There's no such thing as talent – it takes determination and perseverance

It’s certainly the ultimate compliment.

Telling someone they are talented is usually well-intentioned, but underneath lies a message: ‘You are gifted, therefore you have not needed to put any time or effort into the skill you are displaying.’

‘Talent’ implies ability without effort. ‘Skill’ is ability and effort combined.

There is an assumption that there is genetic material that produces the ability to make you a success at singing, playing tennis, decorating cakes, riding horses… whatever.

And while genes can factor into someone being able to master these skills easier than others, you’re not damned to failure if you don’t have that make-up.

It’s a misconception that many people use as an excuse for lack of progress in their dream field.

‘I was never an Oscar winning actor because I wasn’t talented enough.’

‘I never won a gold medal at the Olympics because I wasn’t talented enough.’

‘I can’t start up a home baking business because I’m not talented enough. ’

These are all nonsense. The trouble is, when we see those Oscar winning actors and Olympic gold medalists at the height of their success, we only see the finished article.

We know an Olympic gold takes 10,000 hours of practice, sweat, mistakes and failure.

An Oscar winner will have done background reading, considering the delivery of each word, the lifting of this eyebrow, or turning of that shoulder.

The trouble is, when we see those Oscar winning actors and Olympic gold medallists at the height of their success, we only see the finished article

There are no success stories without determination and practice.

Even if ‘natural’ talent plays a role, it’s useless on its own. If a child shows an aptitude for piano playing, or art, at an early age, the only way it will become something incredible is if they keep doing the thing they’re good at. More importantly, they should want to.

Persuasion or coercion will not lead to meteoric success.

I’ve been told a few times that I’m ‘talented’.

I run a wedding cake business. The skills that I use in my business – making cakes and creating sugar flowers – have been developed with many hours of graft.

There were mistakes. There were crushing failures. In the early days of my business, I spent many hours trying to make sugar roses that looked real only for them to look awful.

It wasn’t until I found someone to teach me how to do it properly that I learnt how to make roses people can’t tell apart from the real thing.

I often spent months with no enquiries coming in. So rather than moan about it, I used that time to improve, learn and perfect my skills.

When I started my business, I wouldn’t have called myself talented at all. I was someone with a passion for baking who wanted to build a business around that passion.

My dedication to my craft is how I have become successful. 

The way to nurture a talent is this: tell a child that you can really see the effort they put into developing their skills, and praise failures.

Celebrate learning and growth, whether they come in first place or last.

This is the child that will be open to taking risks, trying new ways of doing things, because even if they fail, they recognise that they will have learnt something.

This is the child who will develop their passion and increase their skills.

So, is there such a thing as talent? Or is it skill, developed through trying, failing, trying again, and never giving up?

I think it’s the latter.

Main picture credit: AKP Branding Stories

The Truth Is…’s weekly The Truth Is… series seeks to explore anything and everything when it comes to life’s unspoken truths and long-held secrets. Contributors will challenge popular misconceptions on a topic close to their hearts, confess to a deeply personal secret, or reveal their wisdom from experience – good and bad – when it comes to romance or family relationships.

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