Why the word ‘talent’ should be led out back and shot in the head

The single most enraging thing about the word ‘talent’ (and its bastard brother ‘gift’) is that people believe it simply happens. Some of us are just born with it. We perform effortlessly. We create flawlessly. We were gifted by the Almighty himself or by Momma Nature herself. It makes us arrogant, doesn’t it? To have this talent, to be gifted without any effort whatsoever.

Well, allow me to tell you that such people are morons. All offense intended.

To me, “talent” is a word equivalent to “magic” and “vodoo”. And there’s another word for all three of these.


What these people cannot comprehend is that what they see us do wasn’t instantaneous for us.

I think you’ll remember us if you think back at your youth. We used to be those weird kids that no one wanted to play with. We were called mean names, often ignored or downright walked over. So we learned to keep to ourselves. We had time to spare, used it to for weird things like writing, drawing, rubbing some strange piece of wood or fingering a metal tube of some kind. And we got good at it. 20 years later, those same people that called us names and walked over us look at our achievements and sigh: “I wish I were as talented as you.”

Excellent. Here’s a fool-proof way of becoming exactly like me:

1. Lock yourself in a room.

2. See you in 20 years.

Here’s a message to those loud sighers: talent is not something one finds while taking a stroll. Nor does it fall from the sky and hit you in the head. You are not born with it.

You build it.

It’s not magic.

It’s practice.

It’s experience.

It’s skill.

Why doesn’t anyone say that line to a successful and well-off professional? A lawyer? An accountant? Did an engineer take a dog for a walk one rainy day and got struck by a flash of talent?

Well, no. These people went to school, worked their asses off to get a degree, a Masters, a PhD, then worked low-paid junior positions until they clawed their way up to their current set of skills and experiences. Leaving a trail of sweat, tears and blood in their wake.

You think a writer’s life is any easier?

How about a painter’s? Sculptor’s perhaps?

Maybe a musician’s life is somehow easier, who knows. Those string and keys don’t look that complicated to me.

You think we don’t know hardship?

You think we don’t know struggle?

The word ‘talent’ devalues our work, our skill. Our soul.

That single word throws a handful of dung at our sacrifice.

Talent is only used by people who are not willing to admit they were wrong for walking over us in school.

Talent is used by people who are terrified of the thought of living for a purpose higher than their basic selfish needs.

Well, if you ask me, ‘talent’ can go fuck itself. I’m not ‘gifted’.

I’m skilled.

And tomorrow I’ll get skilled some more.

4 thoughts on “Why the word ‘talent’ should be led out back and shot in the head

  1. I completely agree. There is of course some talent included to begin with, something you are naturally drawn to, but without the effort, time and a whole lot of work, it wouldn’t be anything – just a wasted potential. When somebody says: “I want to write/sing/paint/draw/play like you”, they forget and diminish all the hard work put into the craftsmanship of any art one has to go through before being good at it. Of course you would like to do something as good as me, but without the effort I’ve put into it. That is why some of us know our crafts and others don’t. Simple as that.


    1. For being naturally drawn to a particular activity, I prefer the word ‘inclination’ (biti nagnjen k nečemu) or ‘being partial’ (usmerjen k…). Has much less baggage than ‘talent’ or ‘gifted’.

      Thanks for the reply, by the way.


  2. So much of this I agree with! I’m a big believer in the 10,000 hours of practice making someone skilled, and that doesn’t allow for wiggle room in whether someone is “talented” or not.

    Your analogy to the accountants/lawyers/engineers of the world is wonderful and one I’ll be using in the future when this kind of conversation inevitably comes up.

    (Also I loved the “all offense intended” and “tomorrow I’ll get skilled some more” lines, for different reasons, but both rang so true. Thanks!)


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