I've talked about talent many times in my blogs for Christian creatives, and recently have begun reading a fascinating book called “Talent is Overrated” by author Geoffrey Colvin.
The reason this book speaks to me, and I think might be interesting to you, is that the author posits that talent is perhaps not born already to go as we may have thought. For years, we have thought that the reason there were “talented geniuses” in music, sports, or business is that they must have been born that way; that they were more predestined by God than others to get “the gift”.
“The natural-gift explanation also explains why extraordinary performers are so rare; God-given talents are presumably not handed out willy-nilly. This explanation has the additional advantage of helping most of us come to somewhat melancholy terms with our own performance. A God-given gift is a one-in-a-million thing. You have it or you don’t. If you don’t—and of course most of us don’t—then it follows that you should just forget now about ever coming close to greatness.” – Geoffrey Colvin
And this is what we do. We assume that God in His infinite wisdom chose our music minister, or Michael W. Smith, or Mozart for greatness or at least a much higher level of creativity than us. We figure we just didn't get God’s blessing.
Talent and creativity is often snuffed out early in our lives by well-meaning teachers and parents bent on making sure we “do what we are best at.” They mainly mean, “quit fooling around and do your math homework so you can go to college!”
And it only gets worse as we get older.
“In business we constantly see managers redirect people’s careers based on slender evidence of what they've “got.” Most insidiously, in our own lives, we will try something new and, finding that it isn't easy for us, conclude that we have no talent for it, and so we never pursue it.” – Geoffrey Colvin
Sound familiar? Ever just decided you must not be meant to do something because it wasn't easy or someone told you that you weren't any good at it? I meet new clients and creative folks every day who come to us for a new start in music ministry who feel they were beaten down early and quit. But God keeps working on them, and they try again.
In the book, Colvin looks into two examples everyone loves to run to when talking about “God-given talent”: Mozart and Tiger Woods. This is especially interesting to me since I am a huge fan of both. Mozart is my favorite composer, and I only watch golf if Tiger is in the hunt.
I have played pieces that Mozart wrote as a child (in fact, they are about all I can play by reading. Deepest regrets to my piano-teaching mother who gave it her best shot.) They are very sweet and beautiful pieces. But as Colvin posits and I can verify through my recent music history studies, these pieces were probably cleaned up and edited pretty good by a very musically talented father. In his early teens, Mozart studied with J.C. Bach (one of Johann Sebastian’s boys) and while nice, his compositions of this time certainly hearkened to his teacher’s style.
“Mozart’s first work regarded today as a masterpiece, with its status confirmed by the number of recordings available, is his Piano Concerto No. 9, composed when he was twenty-one. That’s certainly an early age, but we must remember that by then Wolfgang had been through eighteen years of extremely hard, expert training.” – Geoffrey Colvin
Tiger is actually a similar story. His dad was a scratch golfer with a single digit handicap before Tiger was born. From the time Tiger was a baby, he was around golf and getting a club put in his hand. Did he have natural talent? Or was it instilled and ingrained in him by a golf-focused father who recognized his son as smart and athletic? Even Tiger took a while to get to national prominence.
“Let’s call it age nineteen, when he was a member of the U.S. team in Walker Cup play (though he did not win his match). At that point he had been practicing golf with tremendous intensity, first under his father and after age four under professional teachers, for seventeen years.” – Geoffrey Colvin
So you see, yes Mozart and Tiger are great examples of talent, but it did not come without hard work.
So this week, examine if you may have dropped your creative goals because you felt you weren't talented enough for them. Maybe it’s time to get back to work!
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland has been deliberately practicing his creative goals for 50 years, including today. How about you? Are you ready? Check out Creative Soul, a creative Christian service company that can help you get back to it today. http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com