The Issue Behind Talent
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The Issue Behind Talent

In a cage match to the death, which one wins: hard work or innate skill?

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The Issue Behind Talent
McKinsey

America, the land where all men are created equal. In a culture founded on a principle of "if you just work hard enough, you can do anything," it's difficult for us to admit that there are some heights hard work alone can't reach. For instance, while I think of myself as a skilled singer, meaning that over the last seven years I've learned quite a lot about technique and how to make the most of my natural singing voice, I won't be making an appearance on The Voice anytime soon.

But what is talent, and how can you quantify it?

The truth is, you can't. Though us laypeople tend to think of talent as something innate, a number of environmental factors influence a person's talent outside of raw genetics, including emotional/social development, education and preparation, cultural support, historical forces and even birth order and gender. High achievement comes from a complex interaction of personal and environmental forces that are nigh impossible to untangle to reach the one "miracle solution" to raw talent.

That's not to say genetics has no role in natural talent. Genes do have an influence on our interests, attention span and whether we tend toward extra- or introversion. However, environment and educational background have a much larger role to play in our academic and social success, studies agree.

In other words, that means talent is not so much innate as a conglomeration of external and internal influences—and a hefty dose of luck. Most of these forces occur in childhood, though, meaning that those of us who are adults are unlikely to be able to rig the external influence game and come out more talented. So, what do us normies do?

We work hard. No, it's not particularly fair that someone who is "naturally gifted" at languages or basketball can pick it up like it's nothing (I'm extremely envious of those people who are halfway to fluent in a language in a couple of months), but even those who are "talented" still have to work at what they do. No one is born with a skill. Ergo, even those of us who aren't talented can become skilled, though perhaps not as quickly, by putting our noses to the grindstone and making up for our disadvantage with good ol' determination and elbow grease.

So learn that language. Start playing that instrument. It doesn't take "talent" to start improving today.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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