Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Training Trumps Talent

Photo ©2014, Stewart Dean, imagovitae.org
The other day I was talking to a friend about the incredible performances we've seen on YouTube.

   "Ah," he said, "Some people just have so much talent."
   "Those people work really hard at it," I said.
   "Yeah," said he, "but they're just talented to begin with."

To me, that kind of thinking can make you want to give up practicing or playing. If you think you can only be good if you already have "talent," why begin?

It's not always obvious how much training goes into being great at something. Most artists downplay the amount of time they spend practicing: it's not interesting to hear about, and it's so much more impressive when it looks easy! Why ruin the image? When we watch YouTube videos, we only see the results, not the hard work.

After years of knowing, working with and playing with many musicians and artists, I'm convinced that nobody, not even talented people, can give an impressive, complex, moving, delicate, passionate performance without consistent, attentive practice. This goes for anything you want to get good at.

I've met people who were incredibly talented who didn't apply themselves to their art. They were good, but never achieved mastery. In fact, sometimes the fact that things came so easily made them less motivated to work hard.

On the other hand I've known many, many more people who probably consider themselves "moderately" talented, but who were passionate about their art and worked hard on improving. Those people always achieve results. Many of them are downright incredible. My aikido Sensei talks about himself as someone with "no special talent." He's hands down one of the world's greatest living martial artists.

My conclusion: Training Trumps Talent. 

Forget about whether you're talented. Keep practicing.