January 5

It took me fifteen years to discover
that I had no talent for writing, but
I couldn't give it up because by
that time I was too famous.

Robert Charles Benchley


Today's Meditation:

Here's a man who doesn't take himself too seriously.  Here's someone who is able to look at what he does with a sense of humor, and to make a statement that seems to be ridiculous, but that really is full of humor and a healthy perspective.  My guess is that it's that sense of humor and his willingness to make fun of himself that allowed him to become a famous writer, and that talent itself became a secondary requirement in his chosen profession.

Most people will tell you that if they had a choice between working with someone with a great deal of talent in their field, but who knows it and is arrogant about it, and someone who may not be as talented but who is willing to put forth tons of effort and is able to work well with others, they will choose the latter person.  I certainly would.  Athletics are filled with talented people who never reach the top of their games because they think so highly of themselves, while some of the less-talented athletes thrive because of their work ethics and their abilities to get along with other human beings.

Talent is not a necessary element of most fields.  Some talent can be extremely helpful, but for the most part, we put ourselves in a position to be successful by studying our fields, by following directions, by practicing.  For example, I don't have much talent at all for cooking, but if I'm very careful about following directions I can end up with a very nice meal.  I can't tell you how many students in my writing classes start the year saying "I'm no good at it," yet who end the year knowing that they can write well.  They've developed a skill, and that's what sets them apart from others who still can't write well.

Of course, it's great to make a life of something at which we're truly talented.  When we're able to do so, we usually end up having greatly productive--and enjoyable--careers.  But in life we do have to do things at which we aren't particularly talented, and when we do so it's up to us to make sure that we do well at it.  Sometimes it's much more important to develop a skill than it is to do something at which we're talented.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to avoid tasks for which we have little talent?  How much of our avoidance is due to a fear of ridicule?

What are some easy ways to compensate for a lack of true talent?

Why do others tend to value talent over ability, even if the talented person is impossible to work with? 

For further thought:

When I look at the kids training today. . . I can tell which
ones are going to do well.  Itís not necessarily the ones
who have the most natural talent or who fall the least.
Sometimes itís the kids who fall the most, and keep
pulling themselves up and trying again.
Michelle Kwan


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