A few months before I left school in 1986, my Mum attended a parent’s evening to find out what the teacher’s thought the chances were of me getting some top grades. She was told that I was “a bit of a laid back, golden boy” and I could get anything from three 'A' grades to three 'E' grades. They just did not have a clue.
It was a wasted journey because she should have asked me. I already knew the answer. I knew that I hadn’t done any work and, no matter how smart you are, if you don’t do any revision, you are not going to get three “A” grades. I knew I had the potential but at that point in time, I just did not have the commitment. I can make excuses such as my father died in a car crash when I was 13… but the reality is simple, I did no work.
In the book 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell, his key premise is the '10,000-Hour Rule'; the concept that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practising the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.
When I think back to school, I definitely had not done the 10,000 hours. I probably did not do 10.
I remember reading about the recovery of comedian Bob Monkhouse’s joke books (he died in 2003). These books which contain drawings, musings, jokes and ideas for jokes were carried around by Bob at all times and were essential for how he honed and improved his act. So much so that when they went missing he offered a reward for their return which prompted the rather good aside from fellow comedian Stan Boardman, “When they find it, how will they know it’s a joke book?”
I often advise people to keep a self-improvement log and these were the comedy equivalent. Interested by the article and by Bob’s dedication to the art of comedy I decided to do some more reading. It was a common theme that several people commented that Bob was not 'naturally funny' and therefore had to work harder than other 'funnier', more natural comedians. This is typical of the myth of talent, somehow making hard work sound like a negative.
Bob was a showman. All that matters is whether he made people laugh or not. How much work he did or did not put in compared to others is irrelevant. Judging him negatively because he had to work hard is unfair. We should be applauding him for that because without that work we would have never had his humour. Most people think they are not funny and would not consider volunteering to do a stand up set at an open mike but the reality is that they just have not put the hours in. They have not had the practice.
I might have been smart at school but without the hours I was not going to get good grades. And expecting to be a great salesperson, leader or entrepreneur without putting the hours in is a pipedream.
You are not born a great salesperson or a great leader, you learn it.
Some people learn it naturally over the years. Some people get a head start whether due to upbringing, mental wiring or luck. But everybody has to put the work in. As Lydia Grant used to say at the start of the Fame TV show in the 80’s, “You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying…”
If you want business, sales, sports or personal success, you have to put the work in. You have to put the time in. People often ask me how I came to be a good motivational speaker. I know that they want a cool answer, maybe some sort of Jedi Mind Trick but, unfortunately, the answer is much simpler… Hard work. Lots of it.
In today’s hectic world it is easy to lose sight of what you should be focusing on to become great at what is important to you. Why not take a minute and think about it now?
By Gavin Ingham, sales speaker, executive coach and an avid seeker of sales excellence. He is the author of several books including “Motivate People”. Gavin helps businesses and sales professionals be the best that they can be. If you want to know more about creating the mindset of a sales rockstar then make sure that you have joined his free newsletter. He is also a speaker on sales and mental toughness. Got a conference or away day coming up? Want a dynamic and inspirational speaker? Give me a call on +44(0) 845 838 5958.