How much does natural talent have to do with success in sports and/or career life? In other words, if I love to do something but don’t seem to have the natural talent, am I wasting my time pursing it?

Talent is very relevant, but developed skills always win out in determining a person’s success throughout a lifetime. Performance researchers spend a lot of time trying to gain insights into the minds of top achievers. They study athletes, business people, students and, most popularly, chess players. Chess players are studied because the game of chess removes many variables that may alter results — teammates, economic conditions and other hard-to-measure factors that affect performance.

It was thought for many years that top chess players such as Bobby Fischer, the young grandmaster from the 1950s, excelled mostly because they have natural gifts and can see the next several moves. However, recent studies demonstrate that many of the best players actually only see the current play at hand. But they see it very clearly. This allows them to immediately eliminate all possible bad moves and to focus on just a few good choices, which dramatically increases their odds of success. Amateurs, on the other hand, spend a lot of time exploring possibilities. As a result, they have many possible negative outcomes to choose from. This increases the odds of a poor choice.

Researchers have found that it is skill developed from experience and not natural talent that helps the grandmaster win. In the world of chess, the saying “practice makes perfect” has proven to be true. Computer chess games have increased the speed at which a person can become a grandmaster because they give the user the ability to play at a high level for as long as he would like, anytime he chooses. Meanwhile, today’s young people can get the same amount of practice in a few years that it took their predecessors a decade to gain.

Natural talent is something to consider because God designed us all with a plan in mind. He equips each of us for that plan, and talent is part of it. But, as a loving father, he is much more interested in our salvation than in our being the fastest runner or the top sales person.

He may have created you with a love for something at which you are not naturally gifted in order to help you grow in holiness through the hard work that it takes to become good at it.

What God may not have provided you in raw talent, he will supplement in grace. Ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with fortitude and courage, and then you will begin to see what potential might exist for you as you develop your skills.

Catholic business trainer Dave Durand is online at