The Oracle of Delphi said: “Know Thyself.”
I say: Learn what it is in your nature to do, and learn how to do it well.
And that’s exactly what you’re going to learn how to do in this 4500-word article. So sit down, block off 30 minutes of your time, press f11 on your keyboard for immersion, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Because we’re going to answer most of the common questions you might have — or have thought — about the role your genes play in determining how successful you become.
Here are the topics we’re covering:
1. Are You Limited By Your Genetics?
2. When Do Your Genes Really Matter?
3. Start Playing to Your Strengths And Build On What’s Already There
4. How to Use Your Natural Talents
5. What Your Natural Talents Mean for Your Career
6.“How Do I Find Out Where I Have a Natural Talent?”
7. What if Your Natural Talents Still Aren’t Enough to Succeed?
8. How to Find Your Supplemental Activities
9. We’re All Different — Therefore We Must All Act Differently (to Become the Best)
And a few other things too.
Let’s begin with…
1. Are You Limited By Your Genetics?
You always hear some people talking about why they can’t do [insert cool thing] because they’re too [insert genetic flaw] or not enough [insert genetic benefit].
Is this really so?
I’d say: Nope.
Most of the time, the people in question simply don’t want to win badly enough.
They aren’t hungry winners. That’s why you never have any real sympathy for their suckiness — because they’ve already surrendered to hopelessness.
You see, these people are in a state of learned helplessness.
The way of getting over that, is by distinguishing between what is in your control, and what isn’t. Most people underestimate how much control they actually have over their lives.
You know those quotes about how “you’d be astounded if you only knew your potential” and how “your greatest fear isn’t that you’re powerless, but that you’re powerful beyond measure”… (Yes, they’re corny, I know.)
But, guess what?
They’re closer to being true than they are to being false.
And the reason for this is because the brain is a lazy bastard that just wants to take it easy…
…And avoid taking responsibility.
Take Responsibility — Because You CAN Fix Most Things
… During my teens, if I had listened to the advice of various doctors who told me that there was nothing visibly wrong with me, and that I had to live with whatever breathing problems I experienced at that time, my life would SUCK today.
My life would also SUCK today if I had listened to the explanation I got from another doctor, roughly two years ago.
That doctor told me that I was just “stressed out and having problems acclimatizing myself to a new country”…
…when I was having problems getting an erection, were getting seriously bloated, and had severe brain fog — despite the fact that I was in excellent physical shape at the time.
Good thing I didn’t listen to that dumbass.
In both of those cases, had I listened to — and trusted — the advice I got, I would’ve given up my personal responsibility.
But, I didn’t listen to their advice, and I didn’t feel helpless.
Not even for a second.
And that’s why I systematically beat the crap out of both of those problems.
Those doctors gave me 30 minutes out of their time, with zero emotional investment, and thought they had me all figured out. And they wouldn’t even listen to my input:
“Oh, you’ve been to Google have you? That’s the worst thing you can do because then you’ll just start seeing all sorts of pseudo symptoms. No, look here young man, you can only figure this out if you’re a real doctor.”
Of course they were wrong. Dead wrong. The problems I had were NOT EVEN CLOSE to their diagnoses.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, because I want you to understand that your body and brain can be improved in a big way...
…And you should not settle for anything less than being in excellent health and having an adonis-like physique.
You cannot change everything, but you can change most things…
…And the things that most people think are determined by their genes or by external factors rarely are.
- Your stomach health is mostly under your control.
- Your hormone levels are mostly under your control.
- Your mental focus is mostly under your control.
- Your emotional reactions to the things that happen are mostly under your control.
And so on…
These are all things that you can influence, if you want it badly enough.
It’s your job to frequently ask yourself:
“Is this something that is within my power to control?”
2. Situations When Your Genes Do Matter
You can control most things, as long as you get your brain to agree with you, and snap out of learned helplessness.
At the same time, I don’t want to get too woo-woo-rah-rah-motivational on you here, because…
…there ARE times when you can’t — or can barely — influence your circumstances.
The general principle is this:
If you have a serious disorder, or a genetic disposition, that is counterproductive to your goal you will not be able to get the same results that the typical person gets.
[Note: Having a genetic disposition means that you’re naturally inclined towards some certain behavior or state of being. Genetic dispositions are like building blocks that combine to create natural talents or weaknesses.]
Let me give you a couple of extreme examples of this principle:
- If you’re highly obese, skinny-fat, or 7 feet tall and skinny as a twig, you’re not going to look like a bodybuilder anytime soon. It could happen eventually. But it won’t be nearly as easy as it would be for a guy with a normal physique. Deal with it.
- If you’ve got Aspergers Syndrome, or something like that, you’re not going to become the most charismatic person in the room. So learn to tell some funny stories instead. Deal with it.
- If you’ve got ADHD you’re not going to have an easy time learning things the traditional way. You’ll have to create your own framework for learning things. Deal with it.
Are you with me?
In these situations you’ve only got two options. You must choose one of them. The sooner you choose, the better.
You can either:
1) Stick with what you’re doing, accept the fact that you have a disadvantage relative to other people, but do it anyway because you want to do this thing badly
Or you can:
2) Stop doing whatever you’re doing, and focus your limited time and attention on the things you’re naturally talented at instead
There you have it.
You either accept that you can’t be the best and do a thing anyway, or you stop doing it and do something you CAN be the best at.
Guess how many handicapped people have become the world champion at a sport, excluding the Paralympics?
As far as I know,
And that was a guy who lost his legs and went on to become a champion at arm-wrestling, which I don’t count because I don’t consider it to be a serious handicap.
Because it’s simply not possible.
Not in highly competitive areas like sports.
That’s the harsh truth — and it’s a harsh truth that some people refuse to face.
A few month ago I was at a seminar-type event for aspiring entrepreneurs. There was a middle-aged guy who gave a 10-15 minute long speech. This guy had run three different businesses over the course of eight years. He wasn’t making a lot of money, but he seemed pretty content.
His speech was a woo-woo inspirational speech celebrating all his failures. The speech did not have any substance. It wasn’t actionable at all.
Nor did it have any interesting content — except for one piece of trivia he kept repeating: The 10000 hour rule.
The 10000 hour rule was his religion. He was completely convinced when he said:
“You can succeed at ANYTHING if you put in 10000 hours. Anything is possible as long as you practice for 10000 hours and become the best in the world!”
I spoke to this guy afterwards, and he was really nice guy. But his advice was HORRIBLE.
Let me ask you this:
What do you think would happen if someone in that audience took his advice to heart, and started “putting in their 10000 hours of practice” at knitting…
…granted that they wanted to achieve the goal of starting a successful company and making lots of money?
I’ll tell you what would happen, guaranteed:
That someone would be in for a rude awakening a couple of years down the line.
[Note: Knitting is a bit of a farfetched example, because it’s not a genetic disposition, it’s an activity. But, it’s an activity that is counterproductive to building a business. And, we’ll return to this example later, and it’ll make more sense.]
The better advice would be to…
3. Play to Your Strengths (Natural Talents) And Build On What’s Already There
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
Among successful managers it is a well-known best practice that if you’re looking to hire a new employee, you’re better off hiring people that display natural talent at what the role requires…
…than you are by hiring someone who’s not a natural talent, even if this person has a ton of experience. (Good HR people can spot talent. Bad HR people can’t.)
This has been known for years and years. I learned this when I read some of Peter Drucker’s principles a while back. Drucker mentions Xenophon as being one of the first “managerial scholars” to understand this best practice. And Xenophon lived over 2000 years ago!
Still, this is not well-known among most people, including managers.
Elkhonon Goldberg, one of the world’s biggest experts on neuroscience, writes in his (excellent) book The Wisdom Paradox that he often gets asked by business publications for managerial best practices.
And guess what?
He is of the same opinion as Drucker and Xenophon, the difference being that he bases his reasoning on neurology, and not on case studies about companies or managers.
Drucker and Goldberg are equally correct — they are just using different explanations for the same underlying phenomenon.
And what is this phenomenon?
That it’s better to build on what already exists, than trying to create something from nothing.
The person who is naturally talented at the job is like a diamond in the rough that needs to be sharpened a bit to become excellent. This person just needs some practice, and an experienced mentor, to help bring out that excellence.
But the second person — despite having years of experience and being moderately competent — is not going to improve much further. Even with the help of a skilled mentor.
So, the better choice is to hire the first person.
Because, even if the second person potentially could become as good as the naturally talented person, the company can’t afford to wait that long.
Their time, money, and other resources are limited.
And guess what?
You are no different from that company.
You don’t have all the time or money in the world.
So you better decide what you’ll become excellent at as fast as you can.
4. How to Use Your Natural Talents to Win
Would you say that a person who is extremely naturally talented at something will become successful?
Most people will say:
“Yes, and it’s so unfair!”
I say: Not necessarily.
There are a lot of naturally talented and intelligent people who never enjoy more than a mediocre amount of success.
Why is this?
Because they conform too strongly to the norms of society.
They do things that are considered socially correct, instead of listening to their intuition. They listen to people telling them what to do, instead of following their own ambition.
So, they end up working what we today refer to as “normal” jobs.
And do you know what the problem is with this?
I’ll tell you exactly what the problem is:
The problem is that few people are a perfect genetic match for most normal jobs.
They’re squandering their natural talents.
They’re NOT playing to their strengths.
They’re going against their own nature…
…and he who fights his own nature, is a fool.
5. What Your Natural Talents Mean for Your Career
Most people don’t think about it, but a lot of professions limit their potential for long-term improvement.
Why is this?
Because after a while, there’s a high risk that you stop learning new things at the job, and, as I said in “75 Practical Tips“…
…THE major competitive advantage that humans have, relative to other animals, is a superior ability for learning things.
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote that:
- Man has “growth” in common with plants
- Man has “instincts” in common with animals
- Man has “reason” alone. Therefore he should devote his life to reason.
[Note: “Reason”= The ability to choose your actions rationally.]
I go one step further than Aristotle by saying that…
…growth actually comes from practicing reason. You do this by learning and implementing new things.
As a result of learning new things you gradually become more competent. You grow past limitations. Your range of options at any given moment increases and you become freer.
Another way of looking at it is this:
The human brain has a disproportionately large prefrontal cortex compared to all other animals. This is no accident. It is the result of having learnt a lot of complex information over countless generations.
What does this mean?
It means that you’re meant to learn new things and challenge your understanding, continuously.
That’s the reason why you have such a highly evolved prefrontal cortex.
Learning is a part of your biological imperative.
…And what’s a biological imperative?
According to the Wikipedia it is:
“Needs of living organisms as required to perpetuate their existence.”
Some people will say that only air, food, shelter, sex, and companionship are biological imperatives.
I disagree. Learning is at the very root of the evolution of our species. Especially so in modern society.
All the best human beings have understood this. They have prioritized learning above everything else. Benjamin Franklin lived like a pauper for years as a young man — and STARVED — just so that he could afford books and educate himself.
Having said that,
Does this mean that you should refuse to get a normal job?
It just means that you should think of your personal development when you decide on your career. Especially so in the long-term (5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 years).
You should NOT be working a monotonous job longer than you need to.
The only people who should be working those jobs — and usually like working those jobs — are the people who forever want to take orders from someone smarter than them.
And that’s not how we roll here at SGM.
…We understand that the people who become truly successful are those who:
- Work with — not against — their natural talents, and
- Prioritize learning, self-education, hard work, and discipline
I’m talking about people like Albert Einstein, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Stephen King.
Those guys were not just naturally talented at their crafts, but they also busted their balls to succeed.
They prioritized ruthlessly and put their work first…
…and they took risks that most people wouldn’t dream about taking. So of course they had success.
“No, they were just lucky!”
Sure, luck played a part in it. But when you combine those things, you will get lucky sooner or later.
Can you be that lucky too?
Yes you can.
Start by asking yourself…
6. “How Do I Find Out Where I Have a Natural Talent?”
The simple formula for how you become successful — and eventually elite — is by:
- Finding out what you’re naturally talented at as early as you can in life
- Then practicing that thing A LOT.
(This means coming up with ways of putting that talent to use as much as you can. Like finding the sort of job that allows you to keep practicing your talent, while other people get “normal” jobs.)
- Eventually you become elite. And can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
It’s not exactly a get-rich-quick formula. But you’ll find that nearly everyone obnoxiously successful have followed it.
But how do you find your natural talent to begin with?
Think about it…
… During your life, what have been some of the things that you’ve effortlessly excelled at while most others have struggled to reach the same results as you got?
If you can find a couple of those skills or activities, you’re probably sitting on a natural talent. And that’s what you should devote your time to becoming excellent at.
These are the things where you should be putting in your proverbial “10000 hours” of practice.
Another way of identifying a natural talent is this: Think about an area of your life where you have been willing to take more risks than other people.
Where there is tolerance for risk-taking, pain, or embarrassment — all things you’re wired to avoid — there is usually natural talent.
Think about it…
…You wouldn’t want to risk failing, getting hurt, or losing face unless you believed you had something to win, right?
And your brain intuitively operates from this very assumption. That’s why you were willing to take those risks. Because you believed that success was possible.
Because your brain was trying to help you unlock that natural talent lying dormant in you.
7. What if Your Natural Talents Still Aren’t Enough to Succeed?
Guys like Mike Tyson, Usain Bolt, and Tiger Woods have had natural talents that have single-handedly made them rich and successful.
You probably don’t.
Now, I’m not saying that there’s a boxing gene, a running gene, and a golf-swinging gene. But what I am saying is that these natural talents easily translate into money-making skills.
You see, sports and athletic skills are simple — in terms of theoretical complexity — compared to most other modern ways of making money.
Some people may disagree and say:
“No Ludvig, you’re wrong. You have no idea how hard it is to be an elite athlete”
And I’m not saying it isn’t hard — because it IS hard.
That’s why most professional athletes take steroids and use other dirty tricks. Because the competition is fierce. This is why it’s very hard to become an elite athlete.
But sports are still simple, because they are not complex.
Any retard with functioning arms and legs can be taught to jump, run, swing a club, or punch another person. Those are simple body movements. I’m not saying the retard will do a good job, but he can perform the tasks.
Anyone can do individual sports, but to be truly elite at it in this day and age you need superior genetics (combined with hard work and steroids).
Since sports are simple activities they open up a lot of competition, and only a few people can make it their full-time profession.
So, let’s talk about more Complex activities instead.
Because that’s where the money is to be made for people not fortunate enough to become elite athletes.
Most work that requires a university degree is more or less complex. And while most people can get a university degree and can get the jobs that come along with it, only a few of those people do those jobs well (and earn a lot of money).
Because like I said before: Most of them are doing work that doesn’t involve their natural talents.
To better understand how to get really good at complex activities, let’s look into…
Any kind of creative work is complex — and there is a varying degree of creativity in most jobs.
But here’s the kicker:
Anybody can be taught basic creative skills like:
- Web design,
…etc., but only a few people can do these things really well!
Because those creative skills are only conduits for channeling creativity. They are only languages used to express yourself…
…and just because you know how to speak that language well, does NOT necessarily mean that you have something to say.
For this reason, a great programmer can be hundreds of times as productive (and paid in proportion) as a mediocre programmer.
The great programmer is genetically disposed to some form of creativity. He then uses programming as the language to express himself and his ideas. Because of this he’s able to come up with new and revolutionary software solutions.
His manager couldn’t just tell him, “Do these things and come up with a revolutionary new idea for me, Bill”, because creative work is highly complex.
And what about the mediocre programmer?
He only checks for errors and does what he’s being ordered to do. He can’t do anything else. He’s not creative.
You could also say that the great programmer uses programming as a supplemental activity to support his natural talent for creativity.
Let’s revisit the horrible advice of that entrepreneur I listened to
…you put in 10000 hours at practicing knitting?
Could that make you rich, granted that you had a natural talent for knitting?
No. Knitting is not going to make you rich — at least not in itself.
But what if you mixed it with something else?
Then it would be possible to make big money, because it would be be supported by supplemental activities.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean…
8. Develop Your Supplemental Activities
A couple of months ago I was at a Toastmaster’s event. Toastmasters is an organization devoted to public speaking.
At the event was a woman who held a seminar. She had won some kind of world championship in public speaking.
She was a great speaker. But her content sucked. Big time…
…And she knew it herself. She even openly admitted struggling with the process of content creation.
From an early age this woman had practiced acting and dancing. She had eventually become a professional dancer.
Acting and dancing — both of these activities rely on expressing yourself by using your body.
And as you may know, most of human communication is determined by body language. So, the reason she was a great public speaker was because of her natural talent for expressing herself non-verbally.
But her natural talent wasn’t enough.
To be a “professional public speaker” you don’t just need to be great at speaking.
You need quality content — and lots of it.
She didn’t have this.
So, she’s now developing the supplemental activity of content creation to support her natural talent as a speaker.
When she becomes better at content creation she’ll be able to make some serious money. Because, she is already held in high regard by the kind of people she wants to speak for.
9. We’re All Different — Therefore We Must All Act Differently (To Become the Best)
I am very different from that woman.
I am good at connecting the dots (of information). I have a talent for synthesis. I have been born with a brain that has a very strong pattern recognition. Because of this…
- Creating content comes naturally to me.
- Analyzing things from different perspectives comes naturally to me.
- Finding new ways to use tools or information comes naturally to me.
In fact, I have such an easy time coming up with ideas that it looks retarded to me when people struggle with it, and ask each other:
“What should I say/do/write?”
“But I have no content!”
Because I’ve never had those problems.
I am drowning in ideas and content. But just because I have a lot of content doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s not good until it’s well-articulated and simple to understand.
That’s why I practice writing and speaking. But these things do not come naturally to me.
They are both skills that I have had to practice a lot. And I must continue practicing them because…
…I need them to support my natural talents. They are supplemental activities to my strengths.
And as you know,
You should always strive to play to your strengths.
So, If You Want to Be the Best You Must…
Rig the game (of life) however you can to get an advantage.
“But that isn’t fair!”
The world is inherently unfair.
You acting unintelligently — and against your nature — is not going to change that fact.
If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don’t, you’re going to lose. And that’s as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you’ve got an edge. And you’ve got to play within your own circle of competence.
So if you want to be the best you must:
- Figure out your genetic dispositions. What are you naturally talented at? What are you naturally bad at?
- Then make the decision to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Try to avoid situations where your weaknesses are exposed.
- If you’re a creative person, you need to find an appropriate “language” for expressing your ideas.
- If you have a natural talent for a simple activity (like sports) you will need to outwork everybody else and take more risks than they do (like steroids in sports).
- If you have a natural talent for something that’s isn’t simple you will need to learn some supplemental activities that support your natural talent.
- If you have natural talents for something that’s complex — well, then you’re damn lucky. Because, to be the best at a complex activity you need to do more than just one thing really well. It’s rare for a person to be positively genetically disposed towards all aspects of a complex activity.
Now that you’ve read this leviathan of an article,
Take a couple of days to let the information really sink in.
Then figure out how these things apply to your own life so that you can…
Build on what is already there and rig the game to your advantage.
Forget about fairness.
Forget about equality.
Forget about following the “traditional path”.
I don’t know what ticket you got in the genetic lottery.
But I do know this: It’s time to quit crying and start hustling. Play the hand you were dealt to the best of your abilities, and use that hand to your advantage in any way you can.
If you don’t, you will wind up fighting your nature.
…And he who fights nature is a what?
He’s a damn fool.
Update. Recommended reading: You need to read this. It’s Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself. Just 13 pages, but very powerful.
PS: Check out the two FREE eBooks I just finished writing!