Awesome Dudette asks: “Is there actually anything like ‘natural talent’ or ‘born talented’, or are these just beliefs within the person’s mind? Can anybody use LOA to create talent within themselves, even though their family gene pool has a different opinion?”
Dear Awesome Dudette,
What, exactly, is talent, anyway? To me, having a talent means that success in that area comes easily to us. We need less time and effort to learn and master a skill than someone who is not talented. Someone with a talent for languages will have an easier time learning French than someone with no affinity for it. That doesn’t mean, however, that the person who isn’t talented at languages can’t become proficient in French. He’s just going to have to put in more time and effort.
Mastering a skill takes practice
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduces the 10.000 hour rule, and argues that it takes ten thousand hours to master any skill. Of course, someone with an innate talent may have to put in a bit less time – they’ll learn more quickly. A highly talented person may only have to put in 6.000 hours, for example. But, and this is important, they still have to put in the time. It’s just that, since the acquisition of that particular skill comes easily to them and they (generally) enjoy the activity, that 6.000 hours may seem like much less, while trying to master a skill one has no passion for could make those 10.000 hours seem like much more.
In other words, when you combine passion for something with talent, practice becomes automatic.
Passion is more important than talent
And that’s the key, in my opinion: Passion. There are those who have a talent, but no passion for that activity. They are naturally good at it, but they don’t care if they are. This is when relatives come out of the woodwork and implore the afflicted not to “waste their talent”, as if talent is more important than being happy. Talent without passion won’t lead to effortless practice, because while talent may make it easier to become proficient, it doesn’t serve as motivation. When passion is present, there’s plenty of motivation.
When passion is present without talent, one may need the whole 10.000 hours to become a master, but they’ll fly by. Think about it: When you’re passionate about something, don’t you just naturally read about it? A lot? Don’t you think about it all the time, talk to people about it incessantly, go to courses, and practice obsessively, without even trying? Don’t you just live, breathe and poop the subject of your fancy? How long do you think, under those circumstances, would it take you to put in 10.000 hours? Compare that to forcing yourself to practice 2 hours a day.
No passion, no talent
While the best possible scenario is obviously to have massive amounts of talent coupled with passion, the worst one is to have no talent and no passion, but for some unbelievably brain dead reason still try to force oneself to try and master that skill. Now, if you’re asking “Why the hell would anyone do that?”, congratulations, you have stepped outside the Matrix. But let’s face it, tons of people try to become good at something simply because they think they should. We even actively encourage our kids to do so, by relegating their talents and passions to hobby status if we don’t think they can make a lot of money in that area (not you personally, mind you. You’re obviously super enlightened, but, you know, other people, like those who don’t read this blog).
Generally, when people ask me how to use LOA to become good at something, they’re talking about an area in which they have no or little talent and for which they have no passion. They’ve developed a belief that they should learn this thing, even though they don’t really want to. They think they want to learn this skill (often desperately so), but what they really want is whatever they think being good at this skill will bring them. They are focusing on the means to an end, instead of just aligning directly with what they want. If you’re trying to become good at something and it’s frustrating you, this is almost certainly the case. In this case, the problem is NOT that you have no talent, it’s that you are trying to force yourself to do something you don’t really enjoy doing. Stop it. Just stop it.
Talent gives you a leg up, passion takes you all the way home
We are all born talented in some way. We all have abilities that come easily to us. Some of these can be immediately apparent, like being good at math, while others can be more subtle (like being good at negotiating, problem solving, or reading energy.)
But talent or the lack thereof, isn’t nearly as important as passion.
I, for example, have always had a talent for translating energy. We all translate energy all day long, but the awareness and conscious control of this ability have always come easily to me. The problem was, that as a child, I had no idea what was happening. So, my innate ability to tune into the thoughts and feelings of those around me with greater sensitivity than most caused me a great deal of stress. Imagine being a five year old who’s just picked up on the angry, jealous thoughts of your average, desperately unhappy adult, or the dark and twisted inner world of a pedophile, and having no way to process or properly communicate that information. In the early days, my “talent” was more of a curse, and I had no passion for it whatsoever. That didn’t come until later, when I discovered that my innate ability could be a blessing. Once I developed a passion for this skill, I practiced with a vengeance. I couldn’t help it. I paid attention all the time, looked for nuances, honed by ability, and am still continuously looking for ways to improve. I’m certain that at this point in my life, I’ve put in well over 10.000 hours and plan to put in many, many more. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. But my point is that even though I had a talent for reading energy, I didn’t develop my skills until I combined that talent with passion.
I was also born with a massive passion for communication. I don’t think a day went by in my childhood that I wasn’t told to shut up or keep it down by someone. As soon as I could form sentences, I began to write stories. I communicated prolifically (still do). I practiced. I failed. A lot. I had no filter – I communicated EVERYTHING, no matter if people wanted to hear it or not (if they didn’t, I just started talking louder). I hadn’t yet learned that the audience’s reaction is important, too. But as I compulsively practiced and took advantage of every opportunity to yap at someone, I got better at it. I learned to hold back, to filter what I was saying, to listen more and watch for reactions. I learned to set intentions before starting, figuring out what point I really wanted to make (instead of just droning on and on in the hopes that something I might say would be interesting). I reached 10.000 hours years ago.
Am I a talented communicator? In some ways, yes. Writing has always come incredibly easy for me. But speaking has not. For much of my life, I had a passion for speaking, but not much talent. I don’t just mean public speaking, I mean communicating with others using the spoken language. I annoyed people more than captivated them. It took me years to learn to filter myself, and I still struggle with it when I get excited about something. I’ve put a lot of work and effort into communicating by speaking. Considering how long it’s taken me to get good at it, I’d say, that talent didn’t have much to do with it. But the passion was always present in massive quantities. I couldn’t be silenced, and let me tell you, many have tried. There was just no way I wasn’t going to practice. The outcome, of course, is that I now get paid to talk to people (ah the irony. Ha!).
If you are born with talent AND passion in any given area, and you allow yourself to pursue that talent, you’ll be unstoppable. If, however, you weren’t born with an innate ability but have a massive passion for it, you can still be unbelievably successful. Because no matter how much talent you have, if you’re not willing to put in the hours, you won’t achieve mastery. So, passion beats talent every time, if you have to choose between the two. Whatever it is you want to do, you can achieve it, as long as you have a passion for it.
What are you passionate about? Do you have a talent that you have no passion for? Or have you realized a passion that you don’t have a particular talent for? Share in the comments!