Can Anybody Do Anything? 5 Steps to Find YOUR Calling

‘Talent doesn’t exist,’ I heard someone say. ‘It’s all about the hours. You’ve got to put in those 10,000 hours or 10 years and then you can become a master at anything.’

Anything at all?

Is it really possible for anybody, through the process of hard work, modelling, perseverance and learning, to mold themselves into a person who can succeed in any field? It’s a tantalizing question because, if true, it opens the door of opportunity for all of us to realize our dreams. So let’s explore the different sides of the discussion and identify some key factors that will enable you to find your calling.

The System’s View

No prizes for guessing that this viewpoint will tell you there’s very little you can do with your life. Venerated social scientists will point to studies saying that your environment; access to education, background and parenting will play the decisive role. Even Malcolm Gladwell (author of Outliers)  will tell you that no matter how hard you work or how good your idea is, a large portion of your success will be down to luck. In fact, luck and talent are the main factors the system uses to explain success. Either you’re born with an incredibly rare and fantastic ability which enables you to excel above all other competition, or you chance upon a lucky break that virtually puts success in your hands. With both options, the system’s message is clear – a whole bunch of factors out of your control will end up determining your life.

Advice: The best thing you can do with this viewpoint is to completely disregard it. Although accepted by the majority, it will NOT help you in any way. With the cause of success always being dependent on factors outside yourself, it can easily lead to feelings of helplessness and dis-empowerment.

The Self-Help View

The world is yours! You can do anything! (This is what the self-help guru’s will tell you). Through the process of modelling, learning, adapting and a large slice of perseverance, the individual can mold themselves into whatever they need to become to succeed. You repeat affirmations, practice visualization, get in a peak state, push yourself out of your comfort zone and always think BIG. After a period of time, changes will begin to occur that attract success. You become more confident and charismatic; you learn from mistakes instead of quitting and have the self-belief to seize an opportunity when it arrives.  

Advice: You would do well to practice all of the above. Your chances of succeeding in a field you are passionate about will increase tenfold when you realize that YOU play the deciding role in your success. However, there is one caveat. The self-help view is too general. If you can really do anything then how do you sift through the endless possibilities and find the path you could describe as a ‘calling’?

The Third Way

Talent DOES exist. This is what I have discovered and it is SO important in identifying your calling. Throughout my years working as a tennis coach, I tracked the development of children who possessed an innate natural talent for the sport compared to those who didn’t. In every case, the talented ones learned to master technique more quickly, adapted their game more proficiently and possessed the unique ability to learn some skills without being taught.

However, before you accuse me of being a defender of the system, hear me out. I learned two more fascinating insights from my work as a tennis coach. Firstly, despite what the system preaches, there was a significant minority of the children that could be classified as talented. Rather than being the one in a million exception that the system wants you to believe, I had the figure at roughly 20%. The second observation was that talent was a very incomplete predictor of future success. The children who ended up excelling, who 10 years down the line are now playing regionally or nationally, were the ones who were obsessed with the sport.

So what does this mean and how will it help you? The key principle is this, you may well be able to do anything but to stack the deck in your favor, you must position yourself wisely. Follow these 5 steps and you can’t go wrong.

  1. Study your self-help. The principles really do work and will give you a solid foundation to succeed in any field.
  2. Ignore the system. It will always be there, telling you that you are powerless to influence the world around you but YOU MUST NOT LISTEN TO IT’S VOICE.
  3. Use your talents. Make it easy on yourself. You may want to be a singer or a sports star but is there something that comes more naturally to you? Give yourself a head start and position yourself in this field. If you’re not sure where your talents lie then look for the skills you pick up quickly and listen to what other people say you’re good at. Finally, don’t buy into the talent is rare myth. You may not be talented at everything but you will be talented at something.
  4. Find your obsession. Talent will only get you so far. To find your calling and see it through, you have to be obsessed about living it. Only the pursuits you REALLY love will inspire you enough to put in the time necessary to become a success. Fortunately, we seem to have a tendency to enjoy what we do well so this should mesh quite naturally with using your talents.
  5. Adapt. You may have more than one calling. Be prepared for the possibility of your dreams evolving along the way.    


Joe Barnes is the author of critically acclaimed ‘Screw the System: A Modern Guide to Greatness’ ( and runs website. He’s committed to ‘unplugging’ people from the system and helping them to live the life that they want. He also works as a hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner.

20 Responses to Can Anybody Do Anything? 5 Steps to Find YOUR Calling

  1. Your calling is waiting be uncovered in the intersection between your strengths your values and what you enjoy doing. Talent + Values + Fun = Passion. Would you agree, Joe? Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Pingback: Can Anybody Do Anything? 5 Steps to Find YOUR Calling - Break Tribune

  3. Lorna Kring says:

    Great post – I particularly like #5. Adapt. After 3 successful careers, I’ve now entered my fourth calling. The job security my parents knew no longer applies to today’s economy and work places; those who can adapt and ride the tide of change have a far better chance of enjoying, and prospering, from the process.

  4. I always figured that definition of ‘talent’ is – loving passionately what you’re doing (or attempting to do) and never second guessing your ability to do it (so, no imposing limitations on it). This would produce lightning fast learning in the field (which you love).

    But definitions aside, love the article.

  5. growthguided says:

    I think talent or gifted should be words we use very wisely when defining someones ability. One of the most powerful books that explains this idea is “Mindset” – by Carol Dweck.

    If we use the label talented or gifted we put exclusionary walls up in the minds of our peers who might be attempting to create skill sets in a particular field. It has been proven time and time again that legendary characters in history, like the Michael Jordans in their specific fields got there from hours and passionate practice, not talent!

  6. Natalie says:

    Thank You for this nicely written article with great tips. I totally agree it is best to follow your talent. But I think we need to change or expand our definition of talent. You could have a talent for organizing, listening, speaking, math, story telling or any number of things.

    I discovered I had a talent for computer programming. It came real easy for me. Everything made sense to me while others around me in school were struggling. I changed my major to follow it. But I never really had a passion for it.

    I discovered a previously unknown talent for non-fiction writing when, for the company newsletter, I created a regular feature on technology.,

  7. Can’t argue with that Patrick. Thanks for commenting :)

  8. For sure Natalie. That’s what’s behind my observation about an individual not being talented at everything but definitely being talented at something. Too often the mainstream perception is that talent only lies in the field of sports, music or something equally easily identifiable.
    People overlook that you can have a talent for organizing, listening, speaking etc .. . and don’t realize that these very valid talents could open some amazing doors for them.
    Glad you’re getting to express your talent for teaching :)

  9. I partly agree in that practice and passion will ultimately oust talent in terms of achievement, but don’t discount the role it plays.

    As I mentioned in the article, the field where I got to observe this the best was through sports (tennis to be exact). If you had a child with obvious talent compared to a child without, and they were both equally passionate and both put in the same amount of hours, the talented child would ALWAYS progress further. I saw this happen on many occasions.

    So then you say, what is talent? The talent I’m talking about is a very raw ability. What the child or person brings to their discipline without any learning. With tennis, some 4 year olds can just hit a ball over the net without any instruction. Most, though, can’t and it’s this natural distinction that I call talent. I very much doubt Michael Jordan didn’t display a natural talent for basketball. But as you say, passion and practice is what made him a superstar.

    My concept of talent is certainly not exclusionary and I get what you’re saying about being careful of putting up walls. I’ve seen many examples of the passionate kids excelling beyond the talented so you’re right about not discouraging anyone. I just feel if you pursue your talents, you’re going to make life a lot easier on yourself – but you’ve got to be passionate about it!

  10. Thanks Antonio, glad you liked it.
    I see where you’re coming from with the definition.
    I was just going for raw ability but both work.

  11. Thanks Lorna. Good point.
    I actually nearly left off #5 but then realized that in today’s day and age it would be crazy to suggest that you might only have one calling.

  12. Thomas Yates says:

    Talent will only get you so far. To find your calling and see it through, you have to be obsessed about living it. – Could not agree more! If your obsession is where your talent lies then you are on to a winner. If it doesn’t then take the steps to become talented in the area of your obsession.

  13. Great point Thomas, thanks for the comment.

  14. David Goettsch says:

    Awesome article Joe. I always love it when someone tells me I can’t do something. It’s like issuing a challenge. It’s sad how often we let others limit our potential. You never know your true limits until you push them, an even then they can often be broken! Thanks for sharing!

    Dave (Personal Growth Project)

  15. David Goettsch says:

    Awesome article Joe. I always love it when someone tells me I can’t do something. It’s like issuing a challenge. It’s sad how often we let others limit our potential. You never know your true limits until you push them, an even then they can often be broken! Thanks for sharing!

    Dave (Personal Growth Project)

  16. Elena says:

    I’m pretty good at drawing, I did it more than 10 years or 10.000 hours. In contrast, my major is law and foreign languages, some of my acquintances say that I can become a good lawyer. I thought that one will be my job and another – my hobby, but I reached a point when I figured that I don’t have great passion for non of them. Can we build a Real love for something that we Must love doing?
    From Moldova & Thank you!

  17. Thanks Dave, appreciate the comment.
    I always like telling people,’Your only limit is your ambition.’
    So true about breaking through those limits!

  18. Thanks Elena, it’s great that you’re talented at so many things!
    To answer your question, I don’t think we can.
    When you really love something, there’s no MUST about it. You just want to do the thing as much as possible. The skill is to make that pay so you can do it for the rest of your life. Or not give a damn about money and just enjoy it.
    Good luck

  19. Very useful and supportive article. I wish I can do all of
    that in a short period of time.

  20. Thanks, of course it takes time but you’ll get there.

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