The Talent of the Untalented


So, you think you’re talented? Congratulations: you’ve already lost.

Talent is defined as a “natural aptitude or skill”, and of course, we are naturally better at certain things than others. For example, I’m much worse at solving an equation than I am at solving what I’m having for dinner. But surely, assuming you are someone with a decent level of intelligence and capacity to learn, (which I’m sure everyone reading this article is), you can learn anything, thus gaining a “skill”. I’m not denying that people are more or less proficient in specific areas than others, but rather I’m stating that this is down to having a drive to become more skilled at something in particular; in my case, I can quite confidently say that I enjoy reading a book and writing much more than looking and analysing statistics, which ultimately has resulted in me always scoring higher in English than in Mathematics. This isn’t due to some sort of witch’s curse from birth which caused me to have physical repulsions when I attempt to solve algebraic graphs, but rather the fact I had a larger inclination to read about why I was sometimes inept in my GCSE maths class compared to my peers, (and now write articles complaining about it).

Regardless of what I’ve said, if you still want to believe that you were born to be a polo player due to your unfathomable aptitude for horse-riding, let’s say for the sake of argument that natural aptitude is existent, and we are either born with it or not. If you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum from our polo player referenced above, feeling as though you are unlucky enough to have been born with no incredible abilities and will therefore never amount to anything, you can now stop feeling sorry for yourself. In fact, you should feel the opposite, as you probably have the best shot of success out of all of us.

Have you ever thought about how you do the bare minimum in certain subjects, yet still very much pull through and actually do fairly, if not above averagely, well?

Bad news: You’re talented.

N.B. By “bear minimum” I mean actually doing the bare minimum, not someone who talks about how little revision they’ve done to lower expectations and make themselves feel better if they fail (which they definitely won’t, because they’ve revised.)

“But why on earth is this bad?” I hear you cry, as you despair over your struggle of being gifted a natural affinity with the Equidae family (or whatever your equivalent, I’m just trying to be consistent). In short, talented people are lazy. It makes complete sense, because when something only takes you 10% of the effort level it takes for others to pick up, why on earth would you not be lazy? You don’t need to try hard, so it’s logical to make life easier for yourself. This is your curse; you will go through life giving the bare minimum knowing that you’ll be more than fine… To be honest, this doesn’t sound too bad so far, but this attitude will soon foster your growing sense of entitlement which will evolve into your slow, yet predictable downfall.

From the start of their education, talented people probably excelled in things like being able to read quickly or knowing how to count to high numbers well before their peers. This leads to the quick developments of a typical talented person’s mindset: a bad attitude to consistent work, meaning they will never fully understand what it means to work hard and reap the rewards only as a result of that. Fast forward to secondary school and higher education and we see the irritating trend continue. But, this is only until they are flung into the real world. The “real world” couldn’t give less of a care towards how talented one thinks they are, but rather seeks people who get results. Those of you who see yourselves as having no talents whatsoever, you forgot one. You have the capacity to work hard, which is one skill that talented people always seem to lack an understanding of. If you have never had it easy when it came to learning new things, but you had the exact same level of drive for success as your “talented” counterparts, it means you have the power to work hard and produce consistent results. In the process, you’ll probably become just as, if not more talented than those who were born with the aptitudes for your chosen area who never recognise their fatal flaw. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter if talent is something we’re born with or not, the fact of the matter is nobody is born a master. Mastery is a finalisation of ability, defined as “comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity”, and it takes the same extremely large amount of time and effort to acquire, regardless of talent. Estimates say it takes around 10,000 hours to master something, and although someone talented may be able to do it in 7,000, if they aren’t even willing to put in even that smaller amount of time, they’ll never be the master that you can become.

To summarise, whether you think you’re talented or not, you still need to put in the hard work to be the best you can achieve. So, untalented people, congratulations: you win, because you know hard work. Talented people? Take one for the team to better the world and start working harder, because before you know it, the real world will show you that no matter how blessed you thought you were from the moment of conception, being lazy will never let you be the very best.