When Your Talent Doesn’t Pay the Bills: Why Potential Isn’t Enough (And What to Do About It)

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A few years ago, a friend commissioned me for a freelance writing project. He was so impressed, he casually remarked that someone with my skill level should be raking in at least $2,000 a month. I chuckled, but the comment hit a nerve. I was barely scraping by on $100 a month at the time.

This got me thinking: Why was there such a huge gap between my potential and my reality? I knew I wasn’t the only one facing this struggle. Many talented young Nigerians (and people all over the world) are stuck in a similar rut. We have big dreams and undeniable skills, but our bank accounts don’t seem to reflect our worth.

So, what gives? Why does potential often fail to translate into a better life? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

The Potential Trap

motivation myths related to your potential

Growing up in Nigeria, we’re often bombarded with the message that talent is the golden ticket to success. Our education system, with its emphasis on academic achievement and professional qualifications, often reinforces this focus on potential over practical application. We’re encouraged to focus on our “potential” – our grades, our degrees, our talents – believing that our innate abilities will inevitably lead to a fulfilling and prosperous life.

While talent is undeniably valuable, it’s merely one piece of the puzzle. As many of us have learned the hard way, potential alone doesn’t guarantee success in life. In a country with limited job opportunities, a struggling economy, and widespread inequality, it’s not uncommon to see highly skilled individuals struggling to make ends meet. Even with a degree and years of experience, landing a well-paying job can feel like winning the lottery.

This disparity between potential and reality isn’t unique to Nigeria, but it’s particularly pronounced in a society that places a high value on academic achievement while often neglecting the development of practical skills and entrepreneurial mindsets. We’re taught to strive for prestigious degrees and white-collar jobs, but we’re not always equipped with the tools to navigate the complexities of the real world.

The result? A generation of talented individuals who are underemployed, frustrated, and disillusioned. We see our peers in other countries achieving financial independence and living their dreams, while we’re stuck in a cycle of low-paying jobs and unfulfilled aspirations.

Mindset Matters: Breaking Free from Limiting Beliefs

losing motivation as a reflection of mindset

But the problem isn’t just external. Sometimes, the biggest obstacles to our success are the ones we create in our minds. In Nigeria, where societal expectations and cultural norms often dictate our paths, it’s easy to internalize limiting beliefs about our abilities and worth. We may doubt our skills, fear failure, or feel like we’re not “good enough” to achieve our dreams.

These limiting beliefs can act as invisible barriers, preventing us from fully realizing our potential. We may hesitate to take risks, shy away from opportunities, or settle for less than we deserve. The fear of failure can paralyze us, keeping us stuck in our comfort zones and preventing us from reaching our full potential.

It’s time to rewrite the script in our heads. We need to cultivate a growth mindset, embrace our imperfections, and believe in our ability to learn and improve. This means acknowledging that our abilities are not fixed but can be developed through dedication and effort. It means viewing challenges as opportunities for growth, rather than insurmountable obstacles.

Embracing a growth mindset also involves practising self-compassion. We need to be kind to ourselves, acknowledge our struggles, and recognize that setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. By treating ourselves with understanding and encouragement, we can build resilience and perseverance, essential qualities for achieving long-term success.

Beyond Potential: Taking Action to Create Your Reality

recovering from motivation slump - motivation myths

Talent and a positive mindset are important, but they’re not enough. Unleashing your potential requires taking proactive steps to bridge the gap between your abilities and your desired reality. This means moving beyond the limitations of your current circumstances and actively creating opportunities for yourself.

In the Nigerian context, this can be particularly challenging. With limited resources and a competitive job market, it’s easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. But it’s precisely in these challenging environments that resourcefulness and resilience become paramount.

Here are some actionable strategies to consider:

  1. Learn What the Market Wants: Go beyond your academic qualifications and invest in learning in-demand skills that are relevant to the current job market. This could involve taking online courses, attending workshops, or seeking out mentorships. By acquiring practical skills that are valued by employers, you increase your chances of landing well-paying jobs and creating opportunities for career advancement.
  2. Build Authentic Relationships: Networking isn’t just about exchanging business cards; it’s about building genuine relationships with people who can offer support, guidance, and opportunities. Attend industry events, join online communities, and connect with professionals in your field. A strong network can open doors to new possibilities and provide valuable insights into navigating the Nigerian job market.
  3. Create Your Hustle: Don’t limit yourself to traditional employment. Explore entrepreneurial ventures, freelance opportunities, or side hustles that leverage your skills and passions. In a country with a thriving entrepreneurial spirit, creating your path can be a viable way to achieve financial independence and personal fulfilment.
  4. Investing in Yourself: Never stop learning and growing. Stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in your field. Read books, listen to podcasts, and attend conferences to expand your knowledge and stay ahead of the curve. Investing in yourself is an investment in your future.
  5. Financial Literacy: Educate yourself about personal finance, budgeting, saving, and investing. Understanding how to manage your money effectively is crucial for achieving financial stability and long-term success. In a country with a high inflation rate and limited social safety nets, financial literacy is essential for building a secure future.

Your Story Is Yours to Write

Remember, your potential is just the starting point. It’s a blank canvas waiting for you to paint your masterpiece. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that talent alone is enough. Don’t let societal expectations or limiting beliefs hold you back either. Embrace a growth mindset, take proactive action, and continuously strive to improve your skills and knowledge. Be free to create the life you deserve, one that’s not dictated by your circumstances but by your dreams, aspirations, and unwavering determination. The power to unleash your full potential lies within you.


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