What Constitutes Talent?
I still recall my final year of university with restrained enthusiasm.
I wrote my final paper on a prominent figure whom I admired at the time. I firmly recall a passage from a book loaned to me, which was translated from Italian to English. It said of the person, “He was so talented that even the blind were aware of him.” I felt it was a fitting description for a person of great talent.
That passage has stuck with me for seventeen years, etched in to my mind as a measure of an individual’s influence on the world.
Someone who has explored talent and success in detail is author Cal Newport. In his wildly acclaimed book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Newport advocates that we acquire a skill through deliberate practice in order to gain career capital, rather than pursue our passions.
In the book he outlines cases of people who pursued their passion, yet regrettably failed pursuing business success. According to Newport, they fell short of possessing the necessary business skills to bring their product or service to market. He goes on to propose that passion alone is not sufficient to guarantee success – there needs to be supporting foundations to ensure a commercially viable venture.
In a different frame of reference, it was the comedy genius Steve Martin who coined the phrase, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” He was delivering advice to budding actors at the time, yet managed to strike at something more relevant than technical guidance – talent. Martin’s counsel to become the best at what you do is echoed in the sentiment that when you are great, the world has no option than to take note of your genius.
One needs look no further than the rising star of young musicians these days to observe how many go on to form notable musical careers. I have been fortunate to follow the rise of Bob Dylan in my time and his impact on music. Dylan brilliantly fused poetry and music, and in doing so created a new genre, therefore defining music as lyrical poetry.
The idiom “cream rises to the top” is used to show that a good idea or great person cannot go unnoticed, much the same way cream rises to the surface in coffee or tea.
As a new idea gives birth, it is lauded by reviewers and critics as exciting and fresh. Michael Jordan’s masterful and athletic display on the court earned him the privilege as one of the most talked about basketball players of all time. He is etched in the minds of sports enthusiasts alike, becoming the focal point upon which other athletes are measured nowadays.
It is widely known that athletes have an indomitable will to succeed. The countless hours of training and the accompanying discipline demands that they be primed to be their best on competition day.
In a similar vein, Olympic athletes are another breed of super-athlete whose training spans decades to compete at one event. Oftentimes their entire training hinges on a performance spanning no less than a ten-second event. They understand all too well the gap that separates success and failure. As unforgiving as it may seem, gold medals are never awarded for second place.
Which leads us to the question, how can you be inspired by the greatness of others? Well for starters, embrace the advice of Carol Dweck who wrote the book Mindset. She proposes that we make steady improvement in our chosen field, by developing a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. In essence, as you divert your attention away from attaining the prize, you make steady and gradual improvements, which eventually lead you to your intended goal.
For example if you are a musician, focus on continuous deliberate practice by honing your musical skills. Deliberate practice is characterised by spending quality time absorbed in your respective performance, while noting key areas which require improvement. A golfer who lacks strength at his putting game, would devote focussed attention perfecting his technique, with the purpose of making continued improvement over time.
Your goal should be orientated toward building on your performance via continuous improvement. Do notinvest your time unwisely with end results during the development phase. Strive for constant and steady improvement overtime. Trust in the compound effect, which affirms that the rewards will materialise once you have attained a level of mastery.
Allow the process of mastery to become your companion. Seek out experts, mentors, skilled technicians,masters and those who can help you improve in any number of ways. Small improvements over time combine to yield surprising results.
It might be stating the obvious that many of the athletes who compete on an international scene are technically equal to their rivals. So what differentiates the best from the best? Not talent since that is assumed at that level of competition.
The greatest performing athletes are committed in a number of ways – dedication, sleep, nutrition, mental and emotional resiliency, courage and determination to name a few key attributes. Whilst these characteristics may seem barely immeasurable, incorporated over time, they return a resounding level of world-class success.
As is often the case, you may devote countless hours to your pursuit, make necessary sacrifices and still not hit upon success. Remember life has a rhythm of its own, which means timing is everything. Perhaps you need to acquire additional skills in certain areas to take your gifts to the world – be patient and bide your time.
Give yourself to your passion by living it and embodying it. Let it consume you so you think about it day and night. Let it be the last thing you reflect upon and the first thing on your mind when daylight breaks.
Dream about it– let it become an extension of your soul and character, because we want you to be so good they can’t ignore you.
It will look like this: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You