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Is Talent Overrated?   

Experts share their wealth of experience

Is talent overrated? How much does talent contribute to success, and how much is success a result of hard work and tenacity?


It’s a balance. A hard worker who has no talent or skill will be working hard without getting too far. A skilled person with no work ethic will leave his skills dormant without adding value to his company.

I once asked an executive the following question: “If I go work for a company, what stops them from trading me in at 50 years old for two 25-year-olds who will be cheaper and more energetic than me?”

In essence, I was asking about job security and value over time. His answer has stayed with me ten years later.

“If you can be traded in at 50 for two 25-year-olds,” he said, “then you did something wrong for the past 25 years.”

It’s the job of every employee to work to add value to the company they’re at, and ultimately to themselves. Whether you’re a secretary, accountant or plumber, it’s your job to become irreplaceable to the company you work for. That’s how you’ll rise through the ranks.

—Moshe Shindler, Director of Productions, Mint Media

It can be very challenging for talented employees without a work ethic to learn, grow, and accomplish.  Skill, on the other hand, can be taught as long as an employee has the core personality for the position. I think a healthy mix of both is very important.

—Shaindy Shur, President, Comprehensive Healthcare

Talent is not overrated. A person who is able to identify his strengths and get a job that utilizes his specific talents is very valuable. However, talent gets extremely watered down when someone does not also have a good work ethic, attitude, and loyalty. At the end of the day, it is those values that will make people grow.

—Tzvi Zicherman, Partner/Executive Vice President of Finance - LTC Ally

While talent and skill are an important part of success, hard work — a.k.a. grit — is much more valuable. (Perhaps grit is itself a skill.) Don’t underestimate the value of commitment to working hard; it’s essential for a business’s success. Raw talent will not get a person through challenges, but grit will. The people who work hard without necessarily possessing strong talents and skills may one day supersede the skilled and talented. If you’re a hard worker, you’re in it for the long run.

—Leo Gartenhaus, CEO Glyde Painters

For an entrepreneur, hard work trumps talent. The market constantly shifts, and a business owner needs to constantly invest hard work to keep their business current, possibly pivot strategically, and innovate according to market demands. Smart hiring can fill in talent gaps, but you can never outsource vision.

—David Konigsberg, founder of Brand Hero

Talent and a strong work ethic are both critical components for a successful employee. But in my experience, if a person is applying for a niche job in the creative services field, they probably already possess both qualities on some level. What I look for is how much they enjoy the work itself. If an editor genuinely enjoys making videos, the hard work naturally follows. As for skills? That can be learned on the job. If they love the craft, they’ll go the extra mile to help our customers.

–Chananya Kramer, President, Kolrom Multimedia Inc.

Leaving the Stress on the Desk:

Departmentalizing work and home can be challenging. After 15 years of balancing the two, Chaya Fischman, owner of BrandRight Marketing Group, shares her tips:

Trying not to bring work home means not opening my email if it’s a bad time. I usually don’t look at emails until 9 a.m., when the last of my kids are out. If I don’t know about something, I can’t stress about it. My children deserve to be sent off for the day with a calm mother.

I’m totally off on weekends. I shut down any work thoughts completely.  If they come to mind, I flip the off switch. It took me more than 15 years to master this, but it’s vital.

When I find myself stressing about work in the evening, I repeat the same thing to myself: “It’s just money.” No matter how big an issue is, it boils down to money. That realization releases the stress. It’s not the end of the world. Your reaction needs to be proportional to the issue.

I try not to talk about work out of the office. My neighbors and friends don’t need to hear about it. I don’t want to be a hardworking martyr. Some people mistakenly assume that the more stressed they are, the more important they must be. But the stress-free people — who leave work (or most of it) at their desks — are the real winners.

When I leave the office for the day, my staff knows to call me only if it’s urgent. They respect my family time and only call if it’s a true emergency that can’t wait.

I put family obligations on my work calendar and treat them with as much respect as my work meetings.  If I have a lunch date with my husband, that is just as important (or more important) than a large new project. I used to cancel all my personal plans because work always came up. Now I treat my family obligations like work and they don’t get canceled.

With appreciation to Sruly Greenwald and Yossi Gehler for their networking assistance.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 925)

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