What is talent?

What is talent?

I went back to the city of my birth for a school friend’s wedding last weekend (big congrats, Lee and Tina!) and caught up with some old chums I hadn’t seen in a while. It was lovely to see them again.

As we chatted, it struck me just how many of them were people I’d describe as creatively talented, whether that meant DJ, musician, artist, poet, dancer, actor or anything else. Then I got to thinking about the group as a whole, which contained people with other, well-developed skills: plumber, homemaker, vet, IT consultant, tiler, sound engineer, facilitator and so on.

And it made me wonder, why do we separate out these groups and roles for different levels of attention? Is there an innate prejudice because we think that some of those tasks don’t require as much talent? That we could do them ourselves if we could be bothered to learn?

If so, then I want to call BS on that – to myself as much as anyone else – because I’m pretty certain there’s as much chance (which is to say, none at all) of me being a successful DJ as there is of me becoming a decent plumber.

Which makes me wonder what we mean by ‘talent’ and how we each go about accessing our own talent. Do we all have one (or more) special talent, which some find while the rest of us go to our graves without ever having uncovered? Is talent simply the application of sustained, meaningful effort to one specific task? Does talent only apply to particular fields? Or is talent simply a reflection of the feedback we get from other people, dependent on what they currently value?

Can you help me define talent? For better or for worse, is it only applicable to certain fields? Comments below.

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