Is anyone exceptionally talented at something you have no interest in doing

It seems at the elite level of fields like science or athletics you need both a strong innate talent combined with a strong work ethic and a desire to participate. But is anyone exceptionally talented at something, but has no desire to actually do anything with it?

I’ve known people who never exercised and ate shitty diets, but could still out compete most people at marathons. With their natural talent they could probably compete on a national or global scale if they wanted, but they had no desire.

Or pee wee Kirkland who held his own against Dr. J in a street basketball game, but felt he could get more money and fame outside the NBA.

What about people who could’ve changed math or science, have there been any real life will huntings who turned down the field for various reasons?

I would not describe my ability to draw as “extraordinary”. But I would call it “above average”. Drawing was all I did outside of studying and practicing the violin/viola as a kid. I got a lot of self-esteem from it.

But after high school, I let it go somewhat. A dickhead douchebag college classmate noticed me drawing one day and told me I wasn’t any good, and I think I took it to heart. But I still dabbled a little. To deal with the stress of grad school, I created my one and only “masterpiece”–which my sister still has hanging on her wall all these years later. Except for thank you cards that I’ve decorated for a couple of people, that was my last hurrah.

I know that if I had gone to art school and kept at it, I could have gotten really good. Maybe one day I’ll pick up where I left off. Right now I don’t have the desire to.

I’m sure this is a much more common occurrence than we’d like to think. I’d think that most people are making some kind of compromise in what they do with their lives- you have to choose based not only on natural talent, but on what you like to do, what can bring in an appropriate amount of money, and what fits your lifestyle.

I mean, someone might have some kind of God-given gift to be the best trash-man the world’s ever seen, but he may well forego being the Wayne Gretzky of garbage to be an accountant, as it probably pays the same or better, and doesn’t involve rotting garbage or hazardous waste.

But how would we know? Someone would have to actually participate in the activity they’re talented in, and then opt out of it for some reason for anyone to know that they’re skilled at it. If someone just has latent, or non-public talent, then few people will ever know.

I’m like monstro, in drawing silhouettes. Drawing silhouettes was my favourite doodle all through high school. It turned out that training allowed me to draw and cut out paper silhouettes that people paid money for. Then a hairdresser asked me to paint his shop sign, and I did. After that, i only drew on request, and that happened a few times more. I don’t like drawing for myself, i don’t see the point.

I guess I could qualify for this one: In high school I was recruited to play football for Nebraska and Oklahoma (during the heyday for the former and between heydays for the latter) among other schools as in their scouts came to a couple of my games and I even got a call from Tom Osborne. I filled out their informational forms (GPA, eligibility, age, test scores, etc.) and immediately their eyes would light up, “You could go to Nebraska for free on academic scholarship!”. I would respond and say, “I know, so why would I play. What would make it worth my time?” They had nothing better to tempt me with, so I went for the Life of the Mind instead. To be honest, I was only an okay footballer- I was just really good at predicting where the other team’s play was going and could react very quickly to be in the right place to make a play. Subtle changes in the linemen’s stances to suggest passes, pulls, running direction. To really mess with the other team, I would often call out the play to my team to be ready. High schoolers can’t really audible well nor can they always take a time out.

I still use some of my skills (primarily my lack of fear of contact) in being a pretty darn good amateur goalkeeper for an adult soccer league now. But my it is still my reaction time and speed for being a big guy that give me any advantage now.

Interesting question. I’d guess that drive is a lot of it, and if you are smart and talented in one area, it will often transfer to others. There are probably genius biologists and physicists, better than 99% of other people in their fields, who could have decided to go on other paths and been chemists or mathematicians and been better than 93% of others in their fields. Same with music or sports. Not the case for everyone, but for a lot of people at the top of their fields.

From the time I could sit on a piano bench and reach the keys, I was trained to be a classical pianist. My great-aunt was my teacher, and she herself had enjoyed a lengthy career as a concert pianist, complete with Carnegie Hall debut. I was quite good. I won several contests to solo with symphony orchestras. I even cut a record. But when the time came to go to college, I had to tell my family that I didn’t have the necessary dedication to spend 6-8 hours per day for the rest of my life practicing and perfecting my skills.

I have continued to make music all my life, but as an avocation only.

I won a scholarship to a top university for a specialized field. I did well enough in grad school to get another big scholarship and a teaching offer. I did get to know some of the top names in the field well. But my grad experience had been a massive slog, I went through a very bad divorce during it, and I was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. I did finish my degree but almost literally put my books on a shelf and never read them again. My supervisor later called me “the lost one.” A former girlfriend called me A Beautiful Mind. I wonder what could have been.

It wasn’t genius, but I walked away from a PhD scholarship in English Literature and what most people assumed was a natural career path into academia after a Straight-A Masters degree, because I thought what I was doing was stupid bullshit. I was just really, really good at turning out what was wanted, but I never ever believed anything I was writing and eventually I just got sick of the game. It’s not a decision I have ever regretted.

The only thing that comes to mind is writing. I used to write a lot as a hobby (creative writing) and have done some in professional contexts (technical writing). I won awards for poems, won an essay contest with a perfect score, wrote requests for proposal on million-dollar projects… I even self-published a few books to overall positive reviews.

But to do it as a career? Not again. No way. In the times of my life when I did the most writing, I just wasn’t a happy person. It’s like all my energy went into that and there wasn’t anything left for the rest of the day. Maybe someday I could figure out a way to balance life and return to it, but not with the intent of making any great career out of it, or of wowing the world with my amazing genius.

I was a talented pianist (16 years of lessons!) and got it in my head a few years ago that I would take it up again. I bought a beautiful grand piano and played it exactly three times before coming to the realization that 1) after two decades of not playing I really sucked; and, 2) I had zero interest in practicing/resuming lessons.

The gorgeous instrument now lives with a friend who plays it every day :slight_smile:

I also played the bagpipes, Scots drum, glockenspiel, and other sundry instruments. Zero interest in taking any of these up again.

I think that it’s some proportion between passion and the desire to succeed that fuels that drive.

I’d guess that there are plenty of people with talent in some particular area, but either have the desire to succeed without the passion, or have the passion without the desire to succeed, and therefore never really achieve their personal zenith in whatever field of study/artistic endeavor/etc… Those with the passion will keep it up, but not necessarily reach their zenith, while the ones with the desire to succeed, but not the passion will switch to something they can more easily succeed in, or succeed more dramatically in (the garbageman example).

Few people really have the passion and desire to succeed that it takes to be a world class musician or athlete, or scientist, although plenty have one or the other in adequate quantities.

To be truly brilliant at something you have to have two particular talents.

a) an innate talent for the thing in question
b) an innate talent for working insanely hard at the thing in question

Plenty of us have one or the other (I was precociously good at darts of all things) but where you get both in a single human you get a Tiger Woods or a Roger Federer

I’m a freakishly good shot with a rifle apparently. Went to target practice with a group of friends of mine. All of which were veteran gun lovers. I out shot all of them. They refused to believe me when I told them I’ve only handled a rifle a handful of times.

I am a goddess of data entry. I mean, it’s no art or music, but there you have it. (No, I do not choose to make my living that way.)

I recall a friend of mine in grad school. He was a superb pianist and also good at math (but not really super-talented). But he was not a good enough pianist to make a living as a professional (or so he judged) and in those days (around 1960) anyone who could get a PhD in math was guaranteed a tenured job. Sadly he died of cancer before finishing school.

I have an excellent voice, and a reasonable amount of musical talent. I enjoy singing with a small local choral group, and have even had a couple of paid gigs (church choirs mostly). However, while I could have trained to become a top-level soloist, I never had the drive.

6-Year-Old Data Entry Prodigy Already Entertaining Offers From Major Temp Agencies

I’ve been told that whenever I go bowling. I do it for the social thing, usually for charity fundraisers, but have no desire to join a league or anything like that.

There are any number of famous people who achieved phenomenal success at a particular field and then walked away from it. Paul Morphy giving up chess is one example that comes to mind.