Everything I know about persistence I learned from Captain Kirk | submitted by Beth Plutchak

My best friend and I were 10 years old when Marvel introduced Spider-Man and the X-Men. (What was the golden age of comics? When you were 10.) But Star Trek was another story. By the time we were freshmen in high school, Star Trek came out. While I was pretty sure that we should be spending our Friday nights at the youth center giggling at boys, Marie wanted to stay home and watch Star Trek. I hated Star Trek. On top of this, William Shatner couldn’t even act.

You see, as a kid I’d been taught the “talent myth.” Everyone had a talent for something, and once you discovered what it was, your path in life was set. I figured someone who wasn’t a better actor to begin with just didn’t have the necessary talent and wouldn’t last very long. The more I learned about business, the more convinced I became that it was Shatner’s business smarts, not his acting ability, that kept him employed. Fascinating.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s essay “The Talent Myth,” he talks about a talent mindset, which he calls the new orthodoxy of American management. Companies need to identify and reward talent early in order to get the best employees. Nurturing professional growth is just a simile for coddling poor performers. The trouble with looking at “talent” as an end in itself is that the “talented” need to worry less about performance and more about keeping the perception of their talent alive. Career suicide follows the loss of the illusive “it.”

In her book Mindset, psychology and personality researcher Carol Dweck, Ph.D., talks about fixed vs. learning mindsets. Those with fixed mindsets believe in their own innate talent. They have an overwhelming need to protect their perceived status as proof that they are talented. She performed a key study at the University of Hong Kong, where all the classes were taught in English but not all freshmen were fluent. She measured mindset and then asked the students if they would be willing to take a course to improve their English skills. Students with a fixed mindset declined. They wouldn’t expose their deficiencies.

In the meantime, William Shatner learned how to act. He hit his comic stride with Boston Legal. The thing he knew, his edge, was that the learning mindset could be applied to any skill. Persistence is what counts.

Beam me up, Denny Crane!

Beth Plutchak is the founder of Beth Plutchak Consulting LLC, which specializes in the New Business Research, timely business research for small to mid-size companies. She writes about innovation and entrepreneurship on her blog All Else is Never Constant at www.bethplutchak.com.

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