The Talent Crutch

Micaheal Mistretta has been at it again. Another excellent post this time about The Myth of Talent which brought to mind a lesson I learned back when I was 16 doing my GCSE’s.

I have a talent, you have a talent, everyone has a talent. A lot of people don’t believe they have one, or simply haven’t found it yet, but we all have a talent. I’m fortunate in that from an early age it was apparent I could draw, that I had a natural creative flair. I used to draw a lot, but my drawings weren’t always observational, the majority of them were designs. I’d design football kits, cars, robots and machines, whatever came to mind I’d design it. It’s what I did, it was how I was known.

But it’s not always been a good thing, and nearly led to a big, big slip up when I was doing my GCSE’s. Having gone through most of school, particularly early senior school, being told I was very talented and just needed to be kept interested in art I developed a reliance on my natural abilities. I’d look around, see I was doing better than those in my class and think I was ok. That was until a phone call from my Mum to my art teacher revealed I wasn’t doing enough. Yes I was doing more than a lot of others, but it still wasn’t enough. I was using my talent as a crutch.

People use talent as a crutch — an excuse: “I couldn’t possibly do such and such because I’m nowhere near as talented as so and so.” Sure, it’s easy to believe that it’s not your fault you aren’t good at something, simply because you weren’t granted that ‘talent’ at birth.

In a similar way I was using my talent as a crutch. Not as an excuse to not try something, but as an excuse to say “I’m naturally good at this, I don’t need to work as hard as everyone else”. My awareness of my natural ability, or talent if you will, was my crutch. It caused me to be too relaxed and too confident. Knowing you can do something doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it.

Talent is potential. It is worth nothing if you don’t do anything with it. Telling me that you have talent is absolutely worthless unless you’re the kind of person that’s going to do something about it… Becoming good at something takes a lot more than just talent. It takes hard work — pure, unbiased, hard work.

Something I learnt that day when I came home to be told I was failing. I still remember that feeling. At first an incredulous disbelief, “I can’t be, it’s what I’m good at.” Then a horrible sinking feeling as the realisation set in. I needed that GCSE to do what I’m doing now, if I didn’t get it I had no idea what I would do.

Being told that I was failing at something I was naturally gifted at was crushing, but I needed to be told. It started a process which I’ve been doing ever since, working at improving my talent. In 6 months I turned my GCSE around, I passed and it meant I could move on to eventually work as a professional creative. It’s been hard, and sometimes I’ve not been as good at it as I have at others, but that lesson has stayed with me and doubtless will never leave. It may be partially to blame why I don’t always believe I’m as good as I am, something I’m often told, but it’s something that makes me strive to be better.

I have three people to thank for helping me learn that lesson. My Mum for making that phone call then coupled with my Dad for encouraging me, and God for giving me parents who want the best for me. After all He gave me my natural gifting and I was squandering it, not using it for the purpose He intended. Resting on my laurels wasn’t going to glorify Him, so He prompted them to make me realise what was happening.

To this day I believe I’m very fortunate to have known I was naturally good at something from such a young age, many people after almost an entire lifetime still don’t know what they are naturally good at. I am forever thankful that I knew, but I’m even more thankful that I have a God on my side who wants the best for me. For that reason I try my hardest to ensure all I do is for His glory, without Him I wouldn’t be doing something I love for a living.