There is a popular quote that gets passed around athletic and performance circles. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." It's catchy and easy to remember, but I think it's missing a key component: time.
It requires a great deal of patience for someone with a strong work ethic to out perform someone who is naturally talented. One day's worth of work ethic won't close a significant talent gap.
If you see yourself as someone with average talent, the earlier you can begin "working hard" the sooner you'll begin outperforming those with a natural disposition to win.
I found this to be especially true when I joined my school's chess club in the 5th grade.
I sit down at my very first competition and wait for my opponent. We had just practiced a new opening last week that I am eager to utilize. Before long, I look up to see my opponent sitting down. This can't be right. She's... five? I almost pity the kindergartener sitting across from me, but shake her hand nonetheless and open with the Italian Game I'd learned the week prior.
Eight minutes later I'm staring in disbelief as she captures my queen. Three more moves and its checkmate. In a matter of ten minutes I go from seeing myself as the next Bobby Fischer to reconsidering if I even know how the pieces work.
I later find out this young girl learned how to play when she was two years old and had played hundreds of games in her short life. Other than some adorable pigtails, she had one huge advantage over me: repetitions.
When people say "work ethic," what they're referring to is your execution of repetitions. How often are you practicing what you want to perform well in? How many times a week are you writing? How many hours are you investing in learning a new language? How many times a day to you read something valuable versus checking social media?
Hard work beats talent when you allow it a enough time.
Repetitions X Consistency = High Performance.
Count how many reps you took last week in the area you want to perform well in. Double that number this week.
Do you rely more on talent or work ethic?
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge