Talent, Passion and Drive - how to make it happen in 2018


I believe that the formula for success is to find the intersection where talent, passion and drive meet in your life.


Talent doesn’t exist without practice. It is actually a unique mix of characteristics that are contoured due to the interaction of a person’s genes with the external environment. Depending in which ways you interact with the external environment and which hooks tag to your mind and body, genes start to express, cells transform and a unique mix of characteristics is construed. A new characteristic can surface at a later age, thus changing the overall mix, or the so-called talent at whatever moment in life.

If complete isolation from external hooks and triggers would be possible, your talent would be a cake powder mix in a package that would never get opened. You will not even know what the ingredients of the package are, just like you can’t know the characteristics that form your unique talent mix, unless you put yourself out there. Dare to explore, be opened to new experiences and you will be more prone to discover new characteristics that will make your talent “richer” in ingredients.

The beauty in this phenomenon is that the more you expose yourself to different environments, the more characteristics might come up – it’s like gold digging. You might wonder how you can know that you found gold. A sparkly characteristic is the one you are better at than other people, like skiing or doing calculus faster, or writing better emails, your drawings get more compliments, cupcakes are delicious etc. Once discovered you need to nurture it: to learn from feedback, to practice it deliberately so that it sharpens.

Deliberate practice is the process through which you practice a skill or character trait, in a stage-by-stage mode, reflecting on what you learn from every step and improving continuously. You can develop characteristics and skills through deliberate practice weather you have a knack for them or not. For example, anyone can learn to play the violin. If the “violin playing” characteristic was meant to be on the ingredients list of your talent mix anyway, it means it will come much easier to you to play and you will be about at least 50-70%[1] better than other violin players, thanks to the magic of your “violin gene” once surfaced in your unique talent mix of characteristics. Through hard work other violin players can surpass you, but if you work as hard as them, they will never catch up.

Talent plus deliberate practice, with a good coach, can get you very far. Since Malcolm Gladwell said in his book “Outliers” that 10 years of deliberate practice can make you an expert in your work field, research has shown that can be fewer or more years depending on your talent. This could be one of the reasons why many education or psychology authors encourage people do discover their talent, because it could mean an easier road to success and possibly reaching it in less than 10 years.


If you are doing something you like, you will want to do more of it. It’s brain chemistry: dopamine flooding in, feeling pleasure, wanting more, fears disappear. Most of the time we love doing something that we are successful at, or in other words, something we have talent for and we run away from activities that trigger our fear of failure or ridicule etc. So you will keep doing something you are good at and it becomes a passion or a hobby. You will love learning about it and getting better at it…as long as dopamine keeps coming.

The beauty of passion is that it fuels itself. The ugliness of it is that you can’t discover what you are passionate about until you try many, many things. Curiosity has a major role in your discovery journey. If you have been encouraged to ask “why” and then to go find out, since you were little and there was no stupid teacher to tame you or cranky boss to intimidate you, then “curiosity” will stick to you until the end of your days. I read once about an 80 years old lady starting university, not that’s what I call a passionate person.


Randy Komisar in “The Monk and the Riddle” explains the difference between passion and drive: passion comes from the inside and attracts you towards something you desire (like playing the piano because you love it even if it’s not well paid). Drive is about outside expectations, social pressure and company comp and ben. Drive is the determination to get things done, to constantly look for a solution to make things happen, whether you enjoy it or not. It’s actually a very sought after characteristic by employers.

For example, you might discover a characteristic or skill you are good at, but you are not particularly passionate about, like “written communication” when you are more of an outdoor-job kind of person. So you will not practice this skill. But what if the company you work for says you will get a 20% raise if you do some paperwork besides your current job? This would entitle using “written communication” skills, something you are good at and don’t like, but if you do it, you will be more appreciated and earn more. If you got “drive”, most probably you will say “yes”.

What’s wrong about drive? Nothing, just that it refuels only if there is some sort of external reward, while passion will never hit the bottom of the fuel tank.


Imagine how would it be to be passionate about something and also to be determined to make things happen, to persist no matter what? Like having unlimited stamina in a video game? According to Angela Lee Duckworth[2] passion plus drive equals grit and grit is the key to success. Now that you know the magic formula go find a witch to make a potion of it! The sad part is that there is no potion, no answer about how grit is built.


The million dollar question is: “What are you AWESOME at?”

Conclusions: You can’t discover your talent (unique mix of characteristics) or what you are passionate about if you are not curious and brave to go out and try the “new”. Passion and drive are different and together are called grit, which is the key to success. Talent without grit is like an untamed stallion – precious and worthless in the same time – you need tons of deliberate practice to make it profitable.

And a bit of self promotion: here is a planner I designed, that you can use to make things happen in 2018: www.byarmina.com/agenda

[1] David Z Hambrick discovered that deliberate practice is responsible for 30% of the differences in performance ratings in chess and music. For the rest of 70% there is no explanation yet. So could this 70% or a part of it, be blamed on a unique characteristics mix a.k.a talent?

[2] Angela’s TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit

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