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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Not The Most Talented

By Kevin O'Toole, December 06 2022 12:02 am

When you have less talent and want to succeed against those more talented, what do you do?

According to Jürgen Klinsmann, a famous and very successful German soccer player and coach, all you need to do is work harder, have more drive and be able to endure some suffering.

Since the days of playing flag football in the 6th grade, I frequently saw less naturally talented players excel on the field and succeed over naturally gifted players. This observation of the less talented outperforming the gifted ones continues to this present day. Whether it be on the baseball diamond, courtroom, corporate boardroom or Senate floor, I have seen this David vs.Goliath match up unfold many times, and more times than not David won.

The question is why?

My initial reaction (albeit defensive) is its easy for those of us who are not the most talented or born with Ivy League smarts to find ourselves accepting our place in this, at times, cruel world. Few ever ask if they will allow themselves to be stuck in the bottom half of mediocrity or will they do something dynamic toreverse their fortunes?

Most of us work hard, but a rare few really separate themselves from the pack. Those who do, do so by sheer force of will and an unrelenting trip hammer determination. It has little to do with “raw” talent, even though some talent does go a long way, but the true difference maker is when that limited talent is coupled with hustle – like your life depends on it. Acting like the boats are on fire and there is no turning back; acting with a sense of urgency and with a laser focus can help bridge that “talent” gap. Working hard is not just a credo or bumper sticker; it is a way of life that needs to be in your repertoire like breathing and eating.

The concept of drive is an interesting one to wrestle with. Is drive inherited, borne out of circumstance, absorbed by watching, or just flat out developed?

I do not know for sure, but I lean toward the notion that you are not born with drive rather you develop it over time through circumstance and desire and never let it get covered up by success or momentary satisfaction. Drive, to me, is obsessing about a goal and continuing to march forward until that mission is completed. Drive, to me, means thinking about a fixed target while you’re awake and dreaming about it in your sleep. Drive, to me, means a constant churning of your soul circling around the end game and never ceasing until it has been crossed.

Klinsmann mentioned suffering and I take that as we need to play though pain, physical or mental, play though losses and disappointment, and play through even when chaos looms large. Playing through the pain might mean pushing on and gaining perspective as the world around you is on fire and all seems lost. Whether you lost an election, a business deal or a loved one, we need to use that pain and emotion to motivate us to get into thenext gear. We need to feel some pain to know that we never want to revisit that “place,” pushing work ethic into higher gear.

I believe in using “disadvantages” (real or perceived) as motivation to do/be better; maybe I’m from a by-gone generation. The question is, what motivates you to be better? And does it consume you to the point where you actually will be better?

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