We very often call successful people ‘talented’. We somehow believe that they are good at what they do because they have the talent for it, and that some people were simply born with talent that guarantees success.
Some even go so far as to say that if you’re not talented enough, you should just give up: maybe you’re just not cut out to be a tennis player/pianist/painter—stop wasting your time!
But this is a very toxic idea.
While it’s true that talent maybe an advantage for some people, successful people don’t rely on talent alone. They have done lots of other things that you don’t know of to achieve success.
So, before you blame your mediocrity on your lack of talent, realize what’s actually getting in your way may be you yourself.
What we think of as natural talent is just the result of having started practice early.
Talent doesn’t automagically make you good at something, whether it is playing tennis or solving maths problems. Even if you do have the talent, if you don’t use it properly, it will only be wasted.
And since talent alone does not determine success, there are ways you can succeed even if you think you’re not talented. Indeed, you can become talented—if ‘talented’ means better than many others at what you do.
The reason why successful people seem to be naturally good at something is often simple: they have started practicing much earlier than you even notice them. They have been putting in effort continuously for a long enough time.
It’s an illusion that they were born to be successful, which is why you should start practicing whatever you think you don’t have the talent for, and keep practicing it if you want to be very very good at it.
Most of us are just impatient; we’re not untalented.
Keep in mind that when you say you’re not talented to do something, what you actually mean is that it’s really hard—at the beginning. You have to be patient, and trust that practice will bring progress over time. Don’t give up.
Federer never gave up. Nor did Lang Lang.
Having picked up a racket at 4, Federer is surely talented. But he didn’t win 18 Grand Slam trophies without having practiced hard for years: he began serious training at a tennis club at the tender age of 8, and have continued to do so till this day.
It’s pretty much the same story for the talented pianist Lang Lang, who started learning to play the piano at 3. He, ironically, was actually rejected by a piano teacher for his ‘lack of talent’ when he was 9. Luckily, he was able to get over the heartbreak and kept playing.
World champion surfer Nic Lamb once said,
“Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret.”
What he means is that you have to be brave in face of challenges. If you come across difficulties when practicing, instead of giving up, you should keep going, or you will never succeed.
Success, now it seems, depends more on a combination of practice and patience than talent itself. But practice isn’t simply the repetition of the same skill. You also have to learn the how-to of practice.
Successful people don’t just practice more; they practice smart.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that how much improvement you can make by practicing a skill does not only depend on how many times you practice, but also on whether the way you practice is effective.
Results from the study suggest that trying out different ways of practicing, compared to repeating the same practice routine, helps your brain learn more efficiently, leading to more improvement within a given period of time. This is because small changes in practice can speed up the learning process.
That is to say, you should structure your practice sessions when you’re trying to develop better skills for a certain activity.
For example, if you’re learning the piano, instead of playing the same list of songs many times, you can try to split your time and focus on a different area (technique) each time you practice. You can practice scales, slower/faster pieces, etc. on different days of the week. Besides improving learning efficiency, this also prevents practice sessions from getting boring, giving you extra incentive to keep practicing.
Now that you know practice is the real cause behind success, as well as how you should practice, it’s time to forget about (your lack of) talent and start practicing whatever you’ve always dreamed of doing!
|Thomas Oppong: These Habits Are Preventing You From Achieving Anything Worth While in Life
|The Telegraph: The Making of a Champion
|AllMusic: Artist Biography by Robert Cummings
|Billboard: Lang Lang Looks Back
|New York Magazine: How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym
|ScienceAlert: Scientists Have Found a Way to Help You Learn New Skills Twice as Fast