Over at Nathan Bransfords Blog he asks the question “How can you tell if you have writing talent.”
I think it’s a good question, one which sparked a lot of thoughts in my head. I didn’t want create an overly long response, so I’ve decided to examine the question and idea a little further here.
I think talent is a cool thing to have, but I also think it can be a double edged sword.
Talent in the beginning makes things very, very simple. So simple in fact, often the person with the talent does not have to exert maximal effort in order to have their work be above someone else’s. That is what first draws people’s attention. That is where the talented person becomes aware of their gift.
But that very same thing is also the danger.
The problem occurs, when you do not have to try your best, in order to be the best. If this goes on for too long, it creates a sense of easy fulfillment, a sense of simple success. Success acquired without hard work. Success that teaches very little. Success that may not be the best thing for the person to get, based solely on their talent.
For example let’s take two football players. One has talent at a very young age. The other is average, maybe even a little below average.
The one with talent does what he does without thinking, without effort. The other guy has to work just to get a chance to play. As their careers progress they move up to junior high school ( or Middle School if you prefer *g* ).
Now there are more people competing for the spot on the football team as several elementary schools combine into one JHS. There are more people who are talented. So the talented person has more competition with people on an equal level. The average guy, is still average, but still loves the sport. He works harder to make the team, even if it’s only to ride the bench. The guy with talent is still damn good, so he starts.
Now, some of those guys who had talent are now bench warmers. Some of them realize they have to work. Some don’t. Some of the average guys look around and see what they are up against and quit. They know they are not good enough even if they busted their humps day and night.
Four years pass. They graduate JHS and go to HS. Again, same thing occurs. Even more talented people are competing with each other. More average players drop out as the level of what average is, increases beyond their ability to reach. Some average and talented players learn they have to start working to succeed. Some don’t and won’t make it.
Another four years pass. Now they enter college. Once again the level of talent increases. Once again new people find their skills are no longer enough and that it requires extra effort. Once again people drop out as the definition of what average is, increases. Once again people learn and adjust or fail.
Time goes by. It’s time to turn pro. The talent level expands once again. What it means to be average rises to another level and you have all types of players who are pros:
*You have the guy with talent who learned to work hard.
*You have the guy with talent who learned to coast on his skills.
*You have the average guy who learned to work hard.
*You have the talented guy who is now average who learned to coast on his skills.
What does this all mean?
You will not be able to coast forever. There comes a point where the level of your talent is going to be challenged by people who are equally talented. There comes a point where the level of your talent is going to be challenged by people who learned to work hard.
The question is, How have you learned to use your talent?
If you’re really, really talented then you can coast for a long time without much effort. The fact is that once you get into the big wide world, your dealing with a whole new level of talented people. You will be challenged.
Did you learn to work?
If you take talent and combine it with and indispensable will to work and achieve and improve. You will get the Michael Jordans’, the Kobe Bryants’ , the LeBron James’ of the world.
If you take someone who learned to work hard you may get the Tom Bradys’ of the world.
If you take someone who never learned to work, never had to struggle, never had to overcome, you get one of the many first, second, and third round draft picks that become known as a bust.
Talent only guarantees you will have it easy for a period of time. It only guarantees that you can coast for a little while. But talent is a gift that you do not give yourself. It is a gift that in order to maximize you must strive to become better than yourself.
And isn’t that the most important lesson for any of us to learn? To become better than who we currently are.