What gets rewarded: hard work or natural talent? The answer may surprise you.

Cathy Goodwin
4 min readAug 21

Entrepreneurs brag about suffering and struggle. But is that what their followers admire most?

Image by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash.

Entrepreneurs often like to share a hero’s journey story along the lines of, “I’m not a natural. Nothing came easy for me. It’s all about work. Luck had nothing to do with it.”

A recent article in Inc (reported in Inc This Morning) discussed another article published eight years ago. The Inc article’s author, Jeff Haden, suggests that hiring managers tend to give more weight to natural talent than to hard work.

As reported in the Inc article, researchers conducted two studies.

In one study, participants listened to a piece of music. Half were told the musician was a natural; half were told he had worked hard to become a professional. Listeners gave higher ratings to the natural, predicting more success and suggesting he had greater talent.

A second study with a similar design featured a pitch from an entrepreneur. Half the participants were told he was a natural at business; the other half that he’d have to work hard to get there.

So does that mean you talk about how lucky you were?

Jeff Haden, the article’s author, says there’s a middle ground. Talk about your natural talent and then say you capitalized on your luck and talent to get where you are. So when you tell your origin story — if you do! — make sure it’s not all about how hard you worked.

That makes sense for these reasons.

(1) It’s a more plausible story.

Every successful business owner I know has worked hard, at least at some point in their business life. But every business owner also brings natural gifts. When they deny those gifts, they seem to lack self-awareness.

For example, successful business owners have an intuitive sense of what their audience wants. I compare it to perfect pitch among musicians. It’s a gift that you can’t buy with money or hard work.

Successful Role Model archetypes know how to relate their personal lives to their audiences. They instinctively share stories that build…

Cathy Goodwin

Create a compelling marketing message that attracts your ideal clients through your unique selling story. http://cathygoodwin.com