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hard work beats talent
I’m Not a Natural

    This Women’s History Month we will feature a few of Cricket’s great women leaders who will share their insights and advice for young women.


    By Laura Poffenberger


    As a mother, I think a lot about how we talk to kids about their talents.


    We tell kids that they are gifted at something in the hopes that it will bolster their self-esteem, maybe encourage them to develop that natural talent. That’s a good thing, right? To be naturally good at something? But I worry about the flip side of that, when a child doesn’t get it right away. Do we encourage kids to fight through those things, or do we chalk it up to ‘it’s just not their gift’?


    Most everyone has an example of a time they were waved off something because we weren’t good at it – maybe not at first, but eventually. Perhaps someone softened the blow by pointing you toward something that they believed fit your natural inclinations. But, maybe you just weren’t taught how to do it in a way that made sense to you at the time, and you simply just needed to sit with it a bit longer.


    Don’t let anyone scare you away from what you want to do.  If you’re interested, your special brand of creativity, resourcefulness and hard work can outpace the ‘naturally’ gifted. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can use the things that you may be more talented at to break through.


    For me that was high school math. I struggled in Algebra 1, but the next year Geometry made total sense to me. Then I went on to Algebra II and was back to feeling ‘bad’ at math. Turns out I was a visual learner. I didn’t pursue advanced math because I decided I “wasn’t good at it.” Unfortunately, that’s a common story for a lot of women. It’s a big part of why we don’t have nearly enough women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

    I was raised in a time where ‘women could do anything men could do,’ but also were pushed to be ‘ladylike.’ It seems innocuous, but it starts to put parameters around what you should like, and how you should act different than boys. Doubt starts to creep in, and we start to limit ourselves.


    This happens to adults, and unfortunately, women still seem to get hit harder with it. As technology continues to change, we may not ‘get’ something right away. Perhaps it’s suggested that you aren’t going to get it. The people who are already doing it may not look like us. We let them scare us off! Or we think that we’ve missed the boat. We’re too far down the line of our career path to double back and learn something new.


    That may mean that you have to reverse-engineer your career. There may not be a well-worn established path to get you where you want to be, so be your own trailblazer!


    Think about the roles, jobs, education or even mentors that can connect you to your passion – your goal. You can’t rely on schools, parents, and institutions that are already in place to help you get where you want to be. If there is something you want, you have to figure out how you are going to get there. Don’t doubt yourself, or your goals and ambitions. Carve out a path and follow it. If you veer off, course correct and keep going. Remember, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.


    Some of us are lucky enough to work in a field that makes sense to us – that doesn’t mean it was always ‘natural’. Success comes by blending things you’re passionate about with the legwork to find out how that can create value. 


    In addition to working through your ‘natural talents,’ don’t rely on others to tell you what your gifts are. Don’t let other people’s offhand remarks or uneducated opinions define what you are good at. No one knows you – including your interests, passions and even gifts – better than you!  


    Over the course of my career, I’ve seen people enter the technology field who are talented and others willing to do the work. They may get to the same area, but their methods couldn’t be more different. I’ve also seen those who are inherently good at something rest on their laurels and fail to develop as much as they can.


    Being gifted or a natural may jumpstart you in a certain direction - but it’s not the only path. Make time to find out what you truly LOVE doing and work at it. It’s work either way – you’ve just got to keep trying. At the end of the day, creativity and hard work kicks talent’s butt every time.


    Laura Poffenberger leads the digital efforts for Cricket Wireless, ensuring the best customer service experience possible online and from whatever device you’re shopping on.