to set ambitious goals, and to persevere even in the face of challenges. It’s the key to unlocking our full potential and reaching heights we may have thought were beyond our grasp.

Refusing to Settle

It’s natural to enjoy receiving praise for our talents, and it can be a boost to our confidence. However, it’s crucial not to let that praise become a barrier to further growth. By staying hungry and embracing discipline, we refuse to settle for mediocrity. We choose to be good and strive to be great.

Your Challenge

The allure of talent can be captivating, but without discipline, it may lead to unrealized dreams and wasted potential. I have seen it firsthand, the devastating disappointment that stems when people rely on talent. It was the root of their problem, and guess what? They get weeded out by the people with less talent, and more discipline. The story of Troy Aikman reminds us that discipline is the catalyst that propels us to new heights. So, the next time you’re complimented for your talent, ask yourself how much further you could go with some discipline. Season our talents with discipline and witness the remarkable taste of success that follows.


More on Discipline:

Molly Fletcher inspires leaders, teams and organizations to up their game. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Molly is the founder of Game Changer Performance Group.  Sign up to receive her newsletter, subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast, and watch her TED Talk on The Secrets to a Champion Mindset

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