The Myth Of Talent
Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated. —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
We are told that the skills you possess, the genius you have, the inclination towards a specific field of life you have is all credited towards your genetic structure. Your talent is something that is fixed and can never change. You came into this world with those specific abilities, and you are going to die with them.
I came across a few passages about talent, skills and mastery while reading a few different books. Books that practically are not supposed to talk about the same thing.
The common theme the writers here talked about is that there is nothing as talent, even if there is, it has been scientifically proven that we can literally modify our genetic disposition by placing ourselves in specific kinds of environment and through deliberate action.
We are regularly told stories about talented individuals like Mozart, Steve Jobs, and many others. But if you have played Chinese Whisper game you know how stories can radically change with just a couple of alterations. The stories about these great individuals about their talents and their natural abilities tend to dismiss the fact that they were practically provided the exact kind of environment that they needed to excel.
That necessarily does not mean that the environment around them was favorable, and happy and they got everything they wanted.
Demosthenes one of the great orators of ancient Athens, born in 384 BC had speech impediment during his childhood. His became an orphan at the age of 7 and his family left him great wealth and property. But, till the time he came of age to be able to legally get that property, he noticed that he was cheated on by his own guardians. He sued them in the court, and had to speak for himself.
This specific event and environment alone would tear apart any of us, but he had created an underground room to practice his speaking skills. He used to fill his mouth with pebbles and practice speeches, he would go to the sea shore and try to speak against the sound of the waves. Demosthenes, took charge of his environment and practically changed his disposition by deliberate effort.
Why is that we see people everywhere around us performing deeds like Demosthenes, and yet fail to see that there is nothing as talent? Yes there are inborn skills, or interests with certain kinds of things, but they too can be changed, if we so wish. Our brain has evolved over millions of years, then why do we believe that we cannot change something as simple as where we invest our time and effort?
Robert Greene in his book “Mastery” mentions something that I really loved. He said, our brains practically are going in the opposite direction as time. For a lot of animals, with passage of time, their window closes. If they wait too much to attack on the prey, no food. If they wait too much outside in the open, they are going to get eaten.
Our bodies too follow this line, with passage of time our bodies decay.
However, with passage of time, our brain becomes more and more capable, more and more developed.
We see people sitting in the system, as cogs. People who have accepted to not bring about change or put in effort to pursue their unique inclinations. It is actually easy to do that. It might take years of work, but it is easy.
What we know and have been subjected to is, people who try to go against the grain of the system, and try to do what they believe in, perish. Totally not true, they might go against the system, but by doing what they believe in, something that they feel is their calling, they are going with the grain of time.
Have you ever thought, that why is people who are doing something they love, seem more energetic, more youthful and younger at 65 than a lot of us at 25?
They are going with the grain of time.
The moment we try and do something which we derive pleasure from, we are told not to.
I have my example here, recently I started taking massive actions towards trying to help more people, and the responses I got were amazing. But within those responses I have people telling me to stop, calling me names in public.
I won’t lie, it is scary. It is hard. But should I stop? Should I stop doing something I feel I am made for just because someone else in the system believes I am going in the opposite direction?
It is true, I am going in the opposite direction to them.
I am going with the direction of time, are you?