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The Intangible Quality That Defines the Highest Talent
Stories abound in every organization of team members who outperform their more skillful and experienced colleagues and go on to have stellar careers against the odds. They possess an X factor that allows them to overcome average or below-average backgrounds, pedigrees, and inferior skill development.
The talent inherent in these superstars is difficult to discern or recognize, even for those who judge talent for a living. This largely hidden and misunderstood quality is shared by virtually everyone who defies the odds. They have a desperate desire to improve. To do so, they have taught themselves to become selfish learners.
Selfish learners are desperate to upgrade everything about themselves and what they do. And they will do anything to learn how. They seek feedback, run toward criticism, and ask questions of everyone they meet. Their curiosity is insatiable. But they learn with one primary goal in mind—to get better.
Those who observe these immensely talented individuals often can’t see how incredibly opportunistic they are. On the face, it appears that these people are simply intensely curious about how things work and why people do what they do.
Dig a little deeper and you will understand that learning is the pathway but not the endpoint. They learn to enhance their skills and insights and they are relentless about getting better.
Ask a high talent what they are working on to get better and they will have a hard time narrowing the answer. If they cook, play tennis, build quantitative models or facilitate board meetings, they are on the quest to learn so they can not only get better, but get better NOW. Their fixation on self-improvement is never part-time or half-assed. They are all-in on everything, all the time.
Those who live with such people can find them exhausting. They never turn off. The motor is always running. But it is this intangible quality that separates them from everyone else. They are wiser today than they were yesterday. And that allows them to beat the odds.