Thank you for your reply, and I think your points are worth pondering over, but, that said, some questions come to mind:
Originally Posted By: aquinas

1. Talent is only developed meaningfully with significant time and effort. There's no magic bullet. You have to put in the time on task if you expect proficiency in any career or pursuit.

I wouldn't mind this so much if the investment wasn't so high. If you need to spend 5-10,000 hours working on something for uncertain reward, even if you're talented, that becomes very difficult to do. Increasingly, it seems like almost every field is like that. And as gifted children, we don't end up realizing this unless we were challenged immensely as kids, and once we're adults, it's too late to put in that kind of effort simply because there isn't enough time left, and I can't help but feel bitter about that fact. Again, I'm passable at a lot of things, I might be able to get into grad school for whatever I studied, and maybe a number of other topics if they didn't weigh so heavily on having a related degree, because I can easily self-study the material, and most fields are not really hard at the Masters level to study on your own if that makes sense. I've had friends doing grad school in math, and I think many of them shared this sentiment.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

You might have heard the expression "hard work beats talent when talent isn't working hard." A minimum threshold of talent is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. I suspect you have met or exceeded that threshold, so effort will drive your results.

There have been studies where they have showed that the top 10% of an already very gifted population does much better than the others. All of these talented people do work hard when they actually get into professions, such as in grad school from what I've seen -- yes, theoretically, they could be working harder. They only spend 2-4 hours a day. But I've tried putting in more hours than that, but I fail every time because my mind does not cooperate with 8 hours of solid effort a day. So I don't see myself out-working them.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

A common deflection is to dismiss available options as being not interesting or challenging enough. These are ego defenses, not rational thinking. Beginner jobs are for beginners. You haven't earned the next level until you pass through the early stage.

From what I've seen, this is not true. Beginner jobs often waste time, time that could be spent learning, and I think your time might be better spent getting a better education, improving your skill set and gunning directly for difficult jobs. I know that you're well-meaning in the sense of it being the way the world works, but I don't think it's optimal is all. Bill Gates went to college, came up with his own algorithm for sorting in freshman year, quit college and directly went into founding a company, for example, and he didn't get into a beginning job. Did he earn the next level, or did he just go for it?

Originally Posted By: aquinas

As you progress, you can get referrals to more advanced instruction, or simply enjoy the fruits of your effort. Both are valid options.

My current piano teacher has a doctorate. It doesn't give me that satisfaction, maybe because I have so much experience being that very precocious kid that I can't get over the feeling that I've lost something. Like my achievements at a younger age were so much more impressive from an objective standpoint. Now I'm realizing that interest or passion is a sham, and can't replace pure hard work. So even if you grow up learning something you hate to a high level, you will be better at that than something you pick up afterwards, even though you hate the former and love the latter.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

5. As to "big" vs "small" successes: big achievements are only possible through a series of small ones. No one summits a mountain in ten steps.

True, but the small successes need to be the right ones, in the right order, for them to build up to something bigger. You need to know which successes to pursue which will actually get you up the mountain, and that is not easy to tell. You often see that successful people have this kind of "insider information".