Talent or Skill. Which is the most important?

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Are you great at baseball? How about math?

Do you to see patterns in abstract art or the nuance of color in the sunset? Do your ears scream when an artist is out of tune or off key?

Who decides the definition of talent? Who decides whether what we know is valuable or necessary? Are we doomed to a world that defines "important" as something that earns an income? Is it more important for children to learn art, or sports, or math? What defines our culture?

On one extreme, there is the thought that unless you are born with a natural aptitude, you are doomed to mediocrity. At the other end of the spectrum, talent is defined in such vague terms that if you enjoy pizza you are probably a terrific pizza chef.

Then again, somewhere in the middle, is the belief that practice and discipline goes a long way to counter any lack of natural skill and ability.

Are talent and skill the same? If you have an aptitude for soccer, but don't get any supportive training will you lose the talent? If you enjoy music, but don't have a natural ability to play an instrument, will practice make up for the lack? Can you have a talent and turn it into a skill?

Who Decides About Talent?​

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Perhaps the definition of talent entirely subjective. Do you agree that art is in the "eye of the beholder"?

I believe an individual's definition of talent is entirely based on their background, environment and personal bias.  Who determines which of these is the true artist? Who is the greatest painter: Peter Paul Ruben, Paul Cezanne or Pablo Picasso? Who is the most skilled musician - Johann Sebastian Bach or John Lennon? Ludwig von Beethoven or Luke Bryan?

Was Albert Einstein talented or skilled, or both? If you would have asked his elementary school teachers, Albert was a little slow and lacked vision. Hmm.

I recently read a story about a creative director for Hallmark. He would go to elementary schools and speak with children about art and the artistic process. He would ask the same question in different grade levels, “How many of you believe you are an artist?”.

Virtually all of the kindergartners and first graders enthusiastically raised their hands. ALL of them were artists. Interestingly, by the third grade, only about half of the children would raise their hands. Most noteworthy, by the sixth grade, only one or two would hesitantly declare they were artists.

Why the huge difference? Was it because they had lost their talent? Never had it? Or, was it perhaps they received external signals that made them believe they weren’t talented?

Commonly Uncommon Talent

Growing up, I took for granted the talents and skills of my mom. She was (is) a great cook, she sewed a lot of our clothes - beautifully, and always kept our home spotless. She also was well read, poised, and a room mother. Yes - I was raised in the dark ages! Her skills grew out of her talents. She had an eye for color, and ear for lyric and prose, and an ability to organize. I didn't realize how talented and skilled she was until I spent time in some of my friends' homes and saw it wasn't always the same.

Some people would call those skills common or unimportant. Some would say they aren't talents at all. Yet for me, in my life, my mom's natural ability to TEACH her skills, became very important. I also became a good cook, a disciplined housekeeper, violinist, softball player, mom, and wife; as well as an author, a speaker and a life and business coach. She gave to me from her talents and skills and helped me to developed my talents and skills.

The financial value or popularity of natural talents will wax and wane according to opinion. However, those popular opinions don’t really matter. What matters is how we – you and I – value our skills and talents.

Turn Your Talent Into Skills

What about YOUR talent? Do you value what you’re good at doing, or have you begun to believe like those sixth graders that what you do just really isn’t that great? Have you weighed and measured yourself against someone else and decided you are lacking?

Many of us simply believe that what is easy for us can't be very important. We discount our ability to cook, sew, calculate, organize, or comfort others. We negate our talents. We hide our skills, just in case they aren't in popular acclaim.

My daughter-in-love is a math guru! She blows me away that she loves to study statistics. For FUN!

My sister is artfully creative. She has the most amazing journals in the world and she makes them out of junk mail! They look like they could be sold in the best stores on Rodeo Drive.

My dad could paint a room in nothing flat – without any paint on his hands. Yowza! (Me? I wear it in my hair, on the back of my pants – everywhere.)

My friend, Monique, is a skillful connector of people. She knows how to put the right people together to get great things done.

If you would ask any of them, they wouldn’t call those things TALENTS. They would say it’s just something they know how to do; something that comes naturally to them; something that is easy.

However, if you’re like me – and you feel math, art, paint, and connector challenged – THOSE skills – those TALENTS are gifts.

Own It and Share It

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I've met several women over the past year who have discovered they are artists. They love to put color, paper, and found items together. Their friends or mentors  tell them to show off the work and share it with the world. They didn't intend to be artists. They simply loved the process. They do what they love never expecting it will mean anything to anyone else. Surprise! They are changing the world.

One of these incredible women is Renee Deubner. Her art is unique, and she teaches others how to receive healing through art. She's turned her talent into a skill she can teach, and helps other people live better lives through it. You can learn more about Renee Deubner here.

What Next?

We have a couple of different choices when it comes to our natural gifts and talents.

1) We can decide they aren’t important.

2) We can decide they are valuable and discover ways to share them with the world.

Finally, I believe it really comes down to what YOU believe about what YOU know. When you decide that what you know is valuable to someone else, it releases great power into the world. What is easy and natural for you, is not necessarily easy and natural for others. When you become comfortable with your talent, you can turn it into a skill that you can teach others. 

If you’re just not sure what skills or talents you have, or how you could share them with the world, the following exercise will help.

  • List your technical skills (things you’ve received training for or that you’ve learned ‘on-the-job’).
  • List the things you like to do for recreation or in your quiet time.
  • List the things you do all the time, without even thinking about them, that could be considered a practical skill. These are thing that are important to know how to do in everyday life - like washing dishes.
  • There are most likely strengths that do not fall into any of the above categories: things like organizational skills, speaking to groups, sewing, or perhaps informal teaching skills you have received traditional training to do. List them.
  • Now, go back through each of the lists and highlight or put a * next to the things you believe you could teach someone else to do - even if you believe that you only know enough to teach them at a beginning level.

Pick 2 items from each of the previous lists, that you enjoy the most and believe you could teach someone to accomplish. These are just a few of the things you could mentor someone else to accomplish! 

Your next task is to begin to look around for places to share your gifts and talents. Now that you have an idea of WHAT those are, you can begin to find WHO might could use your assistance in learning a new skill, breaking through life-long barriers, or simply how to make an incredible meal for her family.

Do You Know Your HeartCode?

If you’d like to learn more about how to value and release your Skills and Talents into the world, along with all of the OTHER things that make you incredible, join me for HeartCode

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