A woman once came into my booth at an arts festival and sighed, “In my next life I want to come back with talent.”
“Why wait?” I asked. “Go for it now.”
I’m an artist who began with no talent for drawing, and an author who had no innate ability to write. A passion to learn these skills, and the willingness to work through frustrations and setbacks, took me to where I wanted to be. Please don’t think this is boasting. I’m a man of average intelligence. (My friends would argue I’m boasting when I say that.)
Trust me—if someone as flawed and absent-minded as I am can transform desires into talents, anyone can. We tend to look at people who excel—in any field—and think, “What wonderful talents they were born with.” Sometimes this is true. Most times it’s not.
Talented people arrived here gifted with what everyone possesses at birth—unique passions, and the potential to develop them. When we see accomplished people, we’re usually observing results, not inborn talents. We’re looking at individuals who were committed to doing things, clumsily at first, but persevered until they could do them well.
When I ask classical musicians, “Were you born with a talent for the instrument?,” most answer without hesitation, “No—I was born with a love for the instrument…and I played it horribly. But I kept playing it, hours every day, for twenty years.”
Mozart could compose and play minuets at age three. He was born with innate talent. If all other classical musicians compared themselves to Mozart, we’d only have Mozart. Inborn talent is wonderful, but it’s not a prerequisite for success. What is required is passionate commitment to a dream.
When my first book, The Power of Having Desire, was published in 2004, reporters interviewing me listened politely while I explained how passion—not talent—is the key to success, citing my own artistic journey as an example. Only after 10,000 hours of practice at the easel, I told them, did I gain an ability to draw well.
More than one reporter shook his head at this, saying, “I could spend 10,000 hours drawing, but I’d be no good at it. My talent is for writing.”
“Really?” I asked. “Tell me—were you born with that talent?” No writer (not even Shakespeare) was born with an ability to write. None of us even knows about language at birth. What writers exhibit early is a love for words and the desire to put them together in meaningful ways. No child does this well at age two; but, if words are your passion and you long to write well—then, by the time you’ve reached thirty-two, you’re probably earning your living as a writer.
What talent or ability do you long to possess? Be willing to do a thing badly…and keep doing it. Commitment to a cherished desire, with disciplined perseverance, is essential to success in any endeavor. Stay on course and new talents will emerge. Look silly for now. It’s one of the best ways to keep growing young.
MAKE YOURSELF AGELESS BLOG
Bruce Garrabrandt & Jeff White