I am broadly skeptical about the discourse of "top talent", which suggests that it is static, and think there is some combination of person, opportunity, and supporting infrastructure which results in outsized productivity (or other outcomes).
That said, productivity differences between people, opportunities, and supporting infrastructure (keeping other factors constant) is one of those brute facts of the world that will continue negatively surprising someone until they come to terms with it.
What makes people productive? High energy levels, good discernment of what to work on, ability to leverage the work of others (particularly as they move forward in their career), good alignment with the organization they find themselves in, being good at the thing they do (a surprisingly underrated source of competitive advantage!), caring an unreasonable amount about the thing they do (a surprisingly underrated source of competitive advantage!), an unwillingness to settle for their current level of productivity, etc.
This question is part of an AMA with Patrick McKenzie.View entire AMA with Patrick McKenzie.