Do you guys believe in the word "talent"?

*This is long, but it’s a decent read IMO. :wink: *

Because I was thinking that I don’t really believe in the word “talent”. I play bass and have been told that I’m rather good. I’ve taught bass, been paid to play on albums and been in numerous bands been asked to play in bands and been asked to teach people for up to 30 bucks an hour.

I too, consider myself to be rather good as well, but there are many people better than I am. People always throw around the word “talented” and it kind of bothers me.

One thing I don’t consider myself is is “talented”. I didn’t pick up the bass and automatically start playing Orion by Metallica. No, I had to practice and practice and practice, miss parties, piss off girlfriends, make my parents mad and then practice some more. I literally practiced until the bass strings had blood on them.

To me, “talent” would be picking up an instrument and playing Beethoven without ever knowing a thing about the instrument.

Even in sports, people are like, Michael Jordan is so talented ! No, the guy practiced and practiced. I honestly think the more intelligent a person is, the higher they excel at their practice.

That’s what I think “talent” is, how to put your “intelligence” to use and excel beyond expectations. In the case of autistic people, I think that they are HIGHLY intelligent, so much so that it is incomprehensible to other humans. That’s why they can play piano like Beethoven etc…
What is your opinion, does true talent exist or is it just intelligence put to good use combined with lots of practice?

I think you have a talent for overstatement. :slight_smile:

Some folks have genuine talent and can achieve superior results if they work at it. Others could practice forever and never achieve good results. I know that I, for example, could take music lessons and practice 10 hours a day, and eventually become mediocre. I’ve seen others become excellent musicians with less. My older daughter was able to discern chord progressions almost instinctively after being taught the concept. I didn’t. My younger daughter had excellent pitch perception at the age of about 6, when she was selected for early education in stringed instruments. I was never able to correctly tune a guitar by ear; she could listen to a chord that I attempted to play and tell me which string was sharp or flat and by how much.

I could also never have become an excellent athlete. I have a poor sense of balance, as well as way below average hand-eye coordination. Some of that is due to my nearsightedness not having been corrected until I was around 10 years old, and missing some critical learning opportunities. Some of it is just lack of basic ability.

Nature often gives us the potential, the talent. Some of us develop their potential, others don’t.

You seem to consider talent to mean just one its dictionary definitions: “any natural ability or power; natural endowment.” But that’s not the only definition. Consider this one: “a superior, apparently natural ability in the arts or sciences or in the learning or doing of anything,” further clarified to have the connotation that it is or can be cultivated by those that possess it. This is what most people mean when they call you or Michael Jordan talented.

There are people who could not play bass or play basketball worth a darn no matter how much they practiced and worked at it. They have no talent for those pursuits. There are also those who have a talent for something but have not cultivated it. Usually they are not perceived as talented because the talent has not been demonstrated. So generally someone who is perceived as talented has a natural inclination for something AND has worked at developing expertise at it. The amount of natural inclination and the amount of work put in both vary among individuals, so some are more talented than others.

I find the word “talent” to be quite helpful in discussing the above concepts - that’s why the word exists.

Talent absolutely exists. This would be immediately obvious when observing a top level athlete. Take Michael Jordan, when he retired from basketball for the first time, he went and played baseball, not at a major league level, but far beyond what >99% of the population could ever achieve if they practiced their whole life at it.

There’s skill, which is learned, and there’s talent which is innate. They’re both a large factor.

“Talent” doesn’t mean that you can just automatically perform beautifully; it means that you have a natural ability that, with practice, can be developed above the norm. Practice and learned skill is a huge part of any craft, but IMO you have to have the talent too in order to become really good. I don’t think Beethoven could perform Beethoven without knowing anything about it.

I took piano lessons for years, but never got particularly good at it. I didn’t even get to “mediocre.” So I don’t feel that I have a talent for piano playing. I’ve seen people become wonderful pianists in less time and instruction than I took to be able to play a few Christmas carols badly. They’re pianistically talented; I’m not.

I am talented in other things, so I work at those to become better. But no matter how hard I work, I will never be an Olympic gymnast (or even a bad gymnast). Of course, I still enjoy swimming even though I’m bad at it; I enjoy doing a lot of things I’m no good at. But I wouldn’t try to perform for others!

Jeez, man. You’ve got the wrong definition of talent. There certainly is such a thing as talent but this ain’t it. Some people have a natural inclination towards certain endeavors. Since others have covered Michael Jordan’s talent… the ability to draw come naturally to some people. It’s a function of hand-eye coordination, spacial perception, and imagination. It can be taught, and those with the talent can be taught to improve, but it’s there.

It’s a variation of the Nature vs. Nurture debate - can an ability be in a person that is not cultivated through practice (i.e., nurturing)?

I agree with the other posters - there is a spectrum of “natural proclivity” i.e., talent that folks have - some can see that emerge with limited practice, some need to practice a ton and never get all that great and some won’t be even remotely good regardless of practice.

You can’t nurture what you don’t have by nature…but even a little bit of talent can be exploited and grown if there is passion and practice…

I think any person who practices hard and long enough at a skill, be it drawing, debating, or playing basketball, will develop a talent. Kids have it easier because their brains are more malleable, but I think the brain is plastic enough even in adulthood to accommodate almost any new skill. The trick is enjoying the act of practice – if you hate practicing the guitar, then you aren’t likely to have the willpower to force yourself to practice for the amount of time necessary to become proficient (several hours per day, for many, many months). However, if you’re the type who naturally enjoys messing around with a guitar and experimenting with different chords and fingering, becoming a guitarist will seem easy.

If there’s any genetic component to talent, I suspect it has more to do with disposition and temperment than skill. An energetic person is more likely to spend more time on the court honing his hand-eye coordination, and a calm person will more likely be able to sit still long enough to learn how to play the piano or draw.

I’ve 48, and have been an amateur guitar player for over thirty years.

The older I get, the less convinced I am of the importance of in-born musical ability, as opposed to in-born desire.

When I was younger, I would hear people much more accomplished than I and assume that I what separated us was ‘talent’.

But over the years, I’ve gotten to know plenty such people, and they invariably have practiced much harder and longer than I did.

At an age when I just wanted to sound good enough that I could play for people at parties, these players were focused on learning everything they could from any sources, and were constantly striving to improve. They had their own standards, and were less concerned about what others thought.

It’s possible that such people have more talent than I do, but since I haven’t put in the effort they have, I can’t be sure.

In the last 5 to 10 years, as I’ve come to this realization, I’ve delved into music much more challenging than I played when I was young. If my 20-year old self could hear me play now, he would probably put me in the ‘really talented’ category. I wish I could go back in time and tell this to my 10-year-old self!

I also have observed what I call the Hannibal Lecter effect; namely, that talented, accomplished people often have a benign vanity which causes them to hide how hard they’ve worked. (A character in The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter (an admittedly brilliant psychiatrist) knew, through pure happenstance, the identity of a wanted criminal. But Lecter led the authorities to believe that he had figured the criminal’s identity out through his brilliant reasoning).

There are of course differences in eye-hand coordination among people, and these would result in different levels of accomplishments between two equally-motivated musicians. But finding out how to make music around such limitations seems to separate geniuses from the mediocre. Django Reinhart is one example that comes to mind (one of the greatest jazz guitarists, despite the loss of the use of his 3rd and 4th fretting-hand fingers in a fire when he was 18).

That’s the whole reason I started this thread, silly goose. :slight_smile: Because I do, in fact, have a very odd outlook on talent. I don’t believe it exists.

This is why I say talent is nothing more than intelligence. I strongly feel that the reason some need more practice is because they can’t wrap their minds around it intellectually. The smarter one is, the better they are at doing something.

Let me ask you naysayers this question:
**If one human can do it, is it possible that another can do it just as well? **

Negative. It has been absolutely shown that certain skills can ONLY be learned in pre-adolescence. Others can be learned later, but only with difficulty and never to the extent possible if started earlier.

Take the Michael Jordan case. There is no doubt that he was a highly skilled, fit and motivated athlete. But when he tried to learn to play baseball he was unable to advance to the major league level. He had simply not developed the skills specific to that sport at a young enough age.

Similarly, there are a number of cases of abandoned or abused children who were not exposed to language. The later they were rescued, the less they were able to acquire the skill. The brain is available for language-learning in youth; it’s like liquid Jello ™ waiting for the peaches. At about adolescence, it “sets.” After that you can poke the peaches in, but they’ll never be as properly included as they would have been earlier. Look at any immigrant family. The folks who arrive as adults CAN learn the new language, but they will have a more difficult time acquiring it and many will always speak with an accent. Almost all the children will pick it up and become fluently bilingual. Yes, a few adults are able to learn a new language with little or no accent, but they are very rare.

Check out Why Michael Couldn’t Hit for a more complete explanation.

I loved to play the guitar. I used to practice late at night, alone, in the kitchen because I was so awful it would have been cruel to inflict it on anyone else. I really, really tried. As I mentioned before, both my daughters picked up the use of stringed instruments in very little time by comparison. I had piano lessons for YEARS when I was a kid. As previously mentioned, I got to be as good as mediocre.

On the other hand, there are skills and talents that I have that came to me very, very easily, and which I’ve seen others struggle with.

I’m reminded of Wayne Gretzky, who, it is said, was the best Little League ballplayer in Ontario and by all accounts would have ended up a major league baseball player had he not been scoring eight hundred points a year in all-star midget hockey at the time.

As the story further goes, he was a scratch golfer within three months of taking up golf.

Some people just have it. It’s simply preposterous to suggest that anyone would be an equally good athlete given enough practice.

In fact, let’s go back to baseball. The average major league pitcher throws a fastball at about 93 miles an hour; real hard throwers can get up to 100, and junk ball pitchers will be in the mod to high eighties. Even knuckleballers like Tim Wakefield can throw 80. Practically speaking you cannot be a major league pitcher unless you can throw at least 80, and unless you throw a knuckleball, 85. There are no examples to the contrary.

I’ve played baseball all my life; I practiced and practiced and practiced some more, and I can’t throw 80. If I throw absolutely as hard as I can from a mound, in my prime I might have hit 70. I’ve tried pitching, and my mechanics are pretty good, but 70 is about it. That’s fast enough that most people would flinch if I threw you the ball that hard, and it’s about as fast as most healthy adult males who know how to throw a ball can throw it. 80 just was not within my range of talent, and 90 is inconceivable. It’s not a mere issue of strength - I’m a big guy, 6’2", and reasonably strong, but I top out at 70. Pedro Martinez, who looks like he couldn’t beat up my sister, was bringing it at 97 in his prime. He doesn’t appear to be unusually strong or muscular; he’s a skinny little guy. But he threw 97 miles an hour.

The simple fact is that Martinez was born with a physical talent I do not, and never could have, possessed.

It’s hard for me to believe this doesn’t apply in other areas of life. I found music unbelievably confusing; I tried the piano, the trumpet, the guitar, and they just don’t make sense to me. The visual arts never came to me; I drew and painted and drew as a kid and I just wasn’t any good at it.

But I find numbers very easy to understand; I see relationships and equations and connections where, is it quite obvious, others do not. Why is that? Why can I pick up stuff like that faster than anyone I know, while playing a musical instrument just totally, utterly baffles me? I dunno, and who knows, maybe it’s nurture rather than nature, but the difference is so striking it’s hard to believe there’s not something innate to it.

The old football adage “You can’t teach speed.”

You would be well served by a dictionary. Talent and intelligence are different words, with different definitions, denoting different things.

Hardly. The better they can be at doing some things, which require that intelligence. There are plenty of skills and abilities that do not correlate to intelligence.

Sure. But not that just anyone can do it just as well.

As others have said above, I worked hard practicing clarinet in my younger years, not because I wanted to show off to people but because I wanted to show off to myself. But how do you explain a Mozart who just had everything musical fall into his lap? Sure he had to learn the mechanics of the piano but everything else (Those melodies!) came “naturally” to him. This is talent. I’ts also genius.

I definitely believe in the term “talent” in the same way some of those above have described.

I do not, however, believe in the term “gifted”. Nobody was “given” anything by anybody, it has no significant purpose. It’s heightened ability, and the self-motivation to dedicate time and effort to it, not a “gift”.

Of course I believe in the word “talent.” I’ve seen it in the dictionary, in written media, and I’ve heard it. The word “talent” definitely exists.

Whether or not I believe in the concept of “talent” is another question entirely. But since it would be a hijack, I’ll leave it unsaid.

Of course talent exists. Some people understand math easily. Explain something to them once and they get it. They breeze past calculus and start in on the really complicated stuff that you and I have never even heard of.

Other people honestly have trouble understanding fractions. Oh, they can add and subtract and multiply and divide, but doing arithmentic with fractions?

Of course the mathematically talented can work hard at their field. But there are plenty of mathematically talented people who don’t work hard at developing their math skills…but those people aren’t doing advanced work with math. Other people work really hard at math, and struggle through algebra.

The people who are noticed as being “really talented” are those that have a natural talent towards math, who work really hard at math, who get some sort of reward for working at math…financial, emotional, spiritual, whatever. Even if you’re good at math, you’re never going to be really really good if math bores you, or you spend your days working in the coal mine instead of getting to study.

Wayne Gretzky was a talented hockey player, but an alternate Wayne Gretzky who spent his teenage years working in the mill would never become the best hockey player in the world. An alternate Wayne Gretzky who became obsessed with darts might perhaps become the worlds greatest darts champion…or maybe only a pretty good darts player.

There really are sports phenomenons who don’t work very hard, who spend their time drinking, smoking crack, and banging strippers. And there are “average” players who live, eat, breathe, and drink their sport, and only through really hard work are they able to match the “natural” guy. And then there are guys who do both, and those are the Wayne Gretzkys and the Michael Jordans. There are plenty of guys who worked as hard as Michael Jordan, there are plenty of guys as naturally talented as Michael Jordan, but only Michael Jordan had both.

As a teacher, I have seen dedication and I have seen talent, and I have seen them bundled and have seen them seperate, and I will tell you I am 100% sure that they are different things.

It’s especially notable when they graduate and begin auditioning. There is a finite amount of dedication a kid can have–they have to eat and sleep, at least a little. Once they start auditioning for really top-rate programs, they are faced with people every bit as dedicated as they. That’s when talent comes into play.

However, for mere mortals, practice and work can almost always lead to signifigant improvement, and just because that improvement comes at more of a cost than it would for a talented person doesn’t mean it’s not worth paying the price you have to pay to get it. But talent does exist.