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Image of two men running a marathon

There’s a great saying in military training that, “Hard work beats talent when talent is not working hard enough.” If that’s true, it’s no wonder that so many talented individuals are still struggling to get ahead and to make their business idea a success. Truth be told, there are millions of talented people still hoping and wishing for their dreams to come true. While there are some folks with basic skills and average ability who get up every day and hustle—learning the necessary skills, getting the necessary training, and putting in the necessary effort—to make positive things happen. And like it or not, they are often the ones who get what they want out of life, because they’ve already figured out that talent alone is not enough. They realized (sooner rather than later) that achieving their goals not only requires talent, but also skill, passion, dedication, drive, and perseverance.

Whether it’s sports, business, entertainment, or something else, those who are recognized as the greatest masters of their craft all have something in common. They dedicate themselves 100 percent to becoming the best at what they do. They combine raw talent with work—and a plan for success. They don’t look for or accept shortcuts, and they don’t make excuses when things don’t go their way. Champions don’t blame the rules, they don’t blame the competition or their circumstances; they accept responsibility and they learn, grow, and adapt as needed. They take ownership of their success and their shortcomings, and use every opportunity as a springboard forward toward their ultimate goal. If you’re planning to launch your idea or grow your organization, keep these thoughts in mind:

Play to your strengths.

If you’re a sprinter, don’t focus on running marathons. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is known as one of the most successful track stars because he spends his time and energy doing what he does well. If Bolt started to compete in marathons, he most likely would lose. Why? Because he is a natural-born sprinter. As a result, he spends his time training and competing in sprints…not marathons. Sure, an occasional marathon here or there might help his endurance, but it will not sustain his career. Early-on, Bolt and his coaches/trainers identified his strengths and used that information to implement a successful game plan. Successful people do what they do best, and they do it repeatedly. They don’t get sidetracked with inconsequential activities that distract them from their goals and priorities. In other words, ‘they keep the main thing, the main thing.’

Delegate and focus.

You can’t be and don’t need to be all things to all people. It’s really difficult to be the visionary CEO of your company if you’re also the CFO, personnel manager, intern, receptionist, and janitorial staff. Learn to direct your time, energy, and attention toward the tasks you do well and delegate the other duties to someone who can perform them better and more efficiently than you. In the game of business, lack of focus is one of the most common reasons for the lack of success.

Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

Some people’s world is so small, they’re the biggest thing in it. Do an assessment of your professional circle and surroundings. If you’re the smartest and most successful person in your group, it’s time to expand your network and broaden your circle of influence. It’s true that “water seeks its own level.” And while it’s important to have trusted colleagues, friends, and confidantes nearby, it’s also important not to become complacent with individuals who only tell you what you want to hear. True leaders and visionaries are surrounded by talented individuals who can and do challenge their thinking and ideas—forcing them to expand their perspective. Attending networking events for new and different industries is a good way to meet new people, embrace new ideas, and combine talent with the resources needed to accomplish your goals. Stay connected to The Institute about ways you can employ your talent and skills to achieve success. Visit and follow @TheInstituteNC on social media.