A Little Ray of Sunshine

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Talent and Skill

As a musician, I frequently hear people bemoaning their lack of talent or praising other's talent. I would happily trade several very talented students of mine for students with no talent who were willing to work. (I've got one of these, and while frequently we both get frusterated because it is so hard, he's playing better than others who are talented and who have played just as long but won't work.) Talent, by itself, gets you nowhere.
Frequently the talent of others is used as an excuse for laziness: "She's more talented than I am, that's why she won." (The only more common excuse is favoritism.)
Skill, by itself, may never allow you to be Yo-yo Ma, Jaqueline DuPre, or Janos Starker, but it can get you a decent job in the field. Talent, by itself, will get you nothing but fired from McDonalds because you couldn't bother to show up for work.

There are plenty of jobs that skill will get you by on, talent or no. I've never heard of anything that talent without skill can accomplish.
Talent is great if you have it, and you're willing to work. Skill plus talent will take a person a long ways.
I've been composing since I was two. That's talent. A talent I've never spent much effort on developing. I'm not particularly good at it, because I haven't bothered, but I know that if I put the time and effort into it, I could be. I've been playing (on various instruments) since I was two. I've got quite a lot of talent, and I've put hours and hours into developing it. I make money off of this. I took 3 1/2 years of art classes. I have no talent but a fair amount of skill. If I draw a person you know, you will be able to recognize the person easily, but the drawing just doesn't have that spark.

Some folks will try to tell you it's wrong, maybe even a sin, not to develop every talent you have. Well, there aren't enough hours in the day to put enough into everything. Maybe some folks only have one or two talents. If you've got more, you don't have the time to build the skill to go with them. Then you have wasted them all. I think you're better off to pick the one or two you have the most passion for and develop those. Play with the others if you enjoy them. Actually, I think you're better off to develop skills for whatever you are passionate about, and forget talent. I think you'll be happier.

Talents seem to come in groups--a talent for an area of skill sets, if you will, rather than talent for one specific skill set only. I know an awful lot of people who are talented musically who are also talented in writing or art. I've noticed a connection between engineers and luthiers. So if you've got a child you know is talented in one area, and isn't passionate about that area, you might try to guess at what would be related areas. You might find both talent and passion somewhere else, which will make everyone involved much, much happier.


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