There has always been an argument regarding talent being the catalyst for a person’s success rather than skill. The talent is a natural ability to do something, whereas skill is acquired based on passion.
For instance, as a small child, since childhood, you sing melodiously without any training; that’s your innate talent. However, consider a scenario where you wish to become a magnificent singer and get enrolled in music classes. Some might say, you don’t have a sweet voice, others might think you don’t have a good rhythm. But, you stay focused and continue to work on your interest, you will develop an unfathomable skill. Irreversible. This determination will take you far beyond someone that has inborn talent. According to some studies cited by famous authors like Malcolm Gladwell in his books – “The Tipping Point” and “Outliers”; it takes 10000 hours only to master any skill on this planet Earth. But, it is a theory, and some people are proving that it takes way lesser than that. The time it takes to learn a skill doesn’t matter as long as you have the inkling about your passion and determination to learn and improve. Here are some great examples of people that indeed have mastered the art of acquiring a skill and have proven that it matters more than the innate talent.
While at secondary school, Armani aspired a career in medicine and enrolled in the University of Milan to pursue medicine. After three years, Armani left the studies and posted at the military hospital in Verona. During this time, Armani decided to choose a different career path. For the starters in 1957, Armani found a job as a window dresser at a department store in Milan. Then he became a salesman in the men’s wear department and gained valuable experience in the marketing aspect of the fashion industry. After doing it for some years, Armani moved to Nino Cerruti company and designed menswear. His skills were in huge demand, and while working in Cerruti, he also started freelancing and contributed designs to many manufacturers. In the late 1960s, he met with Sergio Galeotti who became his work partner. In 1973, Armani opened a design office and did collaborations with fashion houses to style and design clothes which provide him with an opportunity to gain experience and develop his style. In 1975, he founded Giorgio Armani Corporation with his friend, Sergio and presented his first collection of men’s ready to wear for Spring and Summer under his name. Armani introduced several product lines under his brand name, and his label became the top leading universally. He also designed clothes for more than one hundred films. And who doesn’t know about the lavish Armani watches and perfumes?
Does Armani’s career graph show that he had innate talent? No, he changed his career path and identified the one where he had an interest, eventually improvised his skill, experimented, manifested his confidence and took one substantial and risky step after another.
Stanton majored in history from the University of Georgia in 2010. He started his career as a bond trader in Chicago. While working there, Stanton purchased a camera and started clicking photos of people on weekends as a hobby. When he lost his job in the same year, he decided to pursue photography full-time. He arranged some money from family & friends and moved to New York. Stanton created a page named ‘Humans of New York’ on Facebook and started posting pictures of the New Yorkers. After posting a woman’s photo along with the quote given by her, Stanton began adding captions and quotes to his photographs. Eventually, it evolved into full interviews which gave Stanton a story behind the photo. In 2013, his photobook was published with the same title and received good reviews. The book reached on the number one position and became the New York Times Best Non-fiction. In 2015, Stanton was invited to interview President Barack Obama.
He was a Swedish runner and broke 15 world records in the 1940s. His father was a lumberjack, and he used to live with him in Northern Sweden. As a teenager, he loved running in the woods and eventually became curious to measure his speed. Gunder with his father mapped the 1500 metre long track, and while he ran on it, his father checked the time. Gunder’s father told that he completed the race in 4 mins and 50 seconds (considered a remarkable time), which led him to believe that he has a bright future as a runner. Eventually, Gunder started vigorous training and went on to become a premier runner. It happened because Gunder and his father shared a belief that he can hone his skill. However, many years later, Gunder’s father confessed that his actual time was 5 mins and 50 seconds – a time that wasn’t a unique sign of becoming a world-class runner. When asked about the reason, his father explained that he was worried about Gunder’s loss of passion and encouragement in running. And as we can see, the fact that Gunder’s father disinformation led him to believe in his abilities.
The bottom line
Psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues conducted a study on a group of top performers in various field. They found that these people had at least one supportive family member who told them that they have a unique talent. When Benjamin observed the childhood of these performers closely, he found no evidence stating that these individuals had been superior to their peers, yet their parents believed in them, but isn’t that’s what most of the parents do? Then why doesn’t this phenomenon work for every child? The reason is – it is necessary to convince a child that he or she has an extraordinary talent, but the belief works when it is followed by strenuous training as happened in Gunder’s life.
As you can derive from the examples, the process is that the – parents who believe that their child is talented; they find a mentor to guide him through. The parents also supervise the child’s training. The child feels special when it gets the attention of parents, works extra hard and eventually, the practice pays off the reward in the form of a manifested skill. The child earns a reputation among peers, relatives, and the world believes that he or she always had a natural talent. Hence, as the book Peak: Secrets from New Science of Expertise also says, the innate ability has little to do with ultimate success. The secret ingredient to a person’s success lies in an individual’s contribution to deliberate practice.
“I have no special talent. I am just passionately curious.” – Einstein
- Bond trader