This may be an unpopular opinion but I believe everyone was born with a talent. Some people may have multiple talents and may need very little to discover what these talents may be. Others may also go through many years of life before arriving at a discovery. Despite all these limiting factors, I believe there is a talent in every one of us, simply needing a push to be discovered.
In order to have this discussion without any assumptions, let us agree on what talent is. The Cambridge Dictionary explains it as a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught. Merriam Webster says it is a general intelligence or mental power. It goes ahead to give more details in which practical areas we can call a person talented: a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. All three definitions are very true. We have experienced for ourselves or in others what talents are. Generally, most artists require no teaching or prior experience before releasing their craft. From as little as three years, we have seen many exhibitions of talents. Some have been on the stages of American Idol and some have made it on our social media feeds through viral means. Those may be the more dramatic instances but talent is all around us.
I am strongly aligned to this next definition of talent. Talent—when I use the word, I mean it as the rate at which you get better with effort. The rate at which you get better at soccer is your soccer talent. The rate at which you get better at math is your math talent. You know, given that you are putting forth a certain amount of effort. And I absolutely believe—and not everyone does, but I think most people do—that there are differences in talent among us: that we are not all equally talented” (Duckworth, 2016).
My family has always teased me about how much I talk. In fact, I have accepted it as one of my talents. I am quick to think on my feet so it is almost impossible to catch me blank during a conversation. Before I started as a professional coach, I had been teased so much that when I finally had the opportunity to address a crowd, I froze. For the first time, my mind was blank! What happened to me? Why could I not talk? After thorough thinking, I realized that I had not nurtured this skill I had. I did not realize that it takes so much more to address a crowd than knowing how to chit chat for long hours to friends and family. I had not practiced speaking in front of a large audience in such a manner. Yes, I had always entertained large family gatherings but was that enough to make me a good speaker? In the event that I had not frozen, would I still be able to articulate my thoughts in an organized fashion or would I jump from one topic to another in the same haphazard fashion as I would in a casual conversation?
Being talented is merely a gift and similarly to all other things in life, talents must be groomed before they can bloom. Consistently practising a craft is a form of grooming. Reading to gain more knowledge is a form of grooming. Going to skill to be taught new things about a field you are already talented in is a form of grooming. Polishing our talents can take any shape or form. The key thing is add on, subtract where necessary and round off on the rough patches so we are better at what we do. Author Malcolm Gladwell even calculates that mastery in any field of endeavor requires at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. And here is the math on that: 90 minutes a day for 20 years. Most people, though, would rather just skip ahead to the part where they are awesome. But even when you are talented, you must put in the work hours!
In a room, there are two tennis players born equally talented. What would set them apart? How does one grow up to be more successful than the other? In answering these questions, we will appreciate that your talent or skill is not at all sufficient. Aside having the natural ability to do something, there are several contributing factors that people in business look out for to pick you! Discipline is one of them. A few years ago, I sat with a brilliant young girl. In our interaction, she expressed her love for writing. So, I asked to see some of her works. It was clear to me that she had a wild imagination which reflected in her beautiful stories but there was more lacking. She had no depth and no discipline. She wanted to make a career of writing and yet, she wrote only when she felt like it. I tasked her to do something peculiar. She was to sit behind her notepad every morning and write something meaningful for 7 days. She came back to me with blank sheets and frustrated at the realization that she was inconsistent and lacked discipline. Even though she was able to write really well, she had not trained herself to good enough to make a business of it. After several months of practising, she was unable to go a day without writing a piece.
Talent is an elusive factor to bank your business on because the cruel world of business requires so much more from you. Talent is not everything; especially when others can be good at the same thing without being naturally talented. This means that there is a space for learning everywhere. If you take a naturally talented singer who seldom practises and one who has taught himself to sing for many years, it is very likely that the practising individual may be better in their craft.
To briefly sum up the Carol Dweck’s findings: Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning. When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.
So how do we set ourselves on a path to win? How do we recognize our talents and polish them?
What is your identity? Who are you and what are you good at? These two very simple questions I want you to answer before we proceed. You may be able to confidently answer both questions or not. What matters most is knowing. Your talent or skill may not be as evident as others. In fact, you as a person may not even consider it to be a talent. But it is! As I mentioned earlier, all I knew before coaching was that I talked a lot and I wanted to help people transform their lives. With this knowledge I garnered up some more skills and here I am today. So, I will ask again, what is peculiar to you? Find your identity.
Releasing something here means expressing it. It also means practising it. The more you release your skills, the more you learn about your strengths and your weaknesses. Knowing what the links are will help you work harder in those areas to perfect your craft. That is how you become a master of something. You do it so many times that the probability of you failing in that regard becomes very low. According to research, it took master chess players — older than the age of 11 — an average of 11.7 years to reach such a high status. That is 12 years of intense chess play every single day.
Whether or not you have a natural ability to do something, deliberate practice at it can get you far. This is the reformative mindset you should have. It is a general principal of life that we learn by practising. Whether it means to learn to dance by practising dancing or to learn to live by practising living, the principles are the same.Only through practice and more practice, until you can do something without conscious effort.” – Joe Hyams
Live intentionally and you will discover more to yourself. It will not all come to you at once, but as you read books, work in a space that interests you, have conversations with friends and family and do meaningful things that help you grow, you will find yourself. You can make a talent for yourself by simply being great at what you do. If you can do it, you were born with it!
“Every day is an opportunity to be creative — the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colors are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today — it matters.” — Innerspace