Does Natural Talent Matter?

I’d been thinking of this post for a while. I decided to write it sooner than later after reading another blog, onespoonatatime. Excellent reading. The post is: Do You Believe In Natural Talent? As amazing as the post is, the comments are even better. It is much more in depth than my offering. I will not cite many examples as my desire is merely to get my point across.

My opinion is this:
Natural talent has been evident in too many ways for me to dismiss it. In just about any endeavor, all things being equal, natural talent will win out. If the practice, coaching, hours put in is the same, natural ability comes out on top.

Does this bother you? Why?

It is not disheartening to me to know that if I put in x number of hours (10,000 being the goal) that I will still not be as good as someone else. I will not be the best. Fine. No sweat.
I also believe that the best at any one undertaking has rarely been seen. No matter what field we mention, there are those who could have been better, but never materialized.

So what am I trying to say?

Only the very thing Calvin Coolidge said many years ago which is actually my aforementioned ‘point’:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

~ Calvin Coolidge

“I may fail, but it won’t be today.”

In the end, I’m not troubled at all knowing some are more naturally talented than I am. Being willing to go the ‘extra mile’ is what will separate most of us. Pushing through in the face of adversity. Having the mental fortitude to say, “I may fail, but it won’t be today. I may fall 9 times, but I’ll get up 10. I will pursue excellence through diligence, but with the understanding that, I don’t have to finish on top to win.”

Few in life finish on top as ‘records are made to be broken’. A Bronze Medal would be great for the eighth place finisher. But, even that eighth place finisher knows that they took it as far as they could. They pursued excellence, and held tightly. They competed. They left it all on the court.

  • How many of us can say that?
  • How many will leave the talented behind by way of persistence?
  • How many will out work the competition?

There is ALWAYS room at the top (or, real close) for those willing to put the effort forth.

As Coolidge cited so eloquently, ‘press on’.

My charge to you my friend is, ‘press on’.

Quit dipping your toes and jump in, the water feels fine.

Agree?       Disagree?       Why?

Live it LOUD!


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37 Responses to Does Natural Talent Matter?

  1. So first of all, I agree that there is such a thing as natural talent. It exists. We each come to this earth with specific talents; and some of us are naturally better at some things then others. There are math geniuses, those who naturally care for others and some who paint beautifully.

    Now there are also those who have created a talent through brute force. They’ve worked countless hours trying to become better at something; and have risen to the top merely through their efforts. That’s a fantastic talent in and of itself.

    The problem that we (or just I) run into is laziness. It seems that the things I’m MOST talented I’ve improved the least. I’ve spent the least time practicing. I’m skimped by. For example, the easy classes in school. The ones that came naturally. I didn’t put much time in; so I didn’t progress like I should have. I just went through doing the least amount of work – because it was boring to be how easy it was.

    And there, in itself, is a fault that can come from being talented in a certain area. So, talent combined with hard work can bring incredible results – and hard work plus hard work can often bring the same. The fact is, though, that there are a tender few skills that you need naturally to succeed in; and very difficult to force.

    Just a few thoughts. Thanks for making me think.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Christian,

      I agree completely with everything you posit.
      The best part for me is this: “The problem that we (or just I) run into is laziness. It seems that the things I’m MOST talented I’ve improved the least.”
      It clearly tells us as in Calvin’s quote that if we work hard (to an extent) we can pass talent by. I’ve seen the same things as you with myself. Not applying myself in areas that I’m best at. I’ve been growing in that specific area leaps and bounds through self-discipline. It can be painful at times. You ever see a guy yell at himself 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by Brother.

  2. Live it loud. Wonderful. persistence is the key. Maybe we aren’t as talented as someone else, but with persistence we can become more talented . thank you Rob for the reminder. I’ll keep blogging . Debbie

    • Rob says:

      Hey Debbie,
      That’s the attitude! Of course!
      I think it captures the spirit in which President Coolidge spoke it.
      Blog away ma’am, and…
      Live it LOUD!

  3. Hmm…Persistence is overrated. All we need is “law of attraction” LOL.
    Hi Rob,
    Great post as usual. What is it about you? You kick ass and marinate it! 10, 000 hrs is from Gladwell’s Outliers?
    NSB: Never Stop Blogging!

    • Rob says:

      Hey Derek,
      Yes Sir, a little persistence w/ some elbow grease and strategy, as you well know! I remember back in the day when I would see someone with success and make excuses for why they were successful. Wow! Just being honest.
      Gladwell cited different studies and cases in his book. Very interesting book. I think there’s a link in here somewhere for that book…:)
      If I marinate, you slay. Maybe we can get someone to cook it.

      Live it LOUD!

      • Dean Carlton says:

        Hey, I can cook! 😉

        I’m with you guys – I see ‘natural talent’ as being a very simple recipe:

        – the sum of all the variables applied to date in our lives (practice, support, teaching, encouragement etc),

        – coupled with our own belief in ourselves (I CAN do this, I will NOT give up, I WILL be #1),

        – but ultimately driven by the sheer grit, determination and down-right bloody-mindedness of those that REALLY want to – and will – succeed.

        Of course, you also need to get out there and let the world know about it – no use becoming a virtuoso violinist and only ever playing to the cats at home! Although, if that is your target and aspiration in life, then I am not about to knock it!

        Funny that you, Paul, Frank and myself (no doubt many others as well) have all been exploring this one recently. The 400 year old debate continues!

        LIVE IT LOUD!!

        • Rob says:

          Hey Dean,

          Would you prefer stove top or over a campfire? We’re ready:)
          Re your Comment:
          I see ‘natural talent’ as being a very simple recipe:
          – the sum of all the variables applied to date in our lives (practice, support, teaching, encouragement etc),
          – coupled with our own belief in ourselves (I CAN do this, I will NOT give up, I WILL be #1),
          – but ultimately driven by the sheer grit, determination and down-right bloody-mindedness of those that REALLY want to – and will – succeed.

          I actually do not see what you mentioned as natural talent but the very things that can lead one to success without it.
          I do agree that the person following, “sheer grit, determination and down-right bloody-mindedness of those that REALLY want to” will be wildly successful at almost anything they endeavor to attempt.
          I will be checking yours out shortly. I’m sure it is top-notch as with the other things I’ve read your way.
          Live it LOUD!

          • Dean Carlton says:

            Thanks for the kind comments Rob.

            Reading that sentence again, I did not make myself clear!

            What I meant is: what other people see when they say someone is naturally talented – is merely the accumulated experience that individual has at that point in time, which is of a sufficient level to make them ‘look rather good/excellent’.

            On Paul’s blog he spoke about (and I am para-phrasing) the number of hours practice correlating with with whether someone was a virtuoso or whether they always play 1st/2nd fiddle. Did natural talent make them virtuoso? I don’t think so – bloody hard work did!!

            That was the spirit of what I meant! Hopefully that makes more sense than the previous comment!

          • Rob says:

            Of Course Dino!
            That does ring a bit better for me. Although…alas, I must ever so slightly disagree with the number of hours theory. In theory, everyone practicing the same amount of hours (say 10,000) would be at the same level. This is given that the quality of practice and coaching are the same. I don’t think the levels will be the same. Again, this doesn’t discourage me even though I don’t think I am heavily laden with natural talent. Hard work wins out too often to count. Most aren’t willing to put the hours of practice in and so open the door to less talented folk (like myself!). Atop just about every field sit people that are not naturally talented, but are persistent and willing to put the 10,000 hours in.
            Thanks for clarifying Dean.
            Live it LOUD!

  4. Martin says:

    Hey Rob!
    First time around and i’m already disagreeing 🙂
    I DO NOT believe in natural talent or gifts you were born with etc. I came across this same topic over on Franks blog ( ) I think the “natural talent” think is 1.An excuse and 2.A type of way to seclude others.
    What I believe in , is that the only gift we’re given is that of the “will”. The will to do anything that we want and become good at it. This will is then affected by various other factors(persistence,etc) of which the most important is our environment. This environment directly affects our use of this will, which eventually affects how good we become at something or at using it.

    Dont know if that makes much sense?

    Martinsays: Nice post man! Live it loud!

    • Rob says:

      Hey Martin,
      I would encourage you to read the article cited over at onespoonatatime.
      As I pointed out in my post, it encourages me, not discourages. Other people may be ‘naturally talented’ at something, but, that does not put them in a position to defeat anyone willing to go the extra mile (unless they do also). And, most are simply unwilling to go the extra mile, which makes it better for those who are willing.
      Thanks for disagreeing, I welcome open discussion.
      Live it LOUD!

  5. Hey Rob,
    Don’t be stingy. Put my comment back:) I don’t see it!

  6. Hajra says:

    I would totally agree with natural talent being in us. I complain, that is my natural talent, but I make a blog out of it that is hard work!
    Realizing your natural talent is probably the hardest for many, you need to know what lies in you and if you can’t just go on with what you like maybe therein lies the talent and success. We don’t need someone to come tell us we are good at it and this is what we should be doing; if you like doing it, there are numerous ways to sharpen your skills and techniques at it.
    I can’t sit around thinking that I am the smartest person around and be watching TV and gorging on a bag of chips saying “To hell with all, my IQ is 165”. If you aren’t doing anything about it, you are just good without realizing that “natural talent” of yours!

    Have a great day!

    • Rob says:

      Hey Hajra,
      Wow! I didn’t know your IQ was that high 🙂
      As far as your comment, we are in agreeance.
      Thank you for using your natural talent of complaining (and working on it so hard)! 🙂
      Appreciate you stopping by.
      Live it LOUD!

  7. Dia says:

    Hi Rob,

    I believe natural talent is good to have, but it always can be improved. For example a singer might has a beautiful voice, but his technique might be lacking which he could always improve. Without natural talent, a person might not succeed even if he practiced and put in the time for some fields. Sometimes, talent wins along. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The good thing is it can always be improved. Thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Hey Dia,
      We agree. There is always room for improvement. Fortunately, there are many fields where persistency will place you in the upper echelon. And, there is nothing wrong with that.
      I might add that you are talented and persistent.
      Live it LOUD!

  8. Very interesting topic – and one I’ve also thought about a lot! I even made an exam about deliberate practice theory. 🙂

    I believe that everything we do or are able to do is influenced by both innate and environmental factors. Talent would be innate, and I really believe that there is something like natural talent. It may be overrated sometimes, though, but it plays an important role nevertheless. On the other hand, there’re things like practice, and – not to forget! – social support. Also, believing in your own abilities has to be considered, as well as motivational factors (which can be enhanced by the things mentioned above and vice versa).

    I believe that, even if you practiced 10,000 hours, you wouldn’t achieve as much as somebody who practiced for the same amount of hours, but is more talented. On the other hand, even if you were very talented, you wouldn’t achieve a lot if you didn’t practice. So, there are really quite a lot of factors that play a role, and they have to interact in a fortunate way to yield exceptional performance.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Kath,
      Welcome and I agree. I would be interested in knowing more about environmental factors as I do realize these play a role for some. In most cases of success work was involved to get there. Many without natural talent (in the given field) or positive environmental influences made their own way by nothing more than a dream+strategy+persistence+persistence. I do agree that talent will win out, but ONLY if that talented person is willing to work and be persistent. Most of the successful people we see and admire aren’t the most talented, just the most persistent.
      I appreciate your comment. If you could share the exam with me, that would be great. I would love reading a different angle on the topic.
      Live it LOUD!

  9. Hey Rob,
    I like what you are saying here. Be persistent because that is what really matters. Everyone has talent in some area of their lives yet they are either too lazy, too scared, or just don’t care enough to make it happen.

    Wayne Dyer said, “Don’t die with the music still in you.”

  10. Hey Rob,
    Pretty motivational post. I do agree! Thomas Edison didn’t fail 10,000 times before he invented the filament for the light bulb … he simply found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. Anyone that puts hard work and dedication in can become an expert in any field, the desire brings forth the talent.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Vitaly,
      Welcome to THP!
      We agree my friend. Yeah, that Edison was one persistent cat and it paid off.
      Persistence pays off if there’s a bit of strategy along with it.
      Live it LOUD!

  11. Amazing point, Rob! I love how you started with a potentially disheartening idea, but turned it into a true and powerful lesson! =) The idea of natural talent makes me think of an article that Malcolm Gladwell wrote called, “Late Bloomers.” Have you read it? If not, I’d love to email you the PDF version!

    Gladwell writes about how not all great artists are those who produce their greatest works in their 20s — Mark Twain and Cezanne are his key examples… they are people who developed their art over a long period of time. The development, growth and persistence along the way is to be continually valued. I always refer to the article whenever I feel like a newbie with amateur writing. =P

    Thanks so much for reminding me of this, Rob! =)

    • Rob says:

      Hey Sam!
      I’m wondering if the article was taken directly from the book, Outliers by Gladwell? I’ve referenced it and it is the same as what you mention. I’m a huge Gladwell fan and have him on my reads list. Tipping Point, Blink are riveting reads also. Please do send the PDF as there might be some extras in there.
      I can assure you that you’re writing is anything but amateurish and the journey is just starting. How exciting! We will be keeping a close eye on you. And, I will be expecting an autographed copy of the book when it’s finished:)
      Live it LOUD!

  12. Marcus Baker says:

    Hey Rob,

    Hmmm meaty topic. I enjoyed reading your post and the follow up comments.

    I guess how one defines talent might be a factor. To me it means being able to do something easily that others don’t find as easy. I don’t think everybody is endowed with the same natural talents but I’d like to believe everybody does get one or more.

    Surely what matters most is whether we can recognize these and realize them so that they can be put to the best use, which is in serving others? This may of course still require hours and hours of exploring and effort to find that which is natural to us.

    Why is it that one one person finds their talents more easily than another? Maybe it is because they are better at identifying the impulses within and when they do accepting that they are worthy of the talent?

    Is it possible to be successful at that which may not be our natural talent? I believe so but it requires far more effort from us.

    Just my thoughts..


    • Rob says:

      Hey Marcus,
      Thanks for joining the discussion. I do agree that we all have at least some natural talents. As to my belief to why most don’t find theirs? When Grandma Moses was young (10-11?)she had to give up painting because of the expense. She took it up again a whole life later at about (83?) only because she ncould no longer farm. She was still painting at 101.
      Having fertile ground is important. Being receptive to trying new things is also important. imho.
      I definitely believe most that are successful are not naturally talented at what it is they are successful in. They just work hard and smart. They’re persistent.
      Live it LOUD!

  13. Great insights Rob. Persistence has incredible power. Take constant action in the direction of your goals and trust that the best outcome will always materialize. Never quit. Do not stop singing if you are not accepted at an audition, do not give up on that job you always wanted, do not stop striving to be the person you always wanted to be, do not give up your big dreams. Always remember that all great people started as ordinary people but had a dream and persisted and with a positive mental attitude achieved extraordinary success. If they persisted and succeeded, you can too! So begin to persist now and remember what Winston Churchill said “Never, never, never give up!”. Then if you have talent, work on it!


    • Rob says:

      Hey Lynne,
      Thanks for stopping and giving more great insight to the topic.
      This is wonderful: “Always remember that all great people started as ordinary people but had a dream and persisted and with a positive mental attitude achieved extraordinary success.”
      Live it LOUD!

  14. Paul says:

    Great message Rob! I saw a documentary on MTV a few months ago where they interviewed a pretty famous musician (wish I could remember his name). Anyways, the TV host asked him what his secret formula for success was, and the famous musician basically said, I wake up every morning and I work really really hard. This was kind of a shocker since everyone assumed he was a musical genius.

    I keep seeing many people who are perceived as geniuses that really aren’t that exceptional. Sure they may have some talent, but they seriously just work their ass off.

    Chris Rock is another example. He is super funny comedian, and always delivers these hilarious sold out events, replayed on HBO. But before he gets to that level, I’ve read that he practices his jokes at local comedy clubs throughout LA for up to 2 years before he refines his material to the HBO level.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Paul,

      Hammer it home my friend! Hammer it home. That’s what I’m talking about. If you want it: sweat, bleed, cry. Just don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t blame. Don’t make excuses. Attack! Attack! Be the difference maker you’ve been waiting for. Get it done.
      Paul you added big time value with your perspective as usual. Those are some great examples of persistence in action. Someone will read that and say, “Well, geez, if so-and-so can do it by putting the work in, I can too!”
      Thanks for taking the time to do that.
      Live it LOUD!
      Keep Living it LOUD!

  15. When someone is recognized for their natural gift, it’s because they became good enough at it that they enjoy doing it, and it looks like they did it effortlessly. This should not take away from those who might have achieved similar results from working hard.

    Natural talents are that persons gift, they enjoy doing it, and don’t consider “Whats in it for me”, they just enjoy accomplishing the task.

    Everyone has natural abilities, based on what they’ve been surrounded with during their life, and work experiences that offered them the opportunity to develop what they enjoy doing.

    What makes a great working environment is one with talents to accomplish one phase of a project, and another with complimentary skills to take it from there.

    Find your natural talent and gift, put yourself in the position that allows it to flourish.

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