The Problem of Talent

We tend to idolize talented individuals. We celebrate their success with awards and trophies, and develop fan clubs that follow along on their journey to feel like we are a part of it. Athletes, Movie Stars – even YouTubers and Instagram Influencers have a following of loyal groupies. In business, we celebrate names like Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates – and a host of others.

We idolize and mimic their habits, behaviours and attitudes because we want to feel closer to them, and we want to achieve some of their success. But we face a problem in doing this – the problem of talent.

The truth is most people have some talent that they have passionately pursued, and they have developed a high level of skill because of this. Unfortunately, the majority of us are (obviously) not in this select minority of worldwide success and fame, and (honestly) not even close to the level of skill showed by our celebrities.

My research suggests that a lot of people become “stuck” in their development once they have established a level of confidence and reputation within their community. But why does this happen?

Flagging Motivation

One reason is that our motivation gradually fails as we approach our goals. If we actually achieve what we first set out to do, it takes a special effort to set out new goals that are worthy of our time and effort. Many people simply decide to “rest” for a while, and often wind up becoming stale in their area of passion – leading to a situation where their confidence is greater than their actual skill.

The biggest key here is to look for a new goal. Make the effort to identify something else worthy of your pursuit – even if it’s in a different realm altogether. I recently heard someone say “every performance aids every performance”. The point of that quote was to show that practicing in different arenas would build your skill in your main area of interest. Opening up to new learning experiences, becoming a learner again, and looking for new connections with fresh eyes can all lead to an increased energy and vitality, a motivation to continue your own growth and development once again.

Limited Learning Opportunities

As we develop our understanding, we can find ourselves in a situation where our learning resources are “tapped out” and we need to find a new way to learn. A new approach, and likely new people to challenge us. Often people feel like they’re at the end of this road long before they are actually there. It’s often just a matter of re-thinking the approach to learning, and looking for resources and opportunities to learn and develop that are different from what you’ve used in the past.

The biggest key here is to recognize that even if you are the most informed and experienced individual in a particular area (and you’re almost certainly not), there are still new experiences that you could pursue that will inform you and develop you beyond where you are now. You have not yet reached your potential.

Difficulty Teaching

I was considering leaving this one out, but I believe it’s a common enough phenomenon, and it is vital to anyone pursuing expertise in any given area. Teaching is one of the best ways for an individual to develop their own understanding of a given topic. The practice of finding ways to communicate principles and concepts based on simpler concepts pushes us to understand the connections between what we know and what we do.

James Altucher regularly references a learning model he picked up from a martial arts instructor, which he describes as “plus, minus, equal”. The concept is that we need to have a teacher who knows more than us (plus), someone we are teaching (minus), and one or more peers who challenge us to maintain a competitive rate of progress.


If you’re feeling stuck for any of these reasons, shake things up today. Try something different. Push yourself in a new direction and see what you can apply to your learning and development.


Do you have any other strategies for when you get stuck? Leave a comment below and let me know what works best for you.

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