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Old July 31st, 2006, 11:58 AM   #16
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I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments so far and the two articles (thanks) and this discussion…I happened to be fascinated by the subject of excellence.

While I agree with just about everything in that photographer essay, the one fault might be that he’s trying to say that a high skill level is not ALL talent. But, of course it’s not all innate talent…just like it’s not all training either. It’s a combination of both. It's not nature VS nurture. It's both.

Both of these articles kind of indirectly imply that anyone can learn a certain skill through training and practice and hard work alone. And to a degree that is true. But the excellence of the people at the very top requires more than training and learning.

I can’t understand why people have a resistance to the idea of inborn talent, except maybe to entertain the notion that we can do anything we put our mind to, even at the highest level. And, believe me, no one is more in favor of the idea of no limitations and a positive outlook and the power of believing in yourself, and the ability to overcome shortcomings through hard work. But the fact is there are people in every field that things just come easy to. That is talent.

But I also believe, coupled with talent, there’s an inborn capacity for that talent to grow. To put an image to it: we all have seeds inside us. Some people have giant Redwood seeds waiting to sprout, others have Oak tree seeds, others little Birch trees. Of course it takes sun (training) for them to grow. The more ideal conditions the bigger and stronger it will grow. Some trees don’t get good water (encouragement…) and struggle, but if there’s enough nourishment from the soil seeping in (your own persistence), the tree will grow anyway. The journey in life is a process of discovering what kinds of seeds we have inside us, and how big of a tree we’ll become. Society may tell us that big trees have more value that the smaller trees, but that’s just false. Part of the journey is a discovery of who we are, another part is discovering why we are, and a third part is accepting who and what we are (and not necessarily in that order).

It seems to me that trying to deny innate talent is a way of saying “I too start at the same level Tiger Woods did.” It’s a way keeping the hope alive that “I can do anything” and “it’s all in my control” and “If I just put the time in, I can achieve the highest level…” But even if I picked up a golf club at the same age as Tiger, had all the same training and coaches, all the same opportunities, and even if I worked exactly as hard as he did, and still does, (down to the last minute), I still wouldn’t be as good as Tiger. There’s more to a skill than the technical stuff you can learn. How someone thinks, how they perceive, their imagination, their ability to improvise in tough situations and solve problems, handle pressure…all the personality stuff (and in sports that includes body type, muscle structure…) separates the good from the bad and the great from them all. That’s talent.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 12:27 PM   #17
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I do believe in talent, that some people just 'have it'.

Some actors follow years at a professional school, and they get out and they act 'okay'.
Others never followed any exercise, and just play, and it comes out marvelous.

I for myself, I've never had any music lessons, I even can't read notes, but I just play on a piano. Many people say they think I play better and which much more emotion then people who have been following piano lessons for 10 years, although I just learned by pressing on keys and listening to what I liked, and moving from that point on.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 12:57 PM   #18
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Instead of saying "Talent does not exist" (I think most of us would disagree with that absolute statement), would it be more accurate to say, "Talent is overrated?"

I am quite sick of hearing the phrase, "Oh, [he/she] is so talented!" when in fact I know that the person (including me) worked very, very hard. It's like they think that we sit back and do nothing, and it comes to us with no effort. (I've been treated with veiled contempt for this—it's assumed I didn't work hard, because it's all just a "gift.")

It's also true that some people use the assumption that they have no "talent" as a cop-out. They'll use a lack of talent as an excuse for never going anywhere with a skill, while all the time it was probably more a matter of them being not motivated/lazy. Someone else (with similar aptitude and circumstances) might very well become extremely good, simply because they worked harder.

I agree with the "seed" theory (so eloquently explained by Jeff). We all have a "seed," but some don't let it grow—either because they are not interested, lazy, scared, unmotivated. But if they were to give it a chance, they'd find that the "seed" was there all the time, and that it could be called "talent."
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Old July 31st, 2006, 02:04 PM   #19
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I have talent. Going through High School, in band, I NEVER practiced. Never, never, never practiced my Sax (I mean NEVER). I was ALWAYS first chair. I could sight read better than the others could play after weeks of intense practice and study. I guess I had to learn the notes... but I never practiced back then either.
Then, when the quad player (4 tom toms) was sick for a parade, so I took his spot. The band director asked if I could replace him for the rest of the season. I never played quads before that day.
I just have a natural ability, or talent, for music. My autistic son has the same talent.
Now if I could just get off of my lazy butt and practice, I could be great!
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Old July 31st, 2006, 02:12 PM   #20
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Yeah, you still have to work for it.
Taking my example of music playing, see my post above, I played on my keyboard (later piano) for maybe an hour a day, sometimes more, sometimes, on the weekends, for hours at once.
Much more then people who went to music school, but I did it because I really enjoyed it. So I maybe learned quicker because of that too.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 02:37 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathieu Ghekiere
Much more then people who went to music school, but I did it because I really enjoyed it. So I maybe learned quicker because of that too.
Definitely. If you love it, you will work harder, and then of course the hard work pays off. My theory is that part of what we call "talent" is loving to practice and loving the whole process.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 04:21 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Ruth Verdugo
Definitely. If you love it, you will work harder, and then of course the hard work pays off. My theory is that part of what we call "talent" is loving to practice and loving the whole process.
Yes, the frontman of Muse, Matthew Bellamy (hope I spelled his name right) is, for me, a very talented guy: plays lovely piano, lovely gitar and has a great voice, but he doesn't believe in talent too: he says he only believes in 'interest' : people have certain interests, things they want to do, and then they'll just work very much for it (if they have discipline) and in that way, develope some skill.
I think it's an interesting angle, but I still believe in a certain amount of 'natural gift' too.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 04:44 PM   #23
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my friend told me a story why he quited from proffesional judo. It was because of younger and more talented rival. He(the rival) was faster, he learned faster, his grip was stronger. Despite of having much less experince he won everyone on his way. So my friend quit and just said this pointless to achieve anything having such rival. Later this talented guy got champion of the country.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 04:47 PM   #24
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I'll use this topic to make my first post on this board. Please forgive me, as I have a tendency to use very loose analogies.

I like to think of "talent" as being a substance that has different consistencies (physically), even in one person.
For example: One may be excellent at videography, but not as good in photography. Therefore the consistency of their talent is more like water in video and more like a slow-moving gel in photography. Water has the knack of finding cracks and ways of moving much more fluently to whatever step there is to follow, whereas a gel takes a little longer to do the same.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 04:55 PM   #25
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Hehe...

My post got quite a reaction. I think it's a very important discussion to have. Ok, when I said that "talent does not exist", I didn't really mean it in the absolute. I guess I was trying to get a reaction with that statement (which I did). I just think it's an overrused term that doesn't mean much (I'm a very pragmatic person).

What most people see as "talent", I see as a simple, basic, yet very flexible aptitudes, combined with interest and motivation. As many have suggested, these basic ingredients will come to nothing if they aren't properly nurtured. Mozart would never have become a great composer if his father hadn't spent all that time shaping him into one. But of course that all that effort wouldn't have amounted to much if Mozart hadn't had his passion for music.

To me, the main ingredients are the interest and the motivation, as they are absolutely required for one to reach a high level of excellence. As far as innate aptitudes go, I believe they're non-specific: the same level of artistic inspiration that made someone a great painter could have made that same person into a great musician if only he had taken that path (which would have required a keen interest in music in the first place). Life is so short that one cannot explore all the possibilities and must choose a path (or more likely life chooses for them). Personnally, I have explored multiple artistic paths, and I think I'm getting very good at some things. Other things I have tried and can feel the potential, but lack the time to invest in it. For instance, my experiences with music indicate that I could be a good musician, if only I took the time.

As for why some become great at something without any traditional training, while others go to school and never become good at it, doesn't that support the point? The former did it on their own because they were passionate about it; the latter just went through the motions, without the motivation put real effort into it. While many see talent as the discerning factor, I think that passion is far more important. Studying at the conservatory won't necessarily make you a great musician; going to the actor's studio won't automatically make you a great actor. It will only work if you have the appropriate drive.

Yes, some people have "it", and some people don't, but by that I don't mean talent. It's passion and the motivation to work hard enough to get "it".

I used to draw a lot when I was younger. In fact, I could spends hours every day on my drawing board, and the progress was lightning fast, from day to day. Much later on, I didn't spend as much time drawing, and I realized that I wasn't getting any better at it (my new drawings weren't much better than my old). It looked as though I had reached a peak, so I mostly stopped.

But years later, I started drawing again for different reasons (I started doing animation). After a few months, I realised that I was getting much better than I used to be. My drawings felt more alive, more expressive. I hadn't reached a peak after all; it's just that I was doing the same kind of things over and over again, and it was impossible for me to improve that way. But by exploring new styles and work methods, I blew away the limits. And I got something very important from that: you can always get better at anything, but

- doing things the same way over and over again will not let you improve
- you must look into new ways to develop your skills and creativity

and that "insight" (how pretentious does that sounds) is guiding me in my experiences in filmmaking. In fact, I went through the same kind of dead period I went through with drawing, but I've tried to eliminate the mind-barriers that kept me from getting better, and I'm very pleased with my current progress.

So much for being brief...
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Old July 31st, 2006, 07:21 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Jean-Francois Robichaud
But by exploring new styles and work methods, I blew away the limits.
And that, Jean-Francois is one of the biggest reasons for the existence of forums like this one. Where we can all teach each other how to break out of the mold and explore new styles and methods, helped along by our forum associates. That in itself can have a catalyst effect on an individual. Take an idea from here, add your own 'spin' to it and come up with something completely different that you in turn, come back to the forum with for sharing and teaching others.

It's a good thing!

-gb-
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