Talent vs Teaching


Is there such a thing as natural talent?  Or is it purely a superpower like x-ray vision and super speed that is lacking in the genetic makeup of us mere mortals?  Some experts would suggest that there is no such thing as talent.  They propose that if you spend long enough at anything you will achieve a high level of success.  The recommended length of time, however, is 10,000 hours.  Easy to find yes?  But they would say that every expert in a field has spent at least this amount of time doing meaningful, focused and seriously dedicated practice to get to the top and be the absolute best of the best. 

That’s a serious amount of hours and a serious amount of tiger mothering to find those hours it has to be said.  However, surely if there is a natural ability there, a talent, so to speak, it wouldn’t need 10,000 hours to realise such excellence.  Maybe if you’re good at something then you’re good at something.  And if you’re not, then is all this practice really going to make you fabulous?  I’m not convinced.  Take musical ability for example. Either you can sing or you can’t. And if you can’t then I very much doubt that endless amounts of days spent caterwauling and loosening up the vocal chords is going to make a whole pile of difference.  What about dancing?  Again, you have a rhythm or you don’t.    I’m not sure that hours of practice are going to make that happen for you either.

Then there are the sports stars.  So Rory McIlroy is a superstar golfer.  Is that because he has a natural skill, it comes easy to him and he enjoys it or is it because he has a dedicated and very efficient team around him?  Would he be just as good left to his own devices?  I would imagine his highly dedicated and efficient team are only there in the first place because he demonstrated the ability, the interest and the commitment that the sport required.  But what makes him a success?  Is it pure dogged determination and an absolute refusal to give up?  Maybe he just refused to accept second best.  And at a time when most of us would quit and go for a drink instead, he keeps going and going and going and gets his 10,000 hours of practice in.

I’m still inclined to believe that there is such a thing as talent.  You can bring the kids to every activity, sport and music class imaginable but only certain things will stick and the ones that do stick are generally the ones they can master and are good at.   So that would suggest the presence of a natural ability of sorts.  From there it’s all about dedication and commitment and how badly you want it.  There are no shortcuts. If you put in the work you will reap the rewards.  But only, I believe, if you have the skill to begin with.  Some things can’t be taught. 

So I think I’ll abandon the singing lessons and the art classes and the endless foray into all things that aren’t rugby.  In fact it’s time now to focus on what they are good at and what they enjoy because that is where their talent lies.  Will they ever fulfil their potential?  Who knows?  But if they want it badly enough they will work for it and we will support them all the way.  And sometimes that’s all it takes for their invisible superpower to manifest itself into one hell of a talent.

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