I once asked Dan Gable, one of the greatest coaches of all time, whether he preferred an athlete with talent or one with work ethic. He responded with a sly grin, "I prefer an athlete who has both."

Talent is obviously very important for success, whether in sports or business. The key is to find talented people who have a work ethic.  

Three months before the 2007 Major League Baseball draft, the St. Louis Cardinals front office asked me if I knew of any mental indicators of success that could be identified by the scouting staff and taken into consideration when evaluating players.

At that point, there was virtually no research available on predictive mental characteristics for professional athletes. I contacted Stanford researcher Dr. Carol Dweck. At the time, Dr. Dweck was in the process of finishing her first book Mindset, which has since become a huge international bestseller.

In Mindset, Dweck established the two different kinds of mindsets that have now become staples in how high- and low-achieving people are sorted. 

1. Growth Mindset: A "growth" mindset indicates a person who responds to a challenge by embracing effort and training instead of relying on his or her innate abilities. 

2. Fixed Mindset: A "fixed" mindset indicates a person who fears failure and avoids new challenges because of how "failure" reflects on them and their makeup.

Dweck explains it this way: "In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence and their talents are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence." 

After several conversations with Dr. Dweck, the Cardinals built a model that boiled down to a few questions scouts could ask every potential pick to try to identify the ones with a growth mindset. 

Questions would propose a situation such as, "You do exceptionally well in a competition," and ask the pick to choose a response between (A): I felt very strong during the competition; or (B): I am good at this sport. The first response indicates a growth mindset, while the second response indicates a fixed mindset.

By 2016, the Sporting News ranked the Cardinals organization as one of the top in baseball, complimenting their "steady stream of talent through sharp-eyed drafting." The team consistently competes at the highest level with core players they have developed through their own farm system. 

The key to identifying talent seems to be more about finding those individuals with the growth mindset and a work ethic. The thing to remember is that talent and skill can always be improved. And yes the key word here is always, if the mind is open to the importance of working on improvement.

The importance of consistently working on making yourself better can not be overstated. One inch of improvement daily makes a world of difference over time. Work into your daily routine a process for seeking improvement. 

Simply asking yourself two simple questions will undoubtedly have a significant effect on your health, happiness, and success:

1. What is one thing I want to improve tomorrow?

2. What is one thing I can do that could help make the above improvement?

Armoring yourself with those two questions each day will establish and nourish a "growth" mindset, and lead you down the path of continued success and achievement. 

Published on: Feb 13, 2018