I had a discussion with a friend about musical talent. We both love music and discussed why we never ended up playing it. We arrived at different conclusions about why this happened.
For me, I remember making a conscious decision when I was about 17 years old to give up on playing music. I loved it but not enough to want to play it. Playing music did not resonate with me the way it would resonate with somebody who needed to play it. I can play music and believe I would have been a competent musician if I put in hours into it. Its just that I have other interests.
My friend says that he desperately wanted to play music but just could not. He said that people would show him how to play the guitar but he could not get his fingers to move the right way. It is was such a struggle that he decided that if it is not going to come easy, then its simply was not meant to be.
He said that this proves that we both lacked talent. I disagreed with him. Part of the reason for that disagreement is that we lacked a definition of what Talent is.
is Talent drive or is it innate ability to play? Is it both? Or something else?
Secondly, Talent is not just the speed by which one learns to play music. That is a combination of intelligence and coordination.
Thirdly, Talent is not just the personal drive and effort that is required to be good at something. Stubborn persistence is also a staple of successful politicians and businesspeople.
I believe that the technical aspects of playing music are available to most people, but that there is something else… An intangible element that makes a person connect so strongly with the activity in question that it is part of everything that they do. Talent is something innate but also environmental. It is like a gene that is triggered by the environment and then comes to possess a life and dynamism of its own.
For the sake of illustration, lets use a musical chord to illustrate how Talent works.
Somebody strikes a nice sounding chord on a guitar. The chord is there hanging in the air. What created the chord?
The first raw material would be the guitar.
The second raw material would be the guitar player.
But that is not enough. The chord needs an environment to thrive in. If there was no atmosphere for the sound waves to travel through, the chord would not exist. The acoustics of the place the chord is played is also relevant. The chord will also be imbued with more energy if there is somebody else to listen to it. Finally, the person who is doing the playing also needs to decide if the energy created is meaningful. It needs to resonate both ways. There has to be the right two-way encouragement.
Michael Jordon is an amazing basketball player. But his talent would not be appreciated in a society that had no basketball. He would not have been encouraged to play. But, the environment is only a piece of it. It also needs to resonate internally, it needs to fit with one’s own self-image and a will to do it. Michael Jordon not only had the talent, but also wanted to use it.
So I would have to say that there are four essential components to Talent:
1) Physical/Mental Ability
2) Environmental Trigger and Support
3) Personal Resonance
4) External Recognition (a talent that is not recognized as such will not be valued and perhaps even be seen as a curse)
A person can possess the ability to play, but if lacking a supportive environment, or a personal disinterest, that talent will be untapped. If it does not resonate, then no matter how beautiful it may sound, it is not going to work. I personally lacked personal resonance. Could I get it back? I don’t know. To this day, I am not hungry to create music. I dabble a little bit, but that is all and I don’t feel robbed by it. Unfortunately for my friend, he does feel cheated, and perhaps for him he had the personal resonance but lacked the physical/mental ability to do it.
And so in the end he was actually right. We both lacked Talent because each of us lacked at least one of the essential components of Talent.