Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why I hate the word "TALENT"

Hi Anna,

I really hate the word "talent". It just gets under my skin for a few reasons. In most contexts it's a compliment given by people. And the sentiment is real and gracious and I love them for it. But I also want to slap the shit out of them.

Here's the excerpt from Alla Prima by Richard Schmid. If you don't have a copy you need get one, you'll fall in love with his description of Edges.

"Talent is a word we use after someone has become accomplished." - Richard Schmid, Alla Prima

So what's my beef with "Talent"? When I worked at Beenox, our studio head would be showing people around and he would stop by our group and say "These are our talented illustrators.".

That was really nice of him to say. But after a while I started to think more about that word. I didn't just wake up and decide I wanted to draw and draw well enough to get paid for it. I spent years training myself and slapping the word "talent" on it makes it feel like all that hard work didn't exist.

The second reason is I work with people who love creating beautiful things. They are in marketing and finance. They want to be able to put down what they imagine in their minds but stop because they feel they are not talented. I've had people not even try because they don't have "talent" and can never do what we do. That makes me so sad.

I read an article on Yahoo years ago that said a normal person can master anything in 10 years. It's true. Doctors have to go to school for almost a decade. Actors have to memorize entire books (an actor in Hamlet knows his lines and everyone else's).

In highschool there were two people that seemed to understand everything. Math, Science, English, French. They understood it all and I was beside myself wondering why am I so dumb? There are people out there in the world that do understand things easier than others. There are people who are just naturally inclined and gifted and will amaze people with those talents. But for the rest of us -- we have to work hard for it.

So, a better word to compliment someone you admire is: Skilled

Roger is a skilled artist. Anna is a skilled artist. Anyone can be learn new skills and with hard work, can master them.

That's it. Sorry for all the words.


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