9 Things You Need to Know to Unlock Your Natural Talents & Succeed in Life (Must-read advice if you want to be the best!)

The Top 9 Things You Must Know About Natural Talent to Succeed in Life

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

You know…

… 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.

For example:

Want to control your brain and body? Step #1: Don't eat this crap. Minimize sugar and additives. Avoid unnatural and highly processed foods that mess up your hormones.

Want to control your brain and body?
Step #1: Don’t eat this crap. Minimize sugar and additives. Avoid unnatural and highly processed foods that mess up your hormones.

  • 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.

Are you with me?

In these situations you’ve only got two options.

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


Guess how many handicapped people have become the world champion at a sport, excluding the Paralympics?

As far as I know, only one.

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.

…So none!

Because it’s simply not possible.

Natural talent

Arm-wrestling without legs doesn’t count as being handicapped.

Not in highly competitive areas like sports.

That’s the harsh truth — and it’s a harsh truth that some people refuse to face.

For example…

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.

―Frederick Douglass

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  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.

Having a natural talent is like being a diamond in the rough

Consider your life a diamond in the rough. You have a limited amount of time and resources to sharpen this diamond, and if you don’t use your resources well, it may NEVER end up becoming truly flawless.

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.

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

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.


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.

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.

Use your natural talents to become "freer"

The more you improve your “reason” by learning new things, the more you grow, and the more you know.
And when you know things, your range of options increases.
Black = unknown territory,
Grey = things you already know representing an option you can choose,
White = options you can imagine, but don’t yet know from experience

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?

Absolutely not.

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.

unlock your natural talent

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…

Creative Work

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:

  • Writing,
  • Drawing,
  • Photography,
  • Programming,
  • 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.

Sometimes your natural talent isn't enougn and you need a supplemental activity

There’s a big difference between being creative, and having learned a basic creative skill. You don’t know if you’re creative until you find a “language” for expressing it.

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

What if….

…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.

Being a highly motivated person 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?”

Or complain:

“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!”

Who cares.

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.

–Charles Munger

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?

That’s right.

He’s a damn fool.


* * *

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  1. Natalie Jones says

    Really good post. Reminds be of this motivational speaker Moustafa Hamwi that I heard in Dubai. Anyway, please keep posting lovely stuff. Thanks.

  2. Ludvig!

    This post is right on brother. I am currently reading Psycho-Cybernetics, heard of it? 6th book this month, FTW!

    It talks extensively about this type of stuff and while I recognized the importance of it before, it’s really drilling it home.

    The reason hypnotists are so powerful is ONLY because they utilize and also destroy limiting beliefs. There are people who’ve done amazing things because of a hypnotist, only because they accept what he says as truth. As soon as we believe something, we act as if.

    If we think “it” can’t be done/changed, we’re right.
    If we believe we are stuck as a bad student, we’re right
    And of course Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    Genetics, hormones, doctors, habits, whatever. It can all be changed by us thinking in a certain way and deciding what we will believe.

    – Evan

  3. Dan Black says

    Hello Ludvig,

    The topic of talents is one of my favorite topics. It’s important to discover, develop, and intentionally use those areas of natural talent while avoiding areas of weakness (as much as possible). They key is to put the work in each of the 3 areas I mentioned. The results will be good. Thanks for a great read!

  4. There were a couple of things I hadn’t heard about before, but I don’t agree with it all. For example you say the following:

    “Your hormonal levels are mostly under your control.”

    Having read your book BOOH (have you changed your opinion since writing it?), and other things about hormones, I think you’re wrong. Hormones (and hormonal levels) impose changes on our bodies on such a subtle level that we can only feel and REACT TO. React TO — NOT control. This is why spiritual teachers like James van Pragh say that we must learn/practice “feeling” and relinquishing our control so that we can manifest our desires more efficiently and live more consciously.

    Here’s a good article you may like:

    • No. I have not changed my opinion. I don’t remember what I wrote in BOOH verbatim, but I think I wrote pretty much what I said here: That you can influence your hormonal levels.

      This is pretty basic information. Why would people take testosterone, anabolic steroids, or birth control pills if they didn’t influence hormonal levels?

      What I meant, more specifically (I may have been unclear) was that you can change your hormone levels slowly, gradually. For example, as a man, you can naturally increase testosterone by eating zinc, losing weight and eating healthy fats (Yes, you can do that at the same time).

  5. Firstly – thanks for the link!

    Secondly – I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with the idea of natural talent. On one hand I hate that I don’t have the physical genetics to grow to the size I wish without having to resort to ‘other’ methods. However, I’m a firm believer that hard work and determination can get you to the best YOU can be – which is all we can hope do achieve.

    If someone or something else is better – that’s our of your control.

  6. Do you offer coaching??

  7. Very well written post Ludvig, my favorite so far.

    You make a good point about that you can fix a lot of things despite having crappy genetics.

    For example, you can’t really escape your body, so you need to fix it no matter what, if you aren’t satisfied with it.

    However, if you want to make a good living from something, then it’s way better to pick something that comes naturally to you.

  8. A lot of smart stuff in this long article Ludvig, and I quite enjoyed reading it. I get what you’re saying about the “supplemental activities”, and I agree with you for the most part, but I believe thinking like that has a serious downside:
    (I put it in caps to show how important this is, not because I wanted to scream at you :P )

    Take elite athletes or celebrities for example. Those people focus 100 % on their sport. They don’t develop supplemental activities because they have managers and agents and other things like that; they have people who do all that for them so they can focus 100 % of their natural talent.

    (of course, many of them — like Nicholas “the rager” Cage — get scammed because they never learn any supplemental activities…)


  9. Good writing, good content, some good idea’s.. but i still didn’t really like this article.
    I don’t have time to discuss in details, but here’s some reasons/few ideas:
    -The truth most people aren’t actually talented at anything.. or they still haven’t found out what their natural talent is. People keep dabbling around thinking they will eventually find some skill that just comes easy to them instead of focusing on a single skill
    -I believe in doing what you enjoy the most rather than what you’re good at. [Ex. I was destined to study mathematics but dwelled in music and arts instead]. Focusing on your Natural Talent can easily become an obsession holding you back from doing what you truly enjoy.
    -Knowledge and dedication are better than talent.. because anyone can achieve great results with those combined. But in the professional world, no one is gonna bother teaching you if you don’t have potential already.. So it’s responsibility to educate yourself proper.
    Also, Making money is mostly a question of knowledge and assertiveness rather than skill, you can simply hire the latter.
    -The more skillful you become at ONE thing, the easier it gets to acquire New Semi-Relevant Skills. With the proper mix of Dedication to One Thing combined with constant new skill acquisition you can become “Naturally Talented” at everything.

    Send Me an email if you ever wanna discuss this, i’ve been fascinated by this topic for quite a while ! And check you the book MASTERY if you havn’t already!

    • “-I believe in doing what you enjoy the most rather than what you’re good at.”

      This is fine if the thing you most enjoy has the potential to earn a living. Mostly, however, this is not true. In fact it seems that overwhelmingly, the things that people really enjoy are things that can only with extreme rarity be turned into income. People like to watch TV, argue about sports, fuck, get drunk, lie on the beach, listen to music, etc. but opportunities to do these things commercially are nonexistent for most of us.

      Schoolteachers often give this sort of “follow your dreams” advice to young students. I think this is a grave disservice, the typical result of which is someone with a degree like “Music Appreciation” delivering pizzas to pay off crushing student loan debt.

      • Abgrund,

        On my graduation recently, our class had a party. At that party, a woman who worked at the university (I’d never seen her before) started singing, then gave a speech about just this. “Follow your dreams. Carpe diem”

        Didn’t really hit home though. She obviously hadn’t done it herself.

        It was more inspiring hearing those words from Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society”

    • Hey Mo,

      “I don’t have time to discuss in details, but here’s some reasons/”

      –It seems you do, and those are some very good reasons too.

      I have skimmed Mastery. Not read it in full. But I WILL in the coming months. I have it. I will send you an email.

  10. “Forget about fairness” – this sentence alone can make or break you. Trust me on that: I used to be all for fairness, but over time I realized that it was incredibly stupid. And when this happened, my life transformed – even though sometimes I acted like an asshole, I still felt awesome.

    • Good point. The same thing applies to the notion of complaining about how things are not as they “should” be. Like: “people should be more generous”, “taxes should be lower”, “rape should not exist”, “I should be able to instantly get a job after college” etc.

      Well… Even if you can objectively dissect laws and ethics and whatnot, and logically “prove” that some things “should” be different, they will probably stay the same no matter what, unless they are directly under your influence. Far too many people spend way too much time whining about how things should be different — and often are they right. But life isn’t fair; people can be rude, leechers live of the tax money created by producers, women get raped, tour education may be worthless unless you are proactive about it, etc. It sucks, but it’s the truth, and the best (and only rational) thing to do is to suck it up and just fucking deal with it.

    • Damn straight, Jacky!

  11. Your best post, indeed!

    “Where there is tolerance for risk-taking, pain, or embarrassment — all things you’re wired to avoid — there is usually natural talent.” – Great indicators!!

    I’m gleefully sorry to say I have no holes to poke… maybe I had too much fun reading the post. :)

    The one thing I’d pick at is your belief in gene-defined creativity. There may be no proof for this but I don’t see genetics defining creativity – I see creativity as a certain freedom of mind. The ability to think laterally. The courage to fail. The irrationality to try something that will most likely fail. I think these things can be learned as well.

    Anyway, thanks for the awesomeness!~

    • Thanks for the praise, Kyle!

      Means a lot, coming from you.

      Regarding creativity:
      I guess we see it differently. What you see as creativity I see as “willingness to fail”, and that’s definitely trainable in my experience. I think I’m a lot more daring in that aspect now, than I was years ago.

      PS: Anyone interested in reading another LONG in-depth badass article, check out Kyle site, StartupBros, and read the second post on “Antifragility”. It’s one of the best (and longest) articles I’ve read in months

  12. Ludvig!

    As always another great post!

  13. You seem to read a lot of books. How do you find/decide which ones you will read? Is there some plan to it or..?

    I’m looking for book tips

    • Read what you find interesting. No matter what it is or how useless it seems. Otherwise, reading will be a chore and you will learn nothing and soon give it up. A woman who spends all her spare time reading pornographic novels will soon be wiser than a man who spends all his spare time watching sports. Reading somehow engages the brain in a productive way that nothing else can.

    • I have a big list of books to read, and I have hundreds of them on my computer. But I don’t do it in a super-methodical way.

      If nothing else strikes me, I read according to my list. But if people say “Hey you should read this”, I often do. And the books are usually on my computer already. Also, when you read a book, it always leads to wanting to read another book. I have a habit of noting down all books & authors mentioned in the books I read and checking them up while I summarize the book. This usually makes me want to read one of those books afterwards.

      Thanks for the comment, Peanut.

  14. Interesting idea to not focus solely on one skill. I would have to say I agree. Stephen King is not only a great writer, he cultivated incredible peristence and an amazing resistance to rejection. (These are learnable skills.) I generally try to find ways to stick to my strengths, but there are some skills i could benefit by even getting up to mediocre. Like increasing my tolerance for rejection/uncertainty.

    • Everyone should aspire to have various skills, including (perhaps most importantly) some things that they are NOT good at.

  15. Excellent article, Ludvig, and it reads very quickly, word count be damned.

    “Most people underestimate how much control they actually have over their lives… the things that most people think are determined by their genes or by external factors rarely are.”

    >At the same time, I think most people underestimate how /little/ control they have over very large parts of their lives. A lot can depend on unlikely chances – relationships, employment, children, disabilities – and a surprising array of things can be determined by genes. Sometimes you can shift the odds or outcomes a bit, but by the time you figure out how it may be too late, and sometimes the things people think they control are entirely predetermined. If you are genetically determined to be fat, or gay, or lazy, there’s little you can do to change that (not that everyone who is fat, or gay, or lazy, owes it to genetics). Many people beat themselves against a wall trying to change things that they can’t (well, I guess the lazy ones don’t) while ignoring things that they easily /could/ change, or assuming (through learned helplessness or fear of change) that those things are immutable. Unfortunately, the things that are controllable and the things that are beyond control are different for every person and every circumstance. One man is fat by choice, another by destiny. One man is poor by choice, another by destiny. I don’t know any easy way to tell the difference.

    “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”

    >Everyone has to do some of (1); it’s necessary to survive and it’s a good lesson in perseverance.

    “…stop doing it and do something you CAN be the best at.”

    >Not everyone has the potential to best at anything. Some people don’t have the potential to be exceptionally good at anything, even if they put in 10,000 hours. A few of them try very hard nonetheless, and I’m not sure they’re any worse off for it.

    “Sure, luck played a part in it. But when you combine those things, you will get lucky sooner or later.”

    >Well, some do and some don’t, that’s why it’s called luck. But if you examined the lives of great men, I think you would find that most of them have experienced more bad luck than good luck. If you examine the lives of ordinary men, you will find that most of them have gotten a good enough draw but have failed to play more than one or two cards. Maybe it is bad luck – adversity – that makes men great, but only the few who eventually have a turn of good luck become famous.

    “How Do I Find Out Where I Have a Natural Talent?”

    >A good general rule is that people are good at what they like. Maybe it’s because they put more into it, maybe it’s because people naturally enjoy things that come easily to them. Now you may enjoy things like wanking or video games or Wastebook, but that doesn’t mean they’re worth pursuing. The best thing is something you enjoy that most people don’t, especially if it’s something that needs doing.

    “Anybody can be taught basic creative skills like:

    * Writing,
    * Drawing,
    * Photography,
    * Programming,
    * Web design,”

    >I have got to disagree with you here. Most men, and all women, cannot learn programming at any meaningful level.

    >On simple vs. complex tasks: With complex tasks I think genetics is just as determinitive, /if you want to literally be the best/. The average man, or even most highly intelligent men, has no chance of becoming the world chess champion no matter how much effort he puts into it. What makes it possible to succeed at something without having an exceptional genetic endowment is that the bar for “success” is much, much lower for things that are actually productive. Playing baseball or chess has no value to society at large other than entertainment, and in the age of mass media, there is little point in being entertained by anyone but the very best of the best. Music is a little more open because there is still the possibility of doing something new (and thereby being the best at it) but the best opportunities lie in learning and doing things that have real value.

    Other than potentially encouraging women to try to learn programming, you have some great advice. Keep it rolling.

    • So much truth in this comment alone, that I think my entire July reminiscing on the meaning of life is complete. Thank you :) ^_^

      Something you may want to dwell on – what about the dreamers?

      It’s very well to call people out who just want to get by; but what about the people who *really* want to see something in the World? Would that not constitute to inspiring them to learn a particular craft / skill to the degree of making them “world class” at it (regardless if they become the “best”)? Michelangelo wanted perfection

      I think one point this article does not cover is the role that persistent focus plays for those who want to get something done. For example, if you look at all the greats of history, they used their skillset to achieve a particular goal in any way they could

      I could be wrong, of course – in that genetic makeup & parental conditioning could be the sole reason why people find themselves in particular situations

      I’m a firm believer that you can “sell” anything if you find the right application for it. Good example is manure. You can go round and offer it as fertilizer. Make sure it’s blended properly (so it doesn’t look like it any more), and say it’s fertilizer. You’d call it “100% organic fertilizer blended from natural ingredients including horse Manure (not human), garden waste & composed food. Rich in nitrates, it is perfect for growing the most vibrant & fresh flowers”

      If you take your knitting example – Knitting itself is not worth anything (neither is programming). But what if you took the ideas behind knitting (the knowledge of the wool, weaving styles etc) and applied to clothing. Last time I checked, most suits are made of wool & lots of sweaters. That would be a great application for what you’re doing

      In that sense, perhaps the value of the “10,000 hour rule” is not in the learning of the craft, but in learning how to apply it in such a way that it benefits others?

      For example, there is actually no practical demand for software. I’ve never gone shopping for software; I’ve always looked for ways to become better at my profession / work. Proof of this is in Microsoft’s “licensing” of Windows. You know every time you buy a laptop, you pay Microsoft for Windows. That’s how they have such pervasive market share; and was part of the anti-trust suit against them (they were charging a per-processor fee to OEMs)

      The demand for software comes from its practical application in your life. Email, Internet, productivity, connectivity, etc, allows you to do a better job / live a more “enriched” life

      In that sense, perhaps the question shouldn’t be “what are you prepared to learn?” but “where do you want to be?”, either as a company or an individual

      I really hope you don’t blast me out of the water for this – could be something to look at

      • Richard,

        “Good example is manure”
        –Another good example is baby carrots. Second to breakfast, they are one of the top marketing schemes EVER… talk about turning “shit into sugar”. (Baby carrots are composed of low quality normal carrots that would get thrown away otherwise.)

        “In that sense, perhaps the value of the “10,000 hour rule” is not in the learning of the craft, but in learning how to apply it in such a way that it benefits others?”

        –This is powerful. I am putting this in my “daily lessons” section.

      • Richard,

        “”” I’m a firm believer that you can “sell” anything if you find the right application for it. “””

        Have you ever read “The Millionair Fastlane” by MJ Demarco? Your comment reminded me of one if the key principles in that book, the “Law of Effection.” It states “The more lives you affect, the richer you will become,” or, put more simply, “Affect millions, make millions.” If you can offer a solution to a problem that many people have (such as the solution to growing vibrant, fresh flowers), you can sell your solution and make a tidy profit from it.

        Alternatively, if you market aggressively enough, you can convince people of a problem that never existed before, such as with cereal companies and breakfast, “solving” the “problem” of the “most important meal of the day!”

        There may be something to be said of the ethics of the latter example, but I’ve never made a million dollars, so I don’t know if my opinion counts (yet.)

        – Ludvig

        Just wanted to say a quick thank you for the kick-ass website! I dig the new color scheme. I absolutely LOVE 75 Tips. It’s an amazing distillation of the most actionable parts of basically everything (I’ve read) that has been posted on this site. I don’t know if you’ve impacted millions, but I sure as hell know you’ve impacted me.

      • Thank you, Richard…

        Richard: “…what about the people who *really* want to see something in the World? Would that not constitute to inspiring them to learn a particular craft / skill to the degree of making them “world class” at it…”

        Athletes (perhaps) and pure businessmen aside, I think the striking thing about great achievers is that they did *not* focus very tightly. Most seem to have taken a keen interest in a variety of subjects and often to have practiced arts at which they were not notably excellent. Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler indulged in arcane spiritual/theological speculation; Richard Feynman played the bongos. Edison was an inventor in several fields as well as a businessman. Adolf Hitler dabbled in music and architecture. Xenophon wrote serious philosophy; Isaac Asimov wrote serious science textbooks; C.S. Lewis wrote children’s fiction; Tolkien was an authority on Anglo-Saxon literature; even Nietzsche enlisted in the cavalry. Supposedly, Jesus Christ was a carpenter. Most heroes only appear one-sided from a great distance.

      • Thomas:

        Thanks for your great comment!

        I read the book myself 2 months ago. Great book. Highly recommended for anyone into business/success philosophy/entrepreneurship.

        “but I sure as hell know you’ve impacted me.”


        Powerful barrage of examples there.

      • Abgrund, I’m going to be chewing on your words for a while. Great comment!

    • Wow, excellent comment Abgrund.

      Thanks for helping me think more deeply about — and reexamining — these ideas!

      “excellent article, Ludvig, and it reads very quickly, word count be damned”

      — Awesome to hear.

      “One man is fat by choice, another by destiny.”

      –This, if anything (referring to DannyB’s comment) is a GREAT quotable!
      I really wonder how much laziness is genetically determined… All I know is that I have some serious strides in this area of my life over the past 3-4 years. I was lazy as a loser pig, now I can easily force myself to do uncomfortable things at will.

      “Some people don’t have the potential to be exceptionally good at anything, ”

      — That’s true. But they shouldn’t hear it. Then they only have another reason for sitting on their ass.

      “A good general rule is that people are good at what they like. Maybe it’s because they put more into it, maybe it’s because people naturally enjoy things that come easily to them. ”

      –This one, I have thought much about. Like you say, it’s a “chicken-or-the-egg” situation. For example, I did not like writing 2-3 years ago. I did it sometimes because I knew it was good for me (like writing to-do lists). But I thought it was really uncomfortable…. Now I like it, because I’ve done so much of it.

      ” in the age of mass media, there is little point in being entertained by anyone but the very best of the best”

      –That’s right! I actually wrote that first, then cut it out, because the article was long enough!

      “Other than potentially encouraging women to try to learn programming, you have some great advice. ”

      –That was my hidden agenda.

      For anyone reading this…
      ….A book that goes into these nature vs nurture questions a lot is “The Summing Up” by Somerset Maugham (one of my idols). He writes about his own life philosophy and discusses a lot of big thinkers’ ideas.

      • “I really wonder how much laziness is genetically determined…” So do I. But I have a strong suspicion that it is /mostly/ biological, and hence substantially genetic. Are you more likely to get things done when you feel energetic, and more likely to goof off when you feel dissipated? These conditions are largely reflections of biological states – blood levels of adrenalin, glucose, insulin, whatever. There is undeniably a genetic component here.

        “A book that goes into these nature vs nurture questions a lot is “The Summing Up” by Somerset Maugham.” Another good read is “The Blank Slate” (Steven Pinker). Pinker’s basic conclusion is that life outcomes are determined 50% by genetics, 10% by parenting, and 40% by “other”. To a strict Determinist like Pinker (or me), “other” means “environment”. Others might call it “choice”. Same thing either way.

  16. Hey i have some questions please..

    Are you saying it’s dangerous to live a monotonous lifestyle?

    If I do my dishes everyday for years, will i suffer negative effects compared to if I used a dishwasher instead?

    In that case, how long can you do something before it becomes dangerous to yourself/your brain/body/ and hinder your personal development??

    Sorry if this is a stupid question

    • Interesting question, Sue!

      Your question isn’t easy to answer, because it’s not black or white. And, of course, it depends on how “dangerous” is defined…

      According to my own philosophy and how I’m going to live my life, I would say: YES, it is dangerous. But it depends on how much monotony we’re talking about.

      I do not think it’s going to make any difference whether you get a dishwasher or not (though it could free up some time.), but I do think it would make a huge difference if you worked a monotonous work that you didn’t enjoy for 8h+ every day for many years.

    • Sue, if you choose to quit washing your dishes, I wish you all the best and hell, maybe it’s a great idea. Some people say that if you microwave a dish for X minutes it sterilizes it, no matter how gross it may look. But a /certain amount/ of monotony is not bad for you. Might be good for you. Monotony can be relaxing. I’ve known people who explicitly said that they preferred monotonous jobs for that reason. Certainly every person should cultivate the /ability/ to deal with boredom.

    • Thank you very much for the answers!

  17. Yo Ludvig this is genius. A great quotable:

    “Just because you know how to speak that language well, does NOT necessarily mean that you have something to say.”

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article. Worth the wait!

    And also really good advice on pressing F11, I didnt know about that!

    I just checked out your “free stuff” and subscribed btw, look forward to reading the 2 books!

  18. Whoa, love this man. Best I’ve read from SGM!

    The part on developing your supplemental activities is great advice. So many things in life really require you to be good at more than one thing to really be successful. And this actually also opens up a lot more possibilities in some sense. Take your knitting example. Most people wouldn’t think they could actually combine their talent for it with something else to make lots of money. I think with the Internet, the possibilities are endless.

    I’m going to bookmark this for sure. And share with friends. Will definitely be coming back to it again. By the way, I think you’re doing a fantastic job with the writing there! And your content never disappoints. :)

    Oh, one last thing. A question. Can a person be creative at one discipline and not so in another? Or is it that if someone is creative, he will be so at everything, just that he needs to find and learn an appropriate “language” for expressing that creativity?

    • I’m glad to hear that Jeremy!

      “And this actually also opens up a lot more possibilities in some sense”
      ” I think with the Internet, the possibilities are endless.”

      –Yeah for sure. Schools and university need to start teaching online business ASAP. For now, it’s only being taught (well) by internet marketers…

      “Can a person be creative at one discipline and not so in another? ”

      –Great question. I believe so. If anyone else could give a good answer why not, I’d be interested to hear it.

      “Or is it that if someone is creative, he will be so at everything, just that he needs to find and learn an appropriate “language” for expressing that creativity?”

      –No I don’t believe that. I think everyone is somewhat creative (some people are a lot more creative), they just need to find an outlet. And once they find an outlet, they need to see how they can use it to further their career to create a synergistic process –> this is an upcoming article.

      • Speaking about online businesses. I just can’t help but wonder about the potential my dad has if he takes his expertise in maths/calculus online somehow. And build his own personal brand. He definitely has a talent for it and deserves to earn much more than he does right now. (He’s a PhD graduate from Warwick, author of a book, and has been lecturing at the local university here for more than 25 years.)

        He earns peanuts currently because the universities “kick” him out for the younger professors. Or something like that. I just know it’s something to do with old age.

      • That sounds strange. Don’t older professors earn more money? They ought to be better as well, since they have more experience and more personal examples and anecdotes to draw upon.

        Tell him to help someone set up his own website. It’ll be the best $50-200+ he ever spends! (everyone should at least own their own domain names)

      • “No I don’t believe that. I think everyone is somewhat creative (some people are a lot more creative), they just need to find an outlet.”

        This holds true for me. I know that I have a strong creative potential inside of me, but I have seldom gotten into a true flow state where my creativity could be expressed, aside from when playing and creating music a few years ago (a thing which I only perpetuate as a hobby), or when learning web design two years ago.

        The last year I’ve struggled with motivation in school while studying Engineering Physics, EXCEPT during one specific class: programming. I find programming to be an amazingly interesting field, as it requires and allows for both technical and creative skill, and is directly applicable and “testable” – i.e. you can apply everything you learn almost instantly, and get instant feedback.. Compare this to quantum physics, which is rather hard to apply unless you’ve got a cool lab and are super smart. Theoretical physics and such sciences require a great amount of technical skill, but is not a good catalyst of the flow state.

        At the moment I am spending lots and lots of time learning and doing programming (which is why I’ve been so inactive on my website). I’ve got lots of ideas and goals. Feels great.

        Rant over. Good post as always, Ludvig. I will look into your new e-books.

      • “Don’t older professors earn more money?” Only if they have tenure. From Jeremy’s somewhat obscure comment, it sounds like Professor X has a lot of experience but never made tenure and has changed jobs a few times. Academia is a strange world of splendid isolation, at least in a certain former superpower in the New World. In junior colleges you can meet both extraordinary genius teachers who didn’t get Uni tenure because they failed to suck the right cock, and the most useless chickenshits who read at a fourth grade level and might spend an entire class period ignoring the students while talking on the phone (YES I have seen both firsthand).

      • Alex:

        Great points on creativity and flow! And also on programming giving direct feedback. I’ve actually thought about this many times, and it’s why I “like it” despite sucking at it. It’s the immediate results. Just refresh the page ;)

        I’d love to get your feedback when you’ve read the eBooks. I’m sure you’ll have some awesome comments!


        I see. I didn’t know that. I will say that I agree that there’s a very big difference between engagement and skill level between different professors/doctors/etc on the university I went to.

      • Actually, he has never changed jobs. He did get more pay along the way, but by a certain age (65 I think), you will be forced to retire. I’m not sure if this is unique to Singapore or the uni though. I think it isn’t right?

        I do remember he was somehow able to extent his contract by 1 or 2 years I think, but he had to have his pay significantly reduced. That period is already over, and now he’s doing part-time. He actually does get a lot when called back (I think sometimes he gets paid $50SGD (about $40USD) per script that he marks for entrance exams etc.) But being part-time, he doesn’t get called back a lot obviously.

      • Jeremy, that sounds nothing like the academic system in the U.S. and from everything I’ve heard not Europe either. There is damn sure no mandatory retirement age here; that would be age discrimination. Although if you ever had to sit through a lecture by an eighty year old on a subject that has changed in the last thirty years, you might see some value in mandatory retirement.

        I think it would be very difficult for an older man to turn mathematical expertise into money except by teaching. A younger man could turn to engineering or programming, but for a man over sixty that’s not realistic. There’s certainly a great need for good math texts, but universities seem to avoid them like the plague – there seems to be some kind of binding tradition that Math Is Hard And Must Stay That Way.

      • Thanks for the comment, Abgrund. I’ve just asked my dad, the retirement isn’t a mandatory one, but like you said about “sucking the right cock” (haha..), there’s full of politics in the university.

  19. Tyson, Bolt, and Woods are RICH but I would HARDLY call them successful.

    Tyson = drug addict , wifebeater, and (serial?) rapist

    Bolt = extremely arrogant

    Woods = sex addict who cannot be monogamous

    You call that success? No it seems more to me like their natural talents were “genetic curses” that made them crazy

    • Are you kidding? You better be kidding.

    • Monogamy = success? I kind of feel… the opposite about that.

    • Either troll or mega jelous. Haha and both are equally bad

      THE POST
      Really cool post. I havent been reading here so much lately but this was rly cool. Definitely something i must think about when i get older and go to university and start my career! I didnt rly get the part about Aristotle(Can someone explain?) but I know people talk about him all the time.

      And one more thing, are new ebooks worth reading??

    • All success is confined to a given context, Claude. By your measure no one on the planet is successful because no one is perfect. We all have some area in life where we fail and can improve.

      The cool thing is the principles that made Tyson a successful prizefighter, or Woods a successful golfer, or Bolt a successful athlete are transferable to other domains (like this post demonstrates). Which means we can all learn from them and eachother. Which keeps life interesting.

    • Well well seems like I have got the majority against me.

      But the only one who is convincing is Micah, as the rest of you weren’t able to defuse my thesis!

    • haters always gonna hate

    • It’s amazing how some people can go through an article that takes a good fifteen minutes to read and digest, and jam-packed with invaluable content at that, and the only thing he takes away and comments on is whether or not three athletes should be defined as successful or not.

      Fucking mint article by the way.

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