What is talent?

Here are some dictionary definitions of talent. Let’s examine them.

A talent is:
-“a natural endowment or ability of a superior quality.
-“a marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment: has a rare talent for music.”

-“an innate ability, aptitude, or faculty, esp when unspecified; above average ability: E.g. a talent for cooking”
-“a special natural ability or aptitude: E.g. a talent for drawing.”

When you look at these definitions, the first thing you notice about talent is that talent is natural. You were born with it. Your talent comes from your design. It’s how you were hardwired. That distinguishes talent from knowledge or skills which are learned and developed with time and effort.

Gallup says this about talent:
“Talent dictates your moment-by-moment reactions to your environment — there’s an instinctiveness, an immediacy implied. Talent results in consistently recurring patterns of thought or behavior. To deviate from those patterns requires conscious effort, and such deviations are difficult to sustain.”

Talent has to do with who you are at the core. It is our natural bent or includes our natural bent or inclination.

When I think of talents, I’m reminded of the four natural endowments popularized by Stephen Covey. Covey said, “Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to choose, to respond, to change.” While these endowments aren’t talents in themselves, their expression undergirds our talents.

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” – Will Smith, Actor.

What are knowledge and skills?

Our knowledge and skills come from our experiences and education. Unlike talents, they are not part of who we are at the core. “Behavior that comes from knowledge and skills can be changed far more easily than talent-based behavior, as new information subordinates old in an individual’s consciousness. Talent can’t be subordinated. It’s constant and enduring. That’s what makes it talent. Understanding the difference between the two sources of behavior changes everything.” Gallup

Prescription for Greatness

Focus on your talents. Build knowledge and skills around your talent. It’s much easier to develop your talent into a strength than to try to work on areas that you don’t have talents in. Surround yourself with people who are talented in areas that you’re not.

Do you remember the 10 commandments? The last one prohibits coveting. That’s because it’s human nature to covet what we don’t have. My advice is that you resist coveting areas that you are not talented in and trying to work hard to develop skills in those areas. The amount of work it takes is not worth it. Instead, identify your talents and work on them. That is an investment well worth it. Working on your talents will take you from good to great in no time.

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