Perseverance is a Great Substitute for Talent: The Wisdom of Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up is not just about his life and career, it’s about the effort, the accidents, the luck, and the “wild and crazy”-ness of work and life. Martin shares lessons about trial and error, drawing inspiration but still finding your voice, dealing with failure, dealing with success, closing a successful chapter in one’s career, and so, so much more. 


Here are two quotes on talent and self-confidence worth considering:


“Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.” 


We all wonder if we’re actually good at something from time to time (if not all of the time). Martin isn’t giving us a “fake it ‘til you make it” plea, he’s saying show up, really do the work, ship the product/deliver the service, learn something, and keep moving forward. If we want to make up for absent talent, we better learn from experience.


“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivety. That fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”


Thinking we can do something others are scared to do requires us to be a little bit crazy. Sure, we tell ourselves it’s a calculated risk, but there’s a reason not everyone is an entrepreneur. Identifying the naivety as the spark, the self-belief that propels is forward, is essential. If we can dream it just enough to start doing the work, we have a chance – no matter how small – of actually succeeding.


Born Standing Up is a great read. For the audiobook crowd, Martin reads it himself – complete with banjo interludes between chapters. These quotes scratch the surface on the stories he tells. If you’re in need of a dose of inspiration, confidence, or just some humor – check it out.