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The myth of "Talent"


#1

A friend of mine posted this today on another list. I liked it so
much I thought I would share it with you all.

"There is no process beyond practice. It's ridiculous. People
believe in the myth of "talent", but what they call talent is
about 2% of the deal. Most of what we call talent is simple
obsession. If you are not obsessed with your calling, you will
never put in the time and gruntwork it requires to get good at it.
It's not about the Gifts of the Gods, it's about the sweat you put
in to live up to those gifts. I am not an artist because I make
art. It's art because I make it." Robin the Hammer 

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#2

Hi Jim, Thanks for the post.

Can’t say that I agree, though. As a teacher I have seen students,
just starting out sometimes, who just seem to get it: to have an
affinity for material or process. Some sort of natural inclination.
It may need to be honed but the talent is definitely there.

This extends to design and conceptualization as well. In one or two
cases even, it just seemed to come too easily and wasn’t enough of a
challenge.

Sweat is huge, no doubt. Obsession often a key. But, sometimes, it
is just “Gifts from the Gods”.

I’m not talking about myself in any way. But I’ve seen it…
Andy


#3

I can see why you liked it. Brilliant. In all pursuits, whether it’s
with jewelry, photography, woodworking or working with animals. It
is the practice, the journey of learning and being able to correct
the many mis-steps along the way.

Dinah


#4
People believe in the myth of "talent", but what they call talent
is about 2% of the deal. 

An interesting statement. The question of talent is one I have
thought about a lot, as I suspect most of us have. On the one hand, I
have encountered people who work at their craft obsessively, year
after year, and make little or no progress (though they hardly seem
to notice). I speak of perennial students in the Art Center where I
teach, but not only in my department. These people do not lack
committment, they lack talent. Such people often say to me in a
resentful tone, “Oh Noel, you’re so talented.” Well, sorry!

On the other hand, yes, I was given the gift by genes or Divine
Intervention to have talent, but I have worked hard all my life to
make it into skill, in order to put my talent to use in some
productive way. I would not, however, put its value anywhere near as
low as 2%. It is easy to say that if you have all the talent you
really need. I am reminded of the times I have heard people say that
money is not important. In every case, these were people who did not
lack for funds. Try not being able to afford necessities and tell me
money isn’t important!

So I guess I’d say that hard work and committment are indispensible,
and they are available to all, whatever your chosen object. Talent,
on the other hand, you either have or you don’t. Hard work can, to
some degree, make up for limited talent in this world, but I fear
that art is not an area where work alone can make you good. A baby
can’t lift a battleship, no matter how hard he works at it.

Noel


#5

Maybe this should be engraved on a platter and send to all of these
so called designers that receive the applause for designing and
developing a product while they in fact only sees it at the end of
its process, and then sign, (in the famous right bottom corner of the
paper " designed by "). But I guess that is indeed where their
talent stands, living off the talented and very very hard working
individuals that we all know many.


#6

Hi all,

I think I’m going to have to side with Andy and Helen on this one.
I’ve got students in both camps: some that just will never get it, no
matter that they’ve been beating their heads out on it for years, and
a couple who really do have ‘the touch’. Hard work can make up for
some lack of natural talent, but it’s crystal clear when you’ve got
someone who really does have it.

There’s an interesting lesson to be learned from a person I worked
with years ago. They really did have ‘the touch’, and they knew it.
So they stopped trying. That’s a very dangerous place to be for any
artist: where you really are almost as good as you think you are, so
you stop clawing for more. 15 years later, this person is still
making the same mid-range stuff they were making back when I knew
them. Talent counts for a lot, but so does sweat and tears.

FWIW,
Brian.


#7
Can't say that I agree, though. As a teacher I have seen students,
just starting out sometimes, who just seem to get it: to have an
affinity for material or process. Some sort of natural
inclination. It may need to be honed but the talent is definitely
there. 

I agree that some have a “natural affinity” for a process or
material. But without the work there is nothing. I have had students
that “got it” right away but did not apply themselves and others that
struggled with the concepts but through perseverance became very
adept.

This extends to design and conceptualization as well. In one or
two cases even, it just seemed to come too easily and wasn't enough
of a challenge. 

Yes but is it nature or nurture? I don’t really know.

Sweat is huge, no doubt. Obsession often a key. But, sometimes, it
is just "Gifts from the Gods". 

Certainly we are all different, but without the work and focused
desire (obsession) you can’t succeed, gifts from the gods
notwithstanding. Too many use the excuse of not having talent to
rationalize a lack of will.

Regards,

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#8
Sweat is huge, no doubt. Obsession often a key. But, sometimes, it
is just "Gifts from the Gods". 

I wouldn’t discount talent, neither would I overrate it. Its there
or its not. The thing is what one does with what one has been given.

Can hard work overcome a seeming lack of talent? Yeah sure why not?
I’m an example. Jewelry isn’t where my natural talent lies, although
after decades I have gotten to the point where I could be
called…‘talented’. So what? It pays the bills and I enjoy the
field. What more could I want in a day job?

Can talent overcome laziness? Not if the finished product is the
judge, imho. But then where is it written that one MUST develop one’s
talent?

Isn’t this question really one of identity? I think we all seek a
sense of identity. Since we’re social creatures we compare ourselves
to others in our group. Get too focused on that and you might lose
your identity altogether. Better to go forth, do what you do, don’t
worry about it too much.

OK, the sun has arisen, I gotta get working, buncha stuff to be made
today.

Have fun and make lots of identity statements. (sorry, Jo)


#9
People believe in the myth of "talent", but what they call talent
is about 2% of the deal. 

I agree with this statement i know that gaining success in a craft is
about learning and building skills and that the more diverse you make
your curriculum in the development of fine motor skills the better
you will become at doing whatever you do as the main focal point.
People who supposedly have no talent for craft and art have really
only been denied the opportunity to develop hand eye coordination and
more importantly have been denied the experience to the joy of
success at doing somthing with thier hands other than texting and
video games.

Look at the hands of children who text and game alot you will notice
that thier thumb position has morphed into something unnatural and
the boys that waddle around with thier pants down arround thier
thighs are developing unnatural foot and ankle positioning that will
require corrective medical attention and physical therapy.

goo


#10
As a teacher I have seen students, just starting out sometimes, who
just seem to get it: to have an affinity for material or process.
Some sort of natural inclination. It may need to be honed but the
talent is definitely there. 

This is classical Mozart and Salieri argument.

Talent is when one can easily do, what others without talent, have to
sweat a lot, to even come close.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11

I have to disagree.I worked in a screw machine shop for 17 years,
some men could not properly grind tools in that period of time. This
included alot of freehand work with cut-off blades, round cut offs
and thinnig out the web of the drills not once a day but several
times everyday 6 days, 10hrs. a day. Some have the “knack” some
don’t & frankly never will. Some will rise to mediocrity and never
pass it.

Alot of folks struggle with drawing designs, etc. Some can “see” it
in their mind and it comes gushing out but others can’t figure it
out or put it down on paper.

Back in the day, appitude tests proved this time after time. This
included manual dexterity, speed, & accuracy at the task involved. I
agree that practice and lots of it will bring the “cream” to the top
but some will always struggle with certain media or whatever is at
hand. Now about that math thing again…

Merry Christmas
mtlctr


#12

I have to agree with you Noel in all that you said. I have seen in
people in other fields of art with such a burning desire to create
beautiful things, and all the drive to work as hard as possible, and
obsession. This takes them far - they can contribute by creating new
techniques, by inspiring and teaching others, by creating some fairly
nice, technically good things - what they did was not invaluable by
any means. But the talent, a natural gift, was simply not there - it
cannot be learned or acquired. In order to be truly successful, you
need to have an innate understanding, passionate love for what you
do, and also be obsessed. It’s just who you are from the beginning,
you don’t choose your path in art, you do it because you have to.

Michelle


#13

I think that there is a difference between “skill” and “talent”.

From the dictionary:

“Skill”: the ability to do something well.
“Talent”: natural aptitude or skill

In my understanding of the words, skill is something that is
developed; talent is innate. Talent can be developed, as can skill.


#14
Some sort of natural inclination. It may need to be honed but the
talent is definitely there. 

Yes, Andy - Noel, too. That was a very eloquent quote, to be sure.
What talent actually is or means can be difficult to pin down, but
there is no doubt that it exists and is important. I’d agree with
what Noel more or less said - the notion that talent has little
meaning and can be offset by grinding away for more hours is spoken
by someone trying to pull others down to their own level. “Money
isn’t important until you don’t have any” sort of thing. There are
hundreds of great examples - Picasso, Thomas Jefferson, Dickens. I
wrote a high school term paper about a book - skipped to the back to
get the ending, hand wrote 3 1/2 pages the night before (the minimum
acceptable) One draft… Others turned in 20 typewritten pages and
worked for weeks. The teacher said that although it was clear there
wasn’t so much work, that it was the best paper by far. It just
comes naturally sometimes…


#15

I have had the opportunity to teach a number of different things
from graduate level science, to beginner sports, to beginner jewelry
making. Many of the people I’ve seen that had what some may call
innate talent, was actually application of previously learned
skills.

I taught skiing and snowboarding to beginners of all backgrounds.
Unsurprisingly, young men typically learned fast, due to natural
aggression, balance, strength, and sport experience. Interestingly
some of the senior ladies did very well, too. Women who were
accomplished dancers, typically ballroom styles, had already put
many hours of work into similar moves and could apply it easily to a
new situation.

College students with experience in designing and building often do
well in organic chemistry, including car and motorcycle hotrodders.
Once comfortable with the language of the science, the principles of
building large objects and very small objects are, in essence, the
same.

People who saw the result, but did not know the individual’s
background often misunderstood their apparent innate skill, and
thought they were gifted. In fact the ‘gifted’ individual had put in
incredible amounts of time and effort without ever actually
realizing it.

Jason


#16

It is no myth. Ok, maybe we will agree in the end not to cal it that
word, but something of what that word is known to mean is a real
phenomenon, not a ridiculous figment of someone’s imagination. It
seems clear to me that a person in posessesion of this mysterious
attribute has an easier time of things than a person not. It seems
clear that some things made by talented people were made easier, or
made possible, to a small or a large degree, by their talent, their
innate ability to see how something needs to be done, or feel their
way through some process the first time with less uncertainty than a
less innately able person. Clearly this is not all fantasy. Given the
exact same conditions, the ‘gifted’ person will do more, or do it
more interestingly, or more efficiently, or just a little bit more
easily than the ‘average ’ person. It shows up in athletics, it shows
up in dance, painting, writing, music, mathematics, mummblypeg. In
other words, everywhere. This is not to say that hard work,
obsession, dedication, focus, etc. can’t take someone just as far,
just that some people can get to the same place more easily, or get
farther with the same amount of work, or have that inangible
’something’ about what they are doing, or how they do it, that comes
from a place of grace, for lack of a better word, and lack of a
better way to describe a larger force or effect or feeling or
phenomenon ; from a place of fluidity and fluency. If I imagine all
this, then it’s but one of many fantasies I live in, and I am happy
here, in them.

DS
www.sheltech.net


#17

One of my favorite quotes is…

The greater the Artist
the greater the doubt.
Supreme confidence is
for those less talented.

In my 60 years I have found this to be sooooo true.

LaVerne


#18
Given the exact same conditions, the 'gifted' person will do more,
or do it more interestingly, or more efficiently, or just a little
bit more easily than the 'average ' person. 

I really believe that the talented or gifted person will end up at a
different place than others, a place that could not have been
reached or anticipated by other minds. This is the meaning of
"inspration", which literally means to be breathed into. All the hard
work accomplishes two things: it prepares you to execute the
inspiration when it comes. It also teaches you how to create the
environment (mental, physical, psychological, even spiritual) in
which inspiration is most available.

I will take this one step farther, perhaps in a bit of a different
direction. I believe that good art has what I call “retrospective
inevitability”. Even though you cannot antticipate it ahead of time,
after the fact, there is the feeling that it HAD to be that way. This
is a concept I am very attached to, and it describes a feeling I find
ultimately satisfying, both in my own work and that of others, in any
medium, the feeling of “rightness” that gives me enormous joy.

Noel


#19

Well if it is talent that makes an artist (insert field here) then
all the folks that attend art (insert field here) schools are wasting
their money. Because from this point of view you can’t teach it to
them if they dont have the natural ability (talent).

Yes there are knuckleheads that will not learn but if the student
has the desire and the drive and the teacher has the skill then I
believe anything is possible.

  "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent
  perspiration. I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor
  did any of my inventions come by accident. They came by work." 

  Thomas Alva Edison 

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#20
Allot of folks struggle with drawing designs, etc. Some can "see"
it in their mind and it comes gushing out but others can't figure
it out or put it down on paper. mtlctr 

I think that you have that right. If you can “see” it in your head
putting it on paper isn’t always even required. And if you can "see"
the finished piece it it is easy to step backwards through the work
flow. None of the dreaded staring at a blank piece of metal and
working out the first step.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand