The False Concept of Talent

8 Minute Read

Like many artists, I hear comments about my 'talent'. I'm not sharing this with you to toot my own horn, but rather to explore what talent is, or perceived to be. If someone tells me 'I'm very talented' I actually feel rather uncomfortable and I'm trying to figure out why. I believe we all have talents and I try to remind the person I'm conversing with that they have talents I don't have, it's just that my perceived 'talent' is in your face and on display. It seems a little unfair on anyone whose talents are behind the scenes, and most peoples talents are behind the scenes and I don't think we're doing those people justice.

I wonder how many talented cleaners are out there? I can never get my house spotless or quite get all the grease off the baking sheet no matter how much soap I use and how hard I scrub. There are spaces you walk into and can instantly feel it's immaculate. The person that made that happen has talent in my opinion! I don't have that talent!

What about a talented secretary/administrator? Someone who can file, organize, sort, type, deal with multiple peoples personalities and needs and keep on top of everything like a champ. Someone who thinks outside the box and approaches their work in a way that is unique and revolutionary, appreciated by all who work with them?

How about a talented mechanic? Someone who can hear the slight rattle nobody else can hear, identify it then fix it?

Or would you say this is just people taking pride in their work? I think it's so much more than that.

So let's start with the definition of 'Talent". defines it as follows:

1. a special natural ability or aptitude: a talent for drawing.

2. a capacity for achievement or success; ability: young men of talent.

3. a talented person: The cast includes many of the theater's major talents.

4. a group of persons with special ability: an exhibition of watercolors by the local talent.

On face value, that seems about right. But it isn't true for me, nor would I say it's true for many creatives. I would say I had a natural interest in art and a desire to create, but honestly, if left to my own devices it's very unlikely that my work would have progressed to where it is now in the same amount of time, if ever! I've had so much help, guidance and tuition from so many sources. And PRACTICE. Oh. My. God. The hours, days, weeks, months and years of PRACTICE, experimentation, reflection and critique are what has got my art to where it is today.

The concept of talent has been bugging me for a long time and I'm wondering how others perceive 'talent'. So I reached out to a few people I know, who are would typically be described as exceptionally talented at what they do. Here's what they had to say about 'talent'.

Kara Clarke, Jewellery Maker, Entrepreneur, Owner & Operator of Tumbled Earth, Kimberley, BC

Talent is: It's All About Attitude

To start off…I love the fact that you are diving into the topic of Talent. To be honest, I have not put much thought into it up until now so thank you for thinking and including me. When someone tells me “you are talented” it makes me feel great and I thank them with pride. But this said “talent” is not “a special natural ability” like the first definition but years of hard work, learning, trial and error and growing.

I like the second definition better “a capacity for achievement or success”. I believe attitude is EVERYTHING!!! I would not be where I am now if I thought that I could not do it, that I wasn’t worthy or capable. I choose my attitude, and yes it is a choice. I choose to be positive and happy. I choose my goals and dreams. Every day in my business, I put one foot in front of the other to achieve what I want. Everyone is capable of reaching their dreams. They just have to start and work damn hard to get it. That to me is talent.


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Emma Stevens, Clothing Designer, Entrepreneur, Owner & Operator of Untamed Fernie

Talent is: Determination & Practice, Practice, Practice

I think anyone can be talented, but some have an easier path than others. Even though some people are naturally gifted, I think it truly comes down to a passion and a desire to get good at something. I am not the smartest person in the room, but I have always had a belief that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and practice, practice, practice.