Talent or Practice? Which Side are You On?
“What is talent, if not practice persevering?”
You may have recognized this line from a certain TV series.
Well, it’s not exactly the same. It’s my own riff on the famous dialogue between Vision and Wanda in WandaVision, which goes like this: ”What is grief, if not love persevering?”
Because I’ve been thinking about the balance between having talent and consistent practice, I kept pondering on questions like, “Do talented people need practice?”, and “Do non-talented people need extra practice to make up for the lack of talent?”
What I found on Google
With some cursory googling I found out, unsurprisingly, that there are many who have spoken on the talent vs practice debate.
One article from the Harvard Business Review stood firmly on the side of practice over talent. It summarized the debate with the following statement: “Popular lore tells us that genius is born, not made. Scientific research, on the other hand, reveals that true expertise is mainly the product of years of intense practice and dedicated coaching.”
Interestingly, the practice they refer to is called deliberate practice, not the run-of-the-mill kind of practice that we’re used to. “You need a particular kind of practice — deliberate practice — to develop expertise. When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well — or even at all.”
So if we go by this, no one is born with some supernatural talent and immediately gets good at something. The truth is simpler but admittedly harder to achieve.
Where I Stand
I’ll share what I think. I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing such as talent. Everything is only achieved through regular practice and hard work. If I’m not improving, it’s because I’m not putting in the effort to surmount those obstacles. No amount of so-called talent is going to help me.
I saw this happen to me when I tried my hand at instruments. My friends said I’ll be a good percussionist (because they saw the way I used to tap my thighs when a song was played haha).
Soon I got a chance to play the cajón (if you’ve never seen one, click here). The moment to finally prove myself and fulfill the prophecy about my drumming skills was here. But, you guessed it, I was abysmal. The beats I played were off, and my coordination was poor. I was discouraged at first. However, with the help of some YouTube videos and practice, I managed to maintain a proper beat and later became comfortable adding my own variations (but I still have a long way to go).
Truth is, if someone comes across as talented, it’s because he or she is practicing. There’s no other way around it. You can actually reach what you’re aiming for with the right amount of effort.
That’s why I say that talent (if it exists) is continuous and regular practice. In other words, talent is practice persevering.
This should actually encourage you. If you’ve just started out at learning something and it seems that you don’t have the knack for it, all you have to do is keep practicing. You don’t get it now, but it’ll happen.
What do you say about the talent vs practice debate? Which side are you on?