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What is Natural Talent?

Today's post takes on a bit of a different focus. It's more thought provoking than informational, but let's just say I had some inspiration to write this.
When I was young, you could say I was considered a decent artist.  I enjoyed drawing. So did my brothers. We preferred drawing mostly comic book characters and athletes. Our parents took notice of this artistic side and being the good parents they are, they signed us up for art classes to help us develop our artistic ability.

Outside of playing hockey, drawing was my main hobby. I did lots of drawings and many of them I still have to this day. It’s interesting to look back and see the progress in the quality of those drawings over the years. How I started out very unimpressive. Many of those early drawings are very amusing. But steadily, I developed my drawing abilities to replicate very detailed, very life-like objects or people.

I recall getting compliments such as, “You’re really talented” or “You have a gift.” I also remember hearing people saying, “I wish I could draw like that.” It was if people assumed I was naturally talented at drawing, that drawing somehow came “easy” to me.

Looking back though, I’m not so sure I was naturally talented when it came to drawing.

Yes, I produced some very realistic drawings. I did great work. But what fails to meet the eye is the understanding of how many hours and years it took for me to produce that very same artwork. Often times, hours were spent just to get a small feature to look the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t churning drawings out with effortless ease by any means. I would sit and study my subject matter. I would study each feature, the shading, the line angles, the negative space – anything and everything that made the object what it was. Then with my pencil and paper, I would work at replicating it until I got every last detail right.

Is that talent? To some, maybe it is. To me, it was not so much about talent as it was my willingness to spend more time at it than most. I wanted to get it right. I wanted my drawing to look just like what I was studying. In my opinion, the end result was the “appearance” of being good at it.

Now let’s fast-forward several years. I was considered a talented hockey player. I was pretty good. I accomplished a lot, but there are several other athletes that accomplished more that I ever did. The same can be said of my time competing as an amateur Strongman. I've won some contests and placed high in others. Yada yada yada.

What does art and all this talk about drawing have to do with my athletic accomplishments?

You see, it’s the exact same effect. I have never consider myself naturally talented as an athlete. It’s simply the attention to detail in the pursuit of my goals. It was spending countless hours skating and developing my puck skills, running sprints and lifting weights, and taking my rest and nutrition seriously.

Perhaps my only real talent is being driven and disciplined enough to achieve my goals, regardless of how long it takes me to realize them.

To sum up, I learned that if I want to be good at something, to be great at something, I needed to immerse myself in it. I learned that I need a high degree of focus and attention to detail. That I can’t waver in my pursuit. That if it takes me five hours to get a single detail right, that’s what I do. Anything less and I won’t improve. I won’t realize my potential.

Maybe you have learned the same lesson about yourself.

After all, who knows how many truly “naturally talented” people exist.

 
 
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