Blog Post # 14 Talent

Talent: a natural aptitude or skill. This is the dictionary definition I got from google, however there are two main uses of this word that people use in regular speech. The first is using it as a synonym for being very good at something, e.g. Lebron James is very talented at basketball. The second is using it as an explanation for someone’s skill at something, e.g. Lebron James is good at basketball because he is very talented. The implication being that they are born with their talent, regardless of what they had done in life they would naturally attuned to that particular activity. I despise the second usage case of this word and there are a few reasons why I dislike it so much.

To start off, I think it is not useful communication in any way. It only belittles/undermines the effort someone put in to get to where they are. As someone who put in a lot of effort to be skilled enough to become a professional League player, if someone implied that I got here through my talent at video games I would strongly disagree. I was very lucky, and I put in tens of thousands of hours playing video games before I even started playing League where I proceeded to spend another few ten thousand hours. I put in the time, and I was driven enough when I started playing league to genuinely try to improve the entire time and that has led me to where I am today. The only reason I am good at video games in general, is that I have played more video games than almost anyone the same age as me, and played many different types of video games, it has nothing to do with talent.

Additionally, it sends the wrong message to kids/people learning about how much effort they ought to put in. If you are taught that some people are more talented than others, you will be less motivated to put in the effort as your effort will not be rewarded fairly. However from my experience that could not be farther from the truth. The people who put in the most effort are often the most successful at what they do. There is a slight caveat however, and that is what I believe people mistake for talent and that is your upbringing.

There are plenty of skills that you could develop throughout your entire life, and while you will develop most of them by the time you are 50, you will develop some skills before others. For example, learning to share is an important skill that almost everybody will learn at some point. For siblings, there will be an increased amount of situations in your childhood where you will be faced with the “problem” of how to share fairly. In contrast, an only child with rich parents that has a tutor instead of school, they can go through their childhood without ever having to worry about sharing anything. How does this relate to talent? Well think about how your understanding of sharing can impact your ability to play basketball. If you don’t share well, you will often try to do things alone. In a team sport like basketball, this is unlikely to work as well as being able to play as a team and share the ball with your teammates. It sounds rudimentary, but this is the way I see what other people diagnose as “talent”

That, in my opinion, is how “talent” really works. There is nothing natural about it, it is all related to your upbringing and the skills that you developed and nurtured as a child. As a former child, I recognize I did not have a lot of say in anything I did. There is an element of randomness that comes with what skills someone will experience, but the distinction that it is something you developed versus something you are born with is very important to me. The reason is very simple, it promotes the idea that hard work pays off, and that you need to work hard before you can work easy.

Why is this so important to me? The answer is quite simple, I was nurtured believing talent is something you are born with and as a result I have developed what I believe to be a serious weakness in my psyche. I am quick to give up if I am not immediately good at something. I was a smart kid and was able to cruise through grades 1–12 with minimal effort, and started playing soccer and hockey when I was 4 years old. I was one of if not the best player on my team 90% of the years I played those sports. Do you want to know why I stopped playing at 14? I was not good anymore. I had to actually put in effort to be good, and that was too much of a hurdle which resulted in me just giving up.

That is just how I am, and it will be maybe for the rest of my life. I do not want others to make the same mistakes I have. If I could go back I would force myself to genuinely put in the effort in everything, not just give up at the slightest inconvenience. I stopped going to Tae Kwon Do, I stopped going to a private school, I stopped playing soccer, I stopped playing hockey. All of these things I wish I kept doing as if I had not been lucky enough to make a career out of the one thing I was the best at I would have been screwed. It may not be obvious why I want to change all these decisions, as outside of being much more physically fit they may seem like innocuous decisions in the past. The big problem is that it positively reinforced a recurring habit of laziness, and that laziness eventually led to apathy. I have identified this flaw of mine, but I do not know how to overcome it.

I hope I gave you reason to think more about this topic, please feel free to let me know your own thoughts on it as I would love to hear them. I think I will post a blog the last day of each month, as that seems to be when I end up doing them anyway.

-Nicholas

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