Skill and Talent

This week, I’d like to talk about both Skill and Talent.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone referred to as (and maybe you’ve been called this yourself) Talented.

What is Talent?

Some people don’t believe that such a thing exists. Others seem to think that Talent is all there is.

Beethoven was talented. So is Eddie Van Halen. So is Beauden Barrett (Sidebar: If you don’t know who this amazing Rugby Player is, here’s a sample of what I’m talking about.)

Once you reach a certain level, I think “Talented” tends to become “Gifted.” I think they’re the same thing.

Regardless of what you call it, Talent seems to be something that you just “Have.”

What is Skill?

That seems easy enough. Skill is the result of practice. Hours (often years) of hard work and practice gets you skill. Practice when you feel like doing it, and practice (perhaps especially) practice when you don’t feel like doing it.

over and over, until it becomes second nature. Then do it some more.

It should be clear from the above that Talent, and Skill are not the same thing.

But they work together.

Talent is a baseline aptitude for some task. This baseline will vary from task to task and from person to person. It’s what you start with. Without getting into any kind of theology, Talent is what you’ve been given.

Skill, is something that you develop. Over time. With practice and (often) sacrifice. In short…

Skill is something you have to earn.

Can you have one without the other?

I’ve thought about this for a couple of days. I believe that you can have Talent without Skill.

I don’t think that you can have Skill without Talent.

Here’s why:

Pick a task. I’ll choose something that I have zero experience with: Crocheting.

If I’ve got no experience with it, clearly I don’t have any skill with it. You can’t put the cart before the horse.

But get this…

Until I actually try crocheting…I have no idea if I’ve got a talent for it.

When I do try crocheting, I find out what my baseline talent for crocheting is. That’s my crocheting talent.

So it might be that you’ve heard about the Skill vs. Talent debate, and I hope that you can see that there really isn’t any debate. We’re talking about two different things.

The question, I hear most often during such a debate is this:

Does Skill level the playing field?

It answer is: It can.

Take two people and a given task, let’s say it’s playing a guitar. Person A has a pretty high talent for it. They take to the guitar like a fish to water. As a result, they don’t practice very often.

Person B has a pretty low talent for the guitar. They’re the proverbial Fish out of Water when they first pick up the instrument.

But they want to learn…

They practice for hours a day, every day, seven days a week, for years.

After a couple of years, if you compare the two, I’ll bet that you couldn’t tell between the two skill levels, or (most likely) Person B who has paid for their skill in sweat, and effort, sounds better than Person A who has rested on their talent, but done nothing to develop it.

It’s all about the practice. Now I know that it’s utterly unreasonable to think that you’ve got hours per day, every day, to practice. Life isn’t like that, and that’s not the point anyway. The point is that you shouldn’t ever decide against trying something because you don’t feel like you’re not talented enough.

Practice. Earn the skill. That’s where excellence lives.

See you on Thursday!


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Weird Wild West


Chasing the Light