5 Things That Don’t Require Talent

In 2015, the LA Times published the results of a survey that analyzed fear. Over 1,000 people participated in the study, which revealed that 31% of adults had a fear of failure. Nearly one in three people! That figure was even higher than the segment of Americans with arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. For a lot of people, potentially coming up short of a goal can be the crippling deterrent that prevents them from even taking the first step. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I understand the pressure to perform. I spent over a decade as an NFL quarterback, the most high-stress, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately position in professional sports. Up and down the league, rosters were unsurprisingly full of guys afraid to fail. A lot of men outside the league are afraid to fail as well. But there are lots of things that are easy wins with little effort—things that don’t require talent. Here are 5 of them.

1. Arriving Early

Want to be successful? Set your alarm. People who arrive early for meetings or events are usually disciplined, focused, and selfless. It seems small but showing up at 11:45 a.m. for a noon appointment will accomplish a few things. You leave a positive impression, minimize stress, build margin into your day, and show respect for others’ time. It takes no talent to plan ahead, leave a few minutes early to beat traffic, and avoid making people wait for you.

2. Listening to Instructions

Have you ever been skydiving? There is a lengthy list of pre-flight safety instructions designed to keep you safe and make the trip a success. Staring out the open door of the plane at 10,000 feet is not the time to improvise with your parachute. Following instructions equals success. Those instructions were crafted by someone with experience. Want to crash and burn? Ignore them. Want to succeed? Follow the plan.

3. Dropping the Negative Attitude

Legendary Notre Dame championship coach Lou Holtz is credited with saying, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” In other words, your attitude sets the tone. If your attitude is sour, don’t expect your results to be sweet. Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy wrote about the importance of positive thinking, noting, “Your mind is powerful, you can visualize success, and you can discipline your thoughts.” Succeeding today starts with thinking positively and dropping that negative attitude.

4. Doing More Than the Minimum

Success is rarely accidental. People who want success do more than what’s expected. Jerry Rice was a great example of this. The all-pro wideout was well-known for his body-testing offseason workouts. Author Geoff Colvin wrote about those workouts in his book Talent is Overrated saying, “Mornings were devoted to cardiovascular work, running a hilly five-mile trail; he would reportedly run ten forty-meter wind sprints up the steepest part. In the afternoons he did equally strenuous weight training. These workouts became legendary as the most demanding in the league, and other players would sometimes join Rice just to see what it was like. Some of them got sick before the day was over.” Rice wanted to be the best, so he vowed not to do the minimum required. He pushed himself and worked as hard as he could. You can do the same thing with your job, family, and relationships.

5. Never Giving Up

To ignore failure is to ignore reality. No successful person truly expects to avoid failure. Nor should any of us! That’s because success actually comes from adapting to setbacks and learning from mistakes. Giving up requires no effort and rarely produces success. If you desire to excel at anything, challenge yourself to give full effort before even beginning.

Sound off: When was the last time you sacrificed something in order to be successful?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does it mean to have success?”