The Myth Of Talent

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Photograph Compliments of Etienne Girardet

What is the benchmark of talent? What determines artistic ability?
A person may ask themselves – am I talented enough? The answer is another question – for what?

Talent And The Human Species

We all have our opinions on the connotation of talent. It is inherent in cultural mind-speak to think that the gifts of aptitude are arbitrary. Common belief carries the illusion that particular people are born with different grades of quality others do not have; there are savants, then there is the rest of us with our limited capabilities.

Our ancestors had little time for anything else but the day-to-day demands of surviving. Being gifted a superior set of genes, i.e., their heredity, allowed someone to excel in the ancient world which meant a great deal. In modern times, when a person might spend half a lifetime in a career with complex areas of expertise, there is less need for ‘talent’ and more for acquiring specialization.

Specialization is the key, especially in art. Society’s ideas about successful sports figures, businesspeople, scientists, and artists are rooted in our ancient past. Today, excellence isn’t necessarily the genetic gifts we have received but more of hard work and the benefit from life’s opportunities.

Talent Is Real

Talent is essential, the cornerstone of human endeavor, but effort is required to acquire aptitudes. The concept of talent is not a theory but a recognition of how we perceive and interact with our world. Individual mastery and skillfulness determine how a person reacts to challenges and failure.

For example, someone who believes talent is only a gift might question why they should work hard. If the gene pool had been kind, they should have rolled up to the top. All a person has to do is look around and see all the successful people in the world. Why bother when all of these examples have natural talent?

And who can blame younger people for this perspective, given this pervasive belief? I know it impacted me.

Otherwise, a person will persevere by taking steps and expending effort to achieve talent, especially with rock-solid core beliefs. With discipline and a dream, failure does not become accusatory but more of a prospect to thrive and adapt. Here lies the opportunity to excel.

Everyone Has Talent

Photograph Compliments of Kelly Sikkema

Everyone has talent. Of some sort.

You might be an Einstein but not able to do your taxes. Perhaps you are a brilliant pianist who is unable to recognize road signs. You may be an accounting expert but could improve your relationships. The list goes on. It is all relative.

When we observe and follow the lead of others, we gain clarity, learn the rules and glimpse how things work and fit together. If we keep practicing, we gain fluency and master essential skills. Acquiring aptitude allows us to take on newer and more exciting challenges, leading to more extraordinary talent. We begin to visualize relationships that were invisible to us before. By sheer persistence, we slowly gain confidence in our ability to solve problems or overcome weaknesses.

How We Acquire Talent

As time passes, we move from being a student to living as a practitioner.
We embrace and modify learned concepts and experiment with our new ideas. Grasping expanded knowledge guides us down the road of increasing creativity. Rather than mimicking how to do things, our individuality and style come into play.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different result. That is how an artist refines technique. The repetition allows us to progress to the next echelon and on and on. So, yes, we are somewhat obsessed.

As years go by and we remain faithful to this process, yet another leap takes place—to craftwork and proficiency. The keyboard is no longer something outside of us; the pen is an extension of our mind; a fretboard is internalized and becomes part of our fingertips; the console, or canvas, is the domain of our nervous system.

Those with natural abilities have limited skills until they actively pursue extending that talent. Those at the top of their game have spent a lifetime developing their skills. By acting upon the gift they have received, they continue to manifest their expertise.

There is the intersection of curiosity, creativity, and technical expertise. Can I write a symphony or a song, produce an album, play in a band, produce a podcast, or write a book? I can do all those things to varying degrees. Are my abilities good enough to compete on a professional playing field? If they are not, does that make me less talented, or do I have a lower level of aptitude?

Big Goals And Motivation

Photograph Compliments of Drew Beamer

Mastering a process, or ability, is an activator of mental attributes that equip mental characteristics for practical use. Learning develops the capability to immerse, process, and devote new data to an existing or prospective context.

Passion in this context is interchangeable with intensity, and when we’re doing things about which we’re passionate, we become myelin machines—which means we learn quickly. The essence of our neural physiology kicks in and enhances our abilities.

Lady Gaga spent everyday for six months with a vocal coach to prepare for an Oscar Awards performance. This is Lady Gaga, one of the best. If this is Lady Gaga, what should you be doing?

If you have a more expanded level of learning capability, you can adapt rapidly to unknown contexts. You will develop the capacity to move on from mistakes, substituting old information and abilities with new and more current data, pushing your ‘talent’ levels further.

Learning And The Myth Of Talent

Brain circuits are reinforced through repetition, intensity, and focus. The human brain learns to change and adapt as a result of experience. Every new reflection, feeling, and movement creates a unique neural footpath.

There are two ways to approach these varying states of mind: The one that knows you will find what you need but cannot see and the one that believes only in what it can see at that moment.

Our brains have billions of neurons. We have sensory neurons, motor neurons, and relay neurons. How many variable pathways can we carve into our brains with these different options? Why would you not get busy and increase your talent as an artist with aspirations?

Whatever habits you have in place, whether you have a good or bad day, the responsibility is yours alone. Stop believing in the preconceived notions of arbitrary circumstances and mysteries in your life. Some of what we believe is true; discard the things holding you back. Is there an advantage gained by holding onto our self-created image of whom we think we are as opposed to what we want to become?

The Fear Of Failure

Photograph Compliments of Brett Jordan

A stone-cold truth: Before success comes failure, many, many times. In the process of refining technique, failure happens over and over and over. People flinch from starting the pilgrimage because they do not want to fail. And pilgrimage it is. 

Prepare for the desert journey; this is where we feel like we have tried everything, but nothing works. Creativity explodes and has momentum, yet people are not interested in our ideations. Our skillset has improved, but more is needed to help the current projects. Finally, someone pays attention to our work, but we can not hold their interest. By this time, most people fail and give up.

We all want to succeed in our endeavors. In a society that embraces instant gratification, failure doesn’t have to be faced. Success is one click away. Social media companies and casinos understand that our brains rewards us with dopamine when we find something we are looking for. Hence, true addiction. Why else would the average YouTube viewer spend over 40 minutes each day watching videos if there were not some reward involved.

Social media grants rewards without risk, which is why it is so popular.

Question The Myth Of Talent

The question is – why spend time suffering the uncertainty of perceived failure when, with time and effort, success and rewards are so accessible. It is easier than you think to thrive when we cast aside indecision and reinforce our core beliefs. With sustained work and focus, anyone can do anything within the framework of their abilities; that’s my belief.

Some people are incredibly gifted singers, born with the ability. You may not know how to sing, but you can learn how. You may or may not become an expert as a vocalist, but you will still sing well enough. All it takes is work.

And In The End…

All of us searching to enhance our talent seek fascinating topics that pique our interest. That’s part of the enigma of talent. Understanding the difference between one thing and another requires paying attention. To be alive to the present possibilities, one must be in pursuit and open to the changing circumstances of talent’s reward.

Of all the talented people I know, one abiding constant is the desire to keep improving their skillset.

Does it matter who is better? Those people are everywhere. What matters most in the pursuit of your talent is interest.

Learning and improvement. Discipline. Perseverance.

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Debunking Myths

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