Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Talent or Passion?


The Super Bowl this past weekend has rocked much of New York and New Jersey. Since this is home turf for me, it inspired me to think about (and blog about) talent and passion.


People often refer to talent as a gift when talking about athletes, writers, artists, musicians, and others with a skill or area of expertise. Sometimes I wonder whether talent is a gift or whether it is something earned. Dictionary.com defines talent as “a special natural ability or aptitude.” Okay, but is this a little too simple? Most often where there is an ability or aptitude, there are also countless hours of hard work and dedication—blood, sweat, and tears--that go into nurturing, training, and honing that ability or aptitude. Yes, there are child prodigies such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was composing at six years of age, but history tells us that he worked long and hard before he reached a level of extraordinariness. So, I question the ratio between the “special natural ability or aptitude” and the passion, dedication, hard work, and perseverance it takes to create something amazing or perform at a high level. Could it be that

when someone is labeled as having a gift or talent, what that person really has is a great and mighty passion and dedication to do whatever is necessary to create or perform well? To, say, win a Super Bowl? Or write an award-winning novel? Maybe the passion is the gift.


What do you think? Are some people born with a natural ability and aptitude? Or, are they born with a burning desire and drive to create and/or perform to an extra ordinary level? Or is this all crazy talk that comes from too many nachos and chicken wings downed during a very exciting football game?

62 comments:

  1. I believe talent and hard work need to go hand in hand to produce anything extraordinary. I have met people who have talent without the drive and drive without the talent. They may be able to get by with having one of those qualities, but the two put together is a dynamite combination. And I think it's something from within. I'm not sure if people are born with it or if there's a spark set off early in life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, Medeia. That special something does seem to come from within, whether it be talent or drive.

      Delete
  2. Well, if I had to be born a writer to write, I'm totally screwed! I have to sweat my way to my goals. I wish I had some innate ability to write a bestseller, but alas, my only true gift is that I can organize a pantry in under ten minutes. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's no denying that organizing a pantry in under ten minutes is a gift, Emily! : ) And I think most people have to sweat the journey to their goals.

      Delete
  3. I think everyone has natural talent! It's drawing it out, discovering what it is and nurturing it is the thing!

    Hope you had a good game!! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right, Old Kitty, and I love that everyone has some kind of talent or passion.

      Delete
  4. I believe that some people are born with a natural ability, but without the drive to feed it, it sort of withers without focus. I've seen it happen, that drive/passion is crucial to developing the ability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right, Joanne--the passion is essential.

      Delete
  5. Interesting post, Cynthia. I do believe that there are some people that are born with certain natural abilities, but without the passion and dedication to their craft or profession, those talents won't get them far. I also think that even those that are born without a shred of talent can achieve what they want if they have the passion and invest the time and practice necessary to honing those skills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Alissa. I do tend to think that even those without a gift can achieve success with dedication and hard work.

      Delete
  6. I definitely think that people are born with natural aptitudes and talents. (It explains why it's easier for me to draw a picture than speak in front of a crowd. :)) However, I believe that if you don't nurture a talent, it will wane. And if you don't have a talent / aptitude in a certain area, you can still get crazy good at it-- with enough work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great example, Peggy. It's easier and more comfortable for me to draw a picture than to speak in front of a large group, too. : )

      Delete
  7. yes, I agree with what has been said here .. I think it is a combination of both. But I would also add a third element of hard work. I know plenty of talented people and also plenty of people who really want it - but to actually change your routine and sit down and DO it? well, that's the sifting process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah yes, Tess, great point--the commitment to do well at something is also an ingredient in the mix.

      Delete
  8. I believe that people are born with gifts and talents, but it takes a lot of hard work and guidance from others to bring it to fruition.

    I was not born with a singing voice. No hard work and dedication will ever bring my voice to a lovely sound...yes, it's that bad! On the other hand, I believe I was born with a writing voice. I have worked very hard and hope to see my hard work come complete circle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your illustration, Loree. I was not born with a singing voice, either. No amount of drive, passion, or dedication is going to change this. Writing on the other hand, my love, is not (I don't believe) as doomed. : ) Also, I believe you will see results from your hard work.

      Delete
  9. Wow, both are crucial. Some people with amazing gifts/talents have no motivation, and expect to be good without practicing. So the passion is very important. But so is the talent, because passion will only take you so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing to me to think of someone with talent and no motivation, but I you're right, of course, Carol.

      Delete
  10. I think it's a little bit of both. I've seen children with no training and experience in certain art pick it up and master it in a very short amount of time with very little effort. Adults too. Other people have to work for years and years to get where these people get in a month or two. I mean it's kind of the same way that some people seem predisposed to understand math better than others--or any subject/field for that matter. I do believe though that passion takes you a long, long way--whether you have a "natural" aptitude or not. I also believe there are varying degrees of natural aptitude. If your natural aptitude isn't as advanced as others but it's there, passion can often make up for whatever you lack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't considered the varying degrees of natural aptitude and how passion comes into play. Great points, Lisa.

      Delete
  11. You can never eat too many nachos :)

    I believe we're all born with some type of talent - even if that talent is only knowing how to perfectly fry an egg. Every time. But it's the passion for the talent that pushes those like Mozart to greatness. He could have enjoyed playing piano and writing songs for his mother's birthday but been passionate about science and gone on to be great in that field. Or not.

    Or maybe I did eat too many nachos :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Carol, I'm going with "You can never eat too many nachos." : )

      Delete
  12. I think I'm still recovering from all that food I ate on Superbowl Sunday. :)

    I've always thought -- especially when it comes to writing that it can be learned. You may have people who have a natural storytelling ability, but that only gives you a little edge. Learning the craft and really having a passion about it will win out every time -- at least I think so! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, I totally agree with you. And I hope you team won on Sunday. ; )

      Delete
  13. I think there's no substitute for passion. Talent will only take you so far, but passion will push you to work until you excel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And we all need the passion to get us through the rough spots, right, Shannon? : )

      Delete
  14. Yes, I do think some people have a natural ability to do certain things, but I think if they don't work hard on their skills, their talent will go nowhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, the natural ability is almost like a seed that needs to be nurtured. Yes indeed.

      Delete
  15. It's combination of both. For some people, it doesn't matter how much they practice, they'll only be mediocre.

    With athletics, certain attributes are required for success in the different sports. Just because you are brilliant at hurling a football down the field, it doesn't mean you're going to be an excellent long distant runner. The muscle composition, for one, will be different, as will be the body type.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stina, you make an excellent point here. A quarterback could have every natural ability, but not be big enough or strong enough to play pro ball.

      Delete
  16. I very truly believe that some people are born with a gift. I also believe that if they don't put in the work, that gift will mean nothing.

    This idea came up at another blog post I read this week. Must be the superbowl. :) But did you ever read the study that showed certain atheletes who have excelled in their sport were born with a mutation of some sort that allowed them to excel? Michael Phelps feet bend so many degrees further than most people's. Lance Armstrong has increased Lung capacity from most people. Interesting stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stop it! That IS fascinating. I had no idea about this study or the feet of Michael Phelps or the lungs of Lance Armstrong. Thanks, Janet. : )

      Delete
  17. I go with those who argue for the combo. Yes, I think there are people that have pure natural ability to excel in one or more things, but it's passion and dedication that push those people into greatness at it. And that passion and dedication push people who might have little 'natural' ability to be far better than they would be at something otherwise.

    My daughter has a musician/singer friend who I would say is very talented. She insists that anyone can be very good, that anyone can learn to play an instrument or sing well. Of course, she's never heard ME sing, ha ha, but she would probably just argue that it's because I never put in the time or effort to learn properly.

    I suspect phrases like 'talent' and 'natural ability' are sometimes thrown about by people either to dismiss others of whom they are jealous, or as an excuse for themselves. Wow, that's an awkward sentence; could anyone follow that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I followed it. : ) And it's an interesting point. Simply labeling someone as talented does seem a bit dismissive.

      Delete
  18. I think both happen separately, but I also think you need a bit of both to be successful. Now I'm reading the comments and I realize everyone is saying similar things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it does seem like everyone is pretty much in agreement on this one.

      Delete
  19. I believe there are studies that show that certain traits are carried in families via the genes, so I guess there is an element of talent/nature that a certain amount of nurturing can capitalise upon.
    Some people never reach their potential.I met a woman in her 40's who had learning difficulties and used to muddle words like incest and incence etc, but after getting married to a university graduate her langauge and understanding improved to a remarkable degree. She does still have problems, but her language and self expression have blossomed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really interesting, Madeleine. And a sweet story, too.

      Delete
  20. I think it can be both. Some people's bodies and sense of timing are better than others. Add to that a desire to excel, and it's a happy combination. You can have great desire and become decent, but if your body's not built right for it, you'll never excel.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Absolutely, Donna. The desire to excel is key, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Either way, people have to practice to get beyond their current abilities. One coach tied brooms to his arms to force a tall basketball player to get in the habit of jumping, instead of just going up on tiptoe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Brooms? That's interesting, Mark. Thanks!

      Delete
  23. I think some people are just born with the gift of words--but what they choose to do with that gift dictates the course of their writing careers. I find that people who aren't born with the talent to write, but who love it anyway and do everything to improve their skills will eventually succeed. Talent is something, but passion is everything.

    Happy weekend!

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your last line, Nutschell: "Talent is something, but passion is everything."

      Delete
  24. Funny you should ask... I was just talking about this to a friend. Yes born with natural talents... But those talents need developing with commitment. My thoughts. Xx

    ReplyDelete
  25. I love that photo of the rose on the music!

    Funny -- I blogged about genius. :)

    I think talent and passion often go together, but not always. The movie A League of their Own comes to mind. Dottie was the better baseball player, but her sister Kit had more passion. Kit did well for herself, but she never equalled Dottie's sheer talent. And most of us can think of musicians or athletes or, yes, writers, whose passion outstrips their talent. American Idol is a case in point. I also personally know a young musician with all kinds of passion. It doesn't change the fact that his guitar playing and vocal intonation are average at best.

    Glad you enjoyed the Super Bowl. Our Packers had to relinquish the crown, but maybe next year. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great examples, Marica! And there is always next year for your Packers. : )

      Delete
  26. Don't underestimate hard work and the ability to overcome mental challenges. Most elite athletes are graced with pretty much the same amount of talent. It's their work ethic and willingness to overcome the mental obstacles that puts them, and keeps them at the top.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would you say this applies to writers as well, Dave?

      Delete
    2. Absolutely, Cynthia. If you're interested, you might want to check out a post I wrote on a similar subject. January 12, 2012 Weather Woes = Less Motivation???
      http://rt19writers.blogspot.com/

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the link, Dave. I'm there. : )

      Delete
  27. This is a "nature v. nuture" kind of question. I'm sure natural ability or talent plays a large part in those of us who achieve success in our field, but without endurance and determination many greats wouldn't have achieved that status. It's a combination. I hate to bring in the elements of "timing" and "personality," but I really believe they a huge factors. I loved this question.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Timing and personality. . . interesting and hard to argue against, Cleemckenzie. Thanks!

      Delete
  28. I do believe that some are more gifted in certain areas, but one still needs to practice their craft/sport in order to succeed. Others just need to practice more to achieve success! Good timing helps as well.
    Lee said it so much better than me in the above comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good timing can never be underestimated, right, Kelly? : )

      Delete
  29. I think passion is what gets us to the point where we can say we're good at what we do. Talent is important, but know-how and drive count for a lot in my book.

    ReplyDelete
  30. You can have all the raw talent in the world, but if you don't have the discipline or passion to hone it, you won't be successful. You can have varying degrees of the two, but both are required to carry a talent through to a skill. This is a great question, Cynthia!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks, Adrienne. I tend to agree with you--all the talent in the world may now measure up to discipline and passion.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Just found your blog and have been going back and reading your posts. I believe that creativity is more of an internal thing and cannot be taught, while drive and commitment lean towards the external and can be learned. Despite a person's drive which is admirable, I don't believe they will be overly successfully.

    A personal example keeping with your sports theme: As a basketball player I had discipline, desire, and an extreme work ethic. No one could perform the fundamentals better than I. My shortcomings were in my skill set. I wasn't fast enough, quick enough, etc to make it to the top. Was I successful? Yes, to the semi-pro level. Was the NBA ever in the cards for me? Never.

    A combination is key to being the very best. One without the other won't work, however it is the internal factors that cannot be taught that ned to be in place to reach the top.

    (There is always an exception and it's just my opinion. Anyone can still enjoy what they do which is success in itself)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Welcome, Michael. Great comment and your personal example is perfect. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete