The Talent Myth

open guitar tunings

Let’s debunk The Talent Myth.


If you’ve ever seen pictures or a video of gold coming out of the ground, you’ll see tiny gold flakes surrounded by rock, dirt and grime. You’ll have to look really close to see the flakes as it’s a minute per cent of the materials extracted. It’s a long process from mining the rock to getting to the point of having a bar of gold.


To prove my point, check out this short video:



You have to mine in the right place – that goes without saying, but it requires effort – a lot of hard work.



Relating gold and guitars

So that’s great, how does it relate to guitar playing? You have to have some talent. But what is talent and what does it really mean?


Talent is defined as:

tal·ent /ˈtalənt/
1. Natural aptitude or skill


Doesn’t really explain it does it?!


So let’s take a look at Aptitude:

ap·ti·tude  /ˈaptiˌt(y)o͞od/
1. A natural ability to do something.
2. A natural tendency.


Too key words pop out at me, Skill and Ability.


To me, Skill is something that can be worked on, shaped and defined. Ability is something that’s in you, its natural – however it’s a fine line.



Got Skillz?

I know some photographers who aren’t professional, don’t have thousands invested in gear or even the latest gear for that matter yet they take incredible photos. Their ability here is to see the right shot clearly in their mind before they rearrange whatever they are taking photos of or in a live gig setting, waiting for the right moment to snap. It’s that their eyes and timing compensates for the lack of high spec gear. Are they better than many professionals? Of course, they have the ability to see it – then make it happen.


This doesn’t discount the skill involved, the hours wasted in pursuit of the right setting – the slight movement of the lights to see if that can and does change the whole emotion of the photo. This is the mining aspect – you have a little nugget of ability but you have to spend time working, reworking, coming back to try again, comparing with people you admire. Not so you’re like them but so you can see someone else’s vision, his idea, his joie de vivre. Or as the case may truly – his depression – yes most artist suffer from being misunderstood, different, on the outside yet there in the mist of the action. You might relate to that sentiment.



The Talent Myth

Talent is just that – it’s the hours you have put in when no one sore you working your ass off. The year of rejection for whatever reason or situation. The drive to get you there – that drive that sustains you in the difficult years, when it’s all falling apart, when its uphill all the way and nothing make sense.


But talent is also the taste of success, the feeling you get when you’re stood on a mountain and you’re look out across the bay, the landscape – yes, the top of the world feeling – it too will help you push through the bad times.



My central point is this: Yes there is something called talent, but it’s like a diamond – it’s incredibly rough in its first state and need a whole lot of work to make it look pristine and valuable.



But talent is just a nugget – it will only take you so far. Luck will push you all the way, just as skill will.



In closing, someone once said to a world famous cellist: “I would give my life to have your talent.” His reply – “I gave my whole life to get to here.”



Talent really is 80% hard work, 20% natural ability and luck. Keep working on your 80%!

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