Why Ability Overcomes Effort

April 10, 2018


These days with all the things that are happening in the world around you it's easy to get caught up in all the noise. With that said i'd like for us to go on an idea journey about equality and how it relates to ability and effort.


I recently came across an article that talks about why ability beats effort. The author, Stephen Guise, introduces a simple formula for productivity:


Productivity = Effort x Ability  


He states that in this equation, ability is more important than effort:

Let's say for example that you played basketball competitively for 12 years, That in and of itself is a great accomplishment and would probably put you in the top 20% of players. but your ability was never that of Lebron James. On a scale of 1–10, if your basketball ability is a 6, then James's ability is a 10.

Therefore, if you both put forth full 100% effort, according to the formula above, your score would be 60 to his 100. The math  is simple— he’d smoke you in a one on one, even if you tried twice as hard as he did.


Now, on the surface this may seem like less than ideal news. After all, how many will ever have Lebron James's ability on a court? In saying this, we can agree that there is no natural inclination towards equity of outcome, and to try to make eveyone equal would be using a lot of energy towards something that is unnatural. Let's be clear, we should all have equal opportunity to realize our best selves, but the outcomes will never be equal. Lebron was born unequally better than you at the sport of basketball. And that's o.k as i'm sure that you have the ability to be the best at something Lebron can't be the best at. What can you be 1% better at today?


Guise also has another formula for ability:


Ability = Skill + Preparation


Everyone is undoubtedly born with natural ability, in most domains ability is more a function of skill and preparation than it is genetics. This is good news because it means that with focused practice, you can improve your ability in just about anything.


As a wellness practitioner, focusing my clients on developing skills and preparation could mean:

  • Improving skills towards understanding your mind/body

  • Learning new ways to more efficiently manage your life practice

  • Charting a path forward 

The more prepared you are, and the deeper your skillset, the greater your ability. And the greater your ability is, the less effort you'll have to use to achieve the same output it once took you too(productivity).

This is one of the keys towards achieving your goals without burning out. Yet it’s rarely talked about in conversations about productivity. Let's spread this conversation forward.



Here's to your wealth/health!


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