The Talent Trap

October 13, 2022

Lots of people want to be good at stuff. Like Lando Norris. Lando is about to be the lead driver for the McLaren F1 team at just 22. He’s an incredibly gifted driver with mountains of natural talent. He also works on it non stop. He is obsessed with winning. He’s in the simulator for hours and hours. He trains daily. Even his R&R time is spent playing games he’s desperate to win (golf).

I learned something really important from Lando. I learned that there are two types of achievers. There are those that want to work hard at being the best. And then there are those that want to look like the best. They don’t actually want to be the best, that’s far too hard and takes too long. They just want to put some effort in and then wing it. That way, they can look like a gifted natural and feel different from the mortals around them.

Talent is a trap. Being able to say you have natural ability is a way of wiggling your way out of doing the work to get better. Lando doesn’t care that he has natural talent. He knows he has that. What he cares about is winning. Actually, what he really cares about is not losing. He mentions that several times in this interview. That seems to be another interesting pattern. The people that rise to the top seem to care more about not losing than they do about winning. It’s not that they love the feeling of winning, although that’s certainly true, it’s that they hate the feeling of losing. That they were beaten by someone better. And so they work harder to make the most of whatever talent they have. The work they put in is a multiplier on their talent and ensures they taste the pain of losing less.

The talent variable in the success equation makes people think incorrectly about luck too. Those with less talent dismiss the winners as lucky. Those at the top of the game dismiss the component of luck and believe the determinism of their own talent.

Neither is right. Luck matters, but only above a certain level. If you don’t have enough talent, all the luck in the world won’t help. But plenty of people have a lot of talent and still only some succeed. Luck is definitely involved. But the longer you work hard at something with prodigious skill and talent in your arsenal, the more likely it is that luck will strike. Luck favors hard work.


  • Some people want to look like they’re the best without doing the work. They use talent as a crutch.
  • People that really want to win will often do better because they’re driven to work harder.
  • People that really hate losing will be even more driven to make sure they don’t taste loss.
  • Talent is necessary but not sufficient.
  • Luck is necessary but not sufficient.
  • Hard work is the common variable. The longer you work hard, the more opportunity both talent and luck have to work their magic.

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