Effort Wins

“Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources….the human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum….Of course, there are limits. The trees don’t grow into the sky…. The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.”
William James, in his essay, “The Energies of Man”

“These words, written in 1907, are as true today as ever,” notes Angela Duckworth in “Grit,” her bestselling book. “So, why do we place such emphasis on talent?” she goes on to ask. “And why do we assume that it is our talent, rather than our effort, that will decide where we end up in the very long run?”

Questions well worth asking. Here’s what one elite athlete says, “There’s no such thing as talent. The thing that wins is obsession.” My friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert,* an educator and sports psychologist, puts it another way: “Training beats talent every single time. This means you have to work harder and get more training. Talent is grossly, grossly overrated. No matter what you want to excel in you can be trained to do it with the proper effort….You can write the poems of Shakespeare.”

What a monumental challenge! What an exciting prospect! What a relief! Just think about it: We can toss the talent card aside. We can stop seeing ourselves as being inadequate in terms of our ability or education or circumstances. We can stop feeling that we lack something. We have everything we need — we just need to mine it more fully.

This makes our life and our writing so much simpler, doesn’t it? We’re free to focus on two factors totally within our control: The first is our attitude. And the second is our effort: the amount of time and energy we’re willing to expend to get where we want to go.

And when it comes to effort, according to pioneering psychologist William James, we’re just getting started. We all have a long, long way to go to tap even a fraction of the power inside us. And guess what? Everyone around us is in the same boat: They’re only “half awake.” Let’s strive to be one of those exceptional individuals William describes. Let’s keep pushing the limits of what we think we can do. Let’s wake up to the creativity and the joy of accomplishment inside us yearning to be set free. Let’s all write on and push our limits and find out just how far we can go.

* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690)

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Effort Wins

  1. So true. Attitude and Effort are within our control. And both can be used at will, at any time.
    Talents are that bonus, a perk, a gift of grace. A little grease for the wheels. People who have a certain talent- to hear music once and play it, to sing in perfect pitch, to use words that paint pictures with ease, to connect with a smile- are like little lights that shine all over the world. Those of us without a particular talent can still shine, we just gotta work a little bit harder. Regardless, let your light shine.

    • Hi Ethel,

      Thanks so much for your lovely note and words of wisdom:

      “Let your light shine” — wonderful advice for us all.

      Wishing you and yours a lovely, peaceful Thanksgiving.

      Write on.



  2. Toby Stein says:

    Oh dear. So much insightfulness in a few paragraphs. Taking the advice… Toby

    • Hi Toby,

      Yes, William James surely understood human nature and Rob

      Gilbert our enormous potential. So glad you found some

      helpful ideas here to apply to your work!

      Have a Happy Thanksgiving and peaceful holiday weekend.

      Write on,



Leave a Reply