EPIC Blog | Talent vs Effort

Talent vs. Effort

author: Carey Peck

Written by: Carey Peck

Senior Copywriter

06.21.2024

  • Creative

Hot take: I don’t really believe in the concept of talent.

A quick glance at Merriam-Webster reminds us how talent is defined: a special, often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude.

This definition has always bothered me. Specifically, the use of aptitude—a natural ability.

I mean, there’s probably a reality to certain genetic conditions giving certain individuals a bit of an advantage in certain activities—especially when discussing those who are aiming for elite, best-of-the-best performance. When we hear about people achieving elite performance, there tends to be commentary about how special, innate skill sets are allowing them—and not us—to attain such glorious feats.

When we hear about people achieving elite performance, there tends to be commentary about how special, innate skill sets are allowing them—and not us—to attain such glorious feats.

In the realm of art and creative endeavors, a similar phenomenon happens. Divine intervention must have struck the hands of Picasso. And if it’s not inborn talent, then perhaps it was something else? Could The Beatles have made Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band without Paul finally dipping his little toes into the pond of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD? Could years and decades of practice, collaboration, and commitment create such a monumental piece of art?

No, it must have been the acid.

Thousands and thousands of hours

As a young child of the 90s, my memory is filled with these types of simple narratives that try to explain away elite performance as chance or a single choice. I imagine there are nuggets of truth in parts of it, but I always found it bizarre how little of the focus was on hard work. On the value of practice or consistency. Or, hell, even classic trial and error.

Quick story: I played basketball in grade school with a classmate who was incredible. All the parents talked of him as if his skills and on-court intellect were nothing but a gift from above. I guess I didn’t have that … no one ever said I did. This little situation ended up creating some type of mental barrier in my head, making it difficult for me to see the value in going above and beyond with training. Sure, I could practice all weekend, but if I didn’t have that talent, would it matter? Maybe I just had a lazy personality as a kid. Or maybe not. But looking back, I know I would tell my former self that if I was passionate about the activity, the effort was always worth it; no matter the results.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell references The Beatles when talking about his concept of the 10,000-Hour Rule, the idea that expertise is the result of thousands and thousands of hours of practice. As a struggling high school band, they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles went to Hamburg to play five separate times between 1960 and 1962, and sometimes individual sets would last for eight hours.

“They performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times […] Most bands today don’t perform 1,200 times in their entire careers.”

To say the least, this experience set them apart from other bands.

Find passion. And then go to work.

Whether talent is there from birth or not isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even if that natural ability is there, it’ll only take you so far. In the grueling marathon of existence that we call life, commitment and drive are a necessity. It’s a requirement to have that internal fire. To have desire. To be passionate.

Luck will only take you so far. At the end of the day, pursuing a creative craft takes time.

 

Perhaps many creatives are led to their professions by some type of inclination or natural interest in the field, but if you just leave it at that it’s not going to go anywhere. Luck will only take you so far. At the end of the day, pursuing a creative craft takes time. It takes years and years of practice, an introspective attitude, humility in the face of criticism, guidance from mentors, a belief in experimentation, and so, so, so much more. For me, that means writing every day. It means reading the thoughts and ideas of a wide variety of authors. And perhaps most importantly, it means branching out, finding inspiration in other art and media, and trying to become a well-rounded creative.

Making a creative field your profession is a never-ending cycle of learning and failure, one punctuating the other and helping you grow into a better version of yourself. It’s long. It’s arduous. It’s uncomfortable. It’s vulnerable. It’s hard work. It’s a job.

And dammit, it’s a job I love.

Work Hard and Be Nice to People

Subscribe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
close video player