Rank Hunger Over Skills
In the boxing world it has been the custom for many years to measure a fighter's potential against what is called the ”tale of the tape” – a number of physical measurements such as the fist, chest expansion, and weight which recur in the best boxers in a specific weight class. If you do not match these requirements you will certainly never be among the very best, the saying goes. But the fact is that Muhammad Ali, perhaps the best boxer in history, failed to meet these requirements. He had great speed, but he didn’t have the physique of a great fighter, he didn’t have the strength, and he didn’t have the classical moves. Unlike many of his opponents, Muhammad Ali failed big-time on the checklist of skills needed by a true champion.
I would venture to claim that many coaches, executives and teachers have their own Muhammad Ali story. Someone they have overlooked. In the struggle to spot and attract the best qualified people we are too often blindly enamoured of good marks, physical test results, certificates, Master's degrees, checklists and psychological profile analyses. We often overlook what is perhaps the most important indicator of potential: the hunger to learn and to improve.
Not long ago I heard about Marina Semyonova, a great Russian dancer and teacher, who devised a novel way of selecting her students. It was a clever test of mindset. Her students first have to survive a trial period while she watches to see how they react to praise and to correction. Those more responsive to the correction are deemed worthy. In other words, she separates the ones who get their thrill from what’s easy – what they have mastered – from those who get their thrill from what’s hard. She chooses students who were energized by critics.
When it comes to identifying talent we should look less at current performance (which is visual, measurable) and look more towards mindset and hunger, which are what really matter.