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Talent Is A Myth

Ever wondered how some people can play the piano and some can’t? How about acting – some people are just better actors than others, aren’t they?

Many experts agree: focussed practice and supervised learning supported by a keen interest in doing a task well, leads to greater skill and higher achievement, independent of how well you perform a task when you start learning it.

boy with yukele royalty free image from unsplash

I started my exploration of talent a while back when some friends asked me to find unsigned, talented actors and performers for their agency. In trying to find people with skills in the performing arts and sport who have good camera presence and confidence I realised: they are very hard to find.

I had to ask myself: “Where do I find these talented people?”

Are the talented performers of tomorrow spending their time online in any one place where I could contact them, or are they out there doing things?

I found so few people on-line who would qualify that I started to wonder:

What is talent anyway?

Many people believe that talent is something you are born with – an innate ability. But is this true?

After lots of reading and time spent exploring my memory on how I got my skills, I came to the following conclusions:

  • There is no indication in early childhood that correlates to what we will do as adults, or even the skills we may become good at.
  • Our skills develop as we learn and those things we spend more time on, those we pay attention to, become our strongest skills.
  • A good teacher can accelerate your learning by helping you to correct aspects of your performance that might hold you back later on. A bad teacher can help you waste your time and steal your focus.
    Catch them when they’re good: TED Talk by Dr. Ivan Joseph
  • A little encouragement goes a long way, but a little encouragement can be defeated by a lot of punishment. We are built to seek reward.
  • Developing a talent in any given skill depends heavily on the interest a person has in developing that skill.
    We can translate the knowledge we use to perform one skill to other similar tasks, helping us excel at learning the new set of skills.
  • You can develop any skill, barring a physical or mental handicap, to the highest level through guided learning and focussed practice.
  • “You’re so talented (and I’m not)” is an excuse people use to not even try. It defeats the person using the phrase and minimises the time and effort you have put into becoming the amazing, skilled individual you are.
  • True confidence is built on hard work and practise.
  • You don’t have to be an expert to be good enough.
  • Good work and humility = a chance at success
  • No work = failure
  • Ceasing to work = ability decreases

So where will I find these “talented” people? Where they are spending their time and money learning to do the things they do, and by giving my knowledge so I can add value.

Learing: Exploding the myth of 10 000 hours

Check out this TED talk video by Josh Kaufman about learning any skill to competence within 20 hours. Skip ahead to the five minute mark if you want an explanation of where the “it takes 10 000 hours to get good at something” comes from.

Dirk Jonker