Doubling Down On Yourself: How To Pair Passion With Talent For Success

It’s brutal. It’s ugly. And it’s the truth.

And I can almost guarantee most of you reading this will understand, even if it hurts to hear.

Picture this: You’re watching the Olympics from your couch and laugh hysterically at the runner crashing on the first hurdle.

Aug 16, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jeffery Julmis (HAI) falls during the men's 110m hurdles semifinals in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel (USA TODAY Sports)

You chuckled when that gymnast had a slight wobble after landing that double-twisting-double-back.

But, let’s be honest: you’d break your neck attempting something similar even into a pit of balls at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

These athletes have found their Golden Ticket – pairing passion with genetics fueled by hard work to reach the top .01% of their sport. And they still fail from time-to-time.

Current evidence suggests that a favorable genetic profile, when combined with the appropriate training, is advantageous, if not critical for the achievement of elite athletic status.

So your dreams of going from the couch to a podium finish in 2020 are probably out of reach.

But, everyone has their thing. You should double down on your strengths now.

What’s your thing? Here’s how to find out…

Stay In Your Lane


What do you love to do? Are you willing to work hard at it for years?

“Follow your passion” is missing one key ingredient: Passion may not be enough.

Gary Vaynerchuk sums this up nicely: “Stay in your lane.”

If basketball is your passion but you’re five-four with a two-foot vertical, all the training in the world isn’t going to be enough.

You might toil on the bench in some European League eventually, but to reach the top you need to pair passion with talent/genetics fueled by hard work.

To not follow your passion in life is a recipe for failure and unhappiness. I get that.

But Gary V. wanted to be quarterback of the New York Jets. Where would he be now if went after that pipe dream? Holding a clipboard in the Arena Football League at best?

He knew his skills were best suited to business. Entrepreneurship.  And being good at something raises your satisfaction and happiness quotient just as well.

According to new research, job satisfaction is strongly linked to health as you age. 20 and 30-somethings who are unhappy with their jobs may experience mental health problems by the time they reach their 40s​.

“We found that those with lower job satisfaction levels throughout their late 20s and 30s have worse mental health compared to those with high job satisfaction levels. Those who initially had high job satisfaction but decreased over time also had worse health,” Lead study author Jonathan Dirlam, a doctoral student in sociology, told CBS News.

Those study participants with low job satisfaction were more likely to report depression, sleep problems and excessive worry, and scored lower on a test of overall mental health, the researchers concluded.

What are you good at? Can you get even better at it and make a career out of it? Trying to choose a career based on pressures or financial gain is a slippery slope.

The Fix: Stop trying to bring up your weaknesses and double down on your strengths. Where your passion and skills intersect is where you need to be.

Go All The Way

If you go at it with half a heart, it will show in lackluster results.

You may not see this but you can be sure the people you serve will feel it and know you’re a fraud.

So, instead, look inward and find the path that makes your heart sing. The job where you’ll look forward to Mondays because it signals the start of a work week.

Have you heard the term “burn the boats?” It alludes to certain famous incidents where a commander, having landed in hostile country, ordered his men to destroy their ships, so that they would have to conquer the country or be killed.

A modern day burning of the boats might be necessary for you to finally take the leap and follow your heart. I blackmailed myself into losing 50 lbs 14 years ago. Same premise applies here.

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.” – Charles Bukowski

The Fix: You need to figure out who you are and what you want to do and go all in.

Put In The Time


To really become an expert or master requires 10,000 hours, or even 20,000 hours—perhaps the difference between being a chess master and a grandmaster.

A lot of people start out excited and motivated but when it comes to the practice or hard hours that are necessary to achieve mastery, they lose interest.

Practice, particularly in the beginning, is never exciting. And deliberate practice (with the help of mentor(s) is the key.

You will fail.

You will be ignored by the people you’re trying to help.

You will embarrass yourself.

The Fix: To persist past these moments of effort when no one is watching, you have to be passionate about what you’re working towards. Otherwise, you will give up before seeing the fruits of your labour.

Get Over Yourself


You need to rid yourself of the victim mentality. No one cares about your past efforts to build a business, get in shape or go after that girl.

It’s not about how smart you are.

It’s not about being born into a well-to-do family.

It’s not about how much sleep or relationships you sacrifice in an attempt to be the busiest person in the world. That’s actually a load of crap.

It’s about the passion you bring to the job and the work you put in to see it through.

Just ask Thomas Edison, who tested thousands of plants before discovering a bamboo filament could burn for more than 1,200 hours straight. That’s hardly a stroke of luck or brilliance; more like consistent hard work and conviction.

Or ask Einstein, Henry Ford, or more recently Steve Jobs. In all of these cases, these masters were impelled not by a desire for money or fame, but an intense interest in problems, ideas, and the drive to succeed.

They all failed countless times. Had people discourage them. Lost jobs and friendships. But had they listened to the naysayers, they’d never have accomplished what they knew in their heart was possible.

The people in life who are motivated by money or security often end up losing whatever they gain, whereas those who follow their hearts and play to their strengths end up making far more money than the rest.

“Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, “Wait… no one else is here… why am I doing this?” and leave, never to return.

That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place.

That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.” – Jeff Haden

The Fix: The extra mile is a lonely place, but it’s the path to the life you desire.

Don’t Leave The Ghosts Behind


If you’re waiting for the perfect time to present itself, think twice. There’s no perfect time. Decide to live the life you want now and make it happen. Why wait for some far off ideal?

Ultimately, wasting time now is the worst possible thing you can do.

Time cannot be made up.

Time is your most valuable resource.

Time is everything.

Maybe it’s time for a change?

 “Imagine if you will being on your death bed – And standing around your bed – the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, the talents given to you by life.

And that you for whatever reason, you never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book.

And there they are standing around your bed looking at you with large angry eyes saying we came to you, and only you could have given us life! Now we must die with you forever.

The question is – if you die today what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts, would die with you? “ – Les Brown

How many ghosts do you want standing around your death bed?

The Fix: Pursue your dreams with all of your being. Make your life count.


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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.