Dear LOA: Can I Develop Talent Or Do I Have To Be Born With It?

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by Melody Fletcher on March 12, 2013

 

Awesome Dudette asks: “Is there actually anything like ‘natural talent’ or ‘born talented’, or are these just beliefs within the person’s mind? Can anybody use LOA to create talent within themselves, even though their family gene pool has a different opinion?”

Dear Awesome Dudette,

What, exactly, is talent, anyway? To me, having a talent means that success in that area comes easily to us. We need less time and effort to learn and master a skill than someone who is not talented. Someone with a talent for languages will have an easier time learning French than someone with no affinity for it. That doesn’t mean, however, that the person who isn’t talented at languages can’t become proficient in French. He’s just going to have to put in more time and effort.

Mastering a skill takes practice

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduces the 10.000 hour rule, and argues that it takes ten thousand hours to master any skill. Of course, someone with an innate talent may have to put in a bit less time – they’ll learn more quickly. A highly talented person may only have to put in 6.000 hours, for example. But, and this is important, they still have to put in the time. It’s just that, since the acquisition of that particular skill comes easily to them and they (generally) enjoy the activity, that 6.000 hours may seem like much less, while trying to master a skill one has no passion for could make those 10.000 hours seem like much more.

In other words, when you combine passion for something with talent, practice becomes automatic.

Passion is more important than talent

And that’s the key, in my opinion: Passion. There are those who have a talent, but no passion for that activity. They are naturally good at it, but they don’t care if they are. This is when relatives come out of the woodwork and implore the afflicted not to “waste their talent”, as if talent is more important than being happy. Talent without passion won’t lead to effortless practice, because while talent may make it easier to become proficient, it doesn’t serve as motivation. When passion is present, there’s plenty of motivation.

When passion is present without talent, one may need the whole 10.000 hours to become a master, but they’ll fly by. Think about it: When you’re passionate about something, don’t you just naturally read about it? A lot? Don’t you think about it all the time, talk to people about it incessantly, go to courses, and practice obsessively, without even trying? Don’t you just live, breathe and poop the subject of your fancy? How long do you think, under those circumstances, would it take you to put in 10.000 hours? Compare that to forcing yourself to practice 2 hours a day.

No passion, no talent

While the best possible scenario is obviously to have massive amounts of talent coupled with passion, the worst one is to have no talent and no passion, but for some unbelievably brain dead reason still try to force oneself to try and master that skill. Now, if you’re asking “Why the hell would anyone do that?”, congratulations, you have stepped outside the Matrix. But let’s face it, tons of people try to become good at something simply because they think they should. We even actively encourage our kids to do so, by relegating their talents and passions to hobby status if we don’t think they can make a lot of money in that area (not you personally, mind you. You’re obviously super enlightened, but, you know, other people, like those who don’t read this blog).

Generally, when people ask me how to use LOA to become good at something, they’re talking about an area in which they have no or little talent and for which they have no passion. They’ve developed a belief that they should learn this thing, even though they don’t really want to. They think they want to learn this skill (often desperately so), but what they really want is whatever they think being good at this skill will bring them. They are focusing on the means to an end, instead of just aligning directly with what they want. If you’re trying to become good at something and it’s frustrating you, this is almost certainly the case. In this case, the problem is NOT that you have no talent, it’s that you are trying to force yourself to do something you don’t really enjoy doing. Stop it. Just stop it.

Talent gives you a leg up, passion takes you all the way home

We are all born talented in some way. We all have abilities that come easily to us. Some of these can be immediately apparent, like being good at math, while others can be more subtle (like being good at negotiating, problem solving, or reading energy.)

But talent or the lack thereof, isn’t nearly as important as passion.

I, for example, have always had a talent for translating energy. We all translate energy all day long, but the awareness and conscious control of this ability have always come easily to me. The problem was, that as a child, I had no idea what was happening. So, my innate ability to tune into the thoughts and feelings of those around me with greater sensitivity than most caused me a great deal of stress. Imagine being a five year old who’s just picked up on the angry, jealous thoughts of your average, desperately unhappy adult, or the dark and twisted inner world of a pedophile, and having no way to process or properly communicate that information. In the early days, my “talent” was more of a curse, and I had no passion for it whatsoever. That didn’t come until later, when I discovered that my innate ability could be a blessing. Once I developed a passion for this skill, I practiced with a vengeance. I couldn’t help it. I paid attention all the time, looked for nuances, honed by ability, and am still continuously looking for ways to improve. I’m certain that at this point in my life, I’ve put in well over 10.000 hours and plan to put in many, many more. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. But my point is that even though I had a talent for reading energy, I didn’t develop my skills until I combined that talent with passion.

I was also born with a massive passion for communication. I don’t think a day went by in my childhood that I wasn’t told to shut up or keep it down by someone. As soon as I could form sentences, I began to write stories. I communicated prolifically (still do). I practiced. I failed. A lot. I had no filter – I communicated EVERYTHING, no matter if people wanted to hear it or not (if they didn’t, I just started talking louder). I hadn’t yet learned that the audience’s reaction is important, too. But as I compulsively practiced and took advantage of every opportunity to yap at someone, I got better at it. I learned to hold back, to filter what I was saying, to listen more and watch for reactions. I learned to set intentions before starting, figuring out what point I really wanted to make (instead of just droning on and on in the hopes that something I might say would be interesting). I reached 10.000 hours years ago.

Am I a talented communicator? In some ways, yes. Writing has always come incredibly easy for me. But speaking has not. For much of my life, I had a passion for speaking, but not much talent. I don’t just mean public speaking, I mean communicating with others using the spoken language. I annoyed people more than captivated them. It took me years to learn to filter myself, and I still struggle with it when I get excited about something. I’ve put a lot of work and effort into communicating by speaking. Considering how long it’s taken me to get good at it, I’d say, that talent didn’t have much to do with it. But the passion was always present in massive quantities. I couldn’t be silenced, and let me tell you, many have tried. There was just no way I wasn’t going to practice. The outcome, of course, is that I now get paid to talk to people (ah the irony. Ha!).

Bottom line

If you are born with talent AND passion in any given area, and you allow yourself to pursue that talent, you’ll be unstoppable. If, however, you weren’t born with an innate ability but have a massive passion for it, you can still be unbelievably successful. Because no matter how much talent you have, if you’re not willing to put in the hours, you won’t achieve mastery. So, passion beats talent every time, if you have to choose between the two. Whatever it is you want to do, you can achieve it, as long as you have a passion for it.

What are you passionate about? Do you have a talent that you have no passion for? Or have you realized a passion that you don’t have a particular talent for?  Share in the comments!

{ 20 comments }

Carole Remy March 12, 2013 at 17:15

Hi Melody,

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story! I’m reminded of my daughter who at about five needed to do a cartwheel on stage as part of a jazz dance. She literally cartwheeled everywhere, down the sidewalk, around the living room, I swear she didn’t walk on her feet for weeks until she had it perfect. I experienced the same thing when I started to write novels. I had never studied creative writing, had no formal background at all. When my first novel was published, I counted up and realized I had read about 4500 novels over almost 40 years. The passion was always there.

Huge hugs! Happy Tuesday!

Carole
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Nay March 12, 2013 at 18:02

Hey MC!

I think I’ve hit at least 2500 books in my past. Probably averaged 3-5 a week for many years. Slowed way down now. But like you said, it was a passion to read those books! Nobody had to force me or twist my arm. Now the writing, that wasn’t quite the same. LOL!

Carole Remy March 12, 2013 at 20:10

Hi Nay,

If you’re like me, when the novel is ready, it will just flow out. When I try to push it, nothing comes. Good thing I don’t do contract books!

Hug,

MC
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Just call me A. March 12, 2013 at 17:17

what a wonderful post and pic! and thanks for giving such great examples from your own life. I can see you talking and expressing yourself in your pigtails as a little girl, at least how I imagine you were. It is great how you tweaked your talents and passions and now make a great living in all of them- writing, speaking, communicating very effectively and translating energy.

This post parallels the one on grades and studying. If just a means to an end, i.e., the diploma, getting everyone off your back, or just wanting to freaking finish darn it, then it will be a torturous ride indeed. I have noticed this myself.

However, even if you find the slightest spark of some sort, the slightest passion, it can turn into a nice, slow-burning flame. It does not even need to be a conflagration. Even a flame can help you in aligning directly with what you want. Some of us had forgotten that and had to think back to why and how we were interested in the first place. It will also help you deal with those around you in their nagging, as you won’t react to their pestering in anger or frustration, but rather respond more gently and clam down yourself. This from my personal experience.

Even mediocre students end up being great teachers or the like, for example, because of their passion, no matter how much administrators whine about their particular teaching methods. Thanks for the reminders. And yes, the readers of this blog rock!

Nay March 12, 2013 at 17:45

Melody,

I pictured my grand-daughter when you said, ‘I couldn’t be silenced, and many have tried.’ Hahahahahaha!!!! She talks continuously, always, to anyone and everyone. She loves to be in the middle of a conversation. And she is only 4. Sometimes it is hilarious, other times it isn’t…like when she interupts you 2 or 3, or 10 times in one sentence. :)

And I have to agree; passion tops it all. When you love something, talent has nothing to do with how much time you spend on it. And you do it without any effort or worries or stress. You do it because you just love to do it!

Saurabh Sisodia March 12, 2013 at 19:24

there is a question melody.

Is there any way we can find out what is the talent within us. what we are good at. Especially when we are not good at anything.

Nathalie March 12, 2013 at 21:39

I love the pic on this one! Too funny! :-)

I think another thing that happens with the 10000 hours practicing is that when you really want to accomplish something, and have the passion for it, you tend to cram all those hours into a smaller stretch of time than someone who doesn’t have that kind of enthusiasm, so it seems to come faster to you (although it took the same number of practice hours, you just put your hours in faster than others).

For example, if you wanted to learn how to play the guitar and spent every possible spare hour and minute you could grab practising, you could put your 10000 hours in within a few months, whereas someone who only practiced for an hour once a week, would take years to get to the same level of competence that you have. It would appear to others that you mastered the guitar far sooner than the other person, even though the number of actual hours spent practising was the same.
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lili March 12, 2013 at 22:29

“you could put your 10000 hours in within a few months, ”

10.000 hours are 24 hours a day for about 14 months. Maybe you mean a few years.

lili March 12, 2013 at 22:30

?

I forgot to type “?” after years, damn it.

Nathalie March 12, 2013 at 23:03

Years rather than decades then… point remains the same…

Maybe someday I’ll invest a few hours into improving my mastery of mathematics. Then again maybe not… no passion for it. ;-)
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Laura March 12, 2013 at 23:44

I went to school for make up and skin care years ago and when we got to the make up part I thought, “I got this!” And was in fact the first to volunteer to apply it to someone after the teacher demonstrated.

But then I immediately found out how very different it is to apply it to someone else rather than myself.

The girl I made up that first time looked like a freaking clown. But the cool thing was I learned from that mistake. I knew from doing what I did wrong and the next time I applied make up to someone I did a much better job.

Unfortunately, my style wasn’t for everyone. I like the natural look so in my mind the right way to wear make up is so that no one can tell you’re wearing it.

I got a job at one of those “glamour shot” type places and I remember a woman who had seen me apply make up to someone before her didn’t want me to make her up because I didn’t do it heavy enough. Thing is, I could do it that way I just didn’t like it.

I don’t even wear make up anymore so another cool point is that passions also change. I’d have to say that learning about dog behavior and training is my passion now. But I haven’t had too many chances to pursue that yet.

Elle March 12, 2013 at 23:49

When I first started to read this Melody I wondered where you were going to go with it. Needless to say you went to a place that I sort of knew you would. Not exactly in the words I had in my mind, but the same energy. Burning desire…passion…

It’s been said so often, do what you love and it makes it so much easier.

Love your personal stories – I think I have something to learn still about filtering myself when I’m enthusiastic…so I had a good laugh at your comments.

Love Elle
xoxo
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Vini March 13, 2013 at 02:53

I love to read, always have. Started from the age of ten. Dont do it so often now because of all the made up distractions :) . I also used to write when I was still in high school. Not so much now. I would love to start doing that again though. Hopefully soon! Thanks for the beautiful post.

Vincent Nguyen March 14, 2013 at 01:57

Glad you brought up Gladwell’s ‘Outliers.’ That is exactly what popped up in my head too when I read the title. I haven’t read this yet, but a few people have recommended to me Robert Greene’s ‘Mastery.’ Have you read it, Melody?
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Fonzy Montenegro March 14, 2013 at 08:09

Hi Melody!

Thanks for always giving us honest, down-to-earth information about how LoA works in your perspective. I really appreciate your efforts. :)

Cheers,
Fonzy Montenegro

Alexis Marlons March 15, 2013 at 18:12

Love the photo above. It gave a smile on my face.

Rob March 17, 2013 at 09:31

THat is a very interesting topic you brought up about whether you are born talented, or if you can manifest it. And that was so true about the “passion”. No passion = no talent. You don’t have to be talented to be successful in anything, but you definitely have to be talented!

Adrienne A. March 20, 2013 at 23:28

Loved it Melody! It brought to mind something I had read many years ago, it said something like how passion IS more important than talent and that many people who are on top of their field or hobby or whatever are actually NOT in the “born with talent” group but rather had allot of passion. It went on to say how for many people, the challenge to grow and strive for growth actually helps them continue to be passionate and actively improve while those born with talent, if lacking the passion, can become bored or feel less drive to strive for improvement because it comes easier for them.
Of course everyone is an individual.

I am naturally talented in my greatest passion, that makes it of the greatest pleasure to study and practice. I also have no fear of failure in that area, even though it is of such great importance to me.
Other areas that I am less talented or less passionate about I have a great deal of fear of failure or fear of being less than good enough, or fear of not ever being able to get “good enough” even though they mean so much less to me.

Hugs! Adrienne

Mike March 28, 2013 at 21:48
Roy October 16, 2013 at 17:08

According to me, talent is like genetics. Let’s say two athletes join a gym. One of them is genetically more evolved than the other. For the person with better genetics(A) it might take 2 months of hardwork to attain a certain muscular state. Whereas, for B,it may take 6 months to get to the same state as A. He might even be working harder than A.
I think I can compare talent to genetics.

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