Skip to content Skip to footer
Is talent born or made, Origineurs podcast episode hosted by communication expert, Loretta Milan

Is talent born or made?

This episode's highlights.

  • (01:41) The true meaning of talent
  • (04:12) What it really takes to be talented
  • (05:14) This way of looking at talent is a game changer
  • (06:57) Learn the ‘Triple Trick to Talent’ – three ways to master anything 

Talent is special.

There’s something magic about witnessing true talent. Like seeing a shooting star or stumbling across a rare gem. It’s special.

When enjoying the work of a musical genius, a great artist, or a winning sportsperson, their talents often seem to come so naturally, like they were born with them.

Wherever there’s a skill to be mastered, you’ll find talented people acing it.  

But there’s a big question. Is talent really born or made? And, is there the chance to make it in anything if it’s what you truly desire, even if it doesn’t come easily at first?

The true definition of talent.

If you were to open a dictionary and look up the definition of ‘talent’, it would most likely tell you that it is some sort of natural ability.

And, if you were to walk out onto a busy street right now and ask a few random people the same thing, chances are, they’d agree, because the term ‘natural’ is often misrepresented.

Many people think ‘natural talent’ means you are born with it just like the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose.

When something comes naturally, however, what’s really happening is something is flowing with ease, which is the result of mastering a skill.

The truth is, the only thing you are ever really born with is potential.

Finding the source of talent.

I discovered the source of talent on my journey to learn the piano.

From an early age, I loved music and was drawn to it. This led to a desire to play myself and I pestered my parents for years for piano lessons. The strength of my desire meant I worked at it even when it felt tough, especially knowing of the sacrifice being made to pay for my lessons and to get me there early on Saturday mornings.

But one thing was certain, I was not born playing the piano. I did not wave at the midwife on the way out and then immediately proceed to play a perfectly polished piece of Debussy that was deserving of applause.

My genetics do mean that I have slightly longer fingers than average for my size – which is useful for playing big chords – and that I have a musical ear which is useful for hitting the right notes.

But, none of these things are a guarantee of talent.

Certainly, at two years old, I used to love bashing my hands on the piano keys in any random order and pretend that was entertainment.

The pieces I can now play are all a result of hard work and dedication. And, when I lapse in the work – which happens when life gets busy – my talent evaporates. I need both work and nature to play music that people will actually enjoy!

Now you may say, well that’s probably the case for an amateur, but how about a proper professional? Surely a megastar could summon their natural born talent without all that work?

Where do stars get their talent?

It’s easy to think talent comes easily to megastars when you see a film like Elton John in Rocketman – when all those hours and hours and hours of hard work are condensed down into a few scenes.

No one sees the frustration of not getting it, the practice that goes nowhere, the songs that sound awful, the failures, those feelings that you’ll never get it, the people who shut the door because they’re fed up of hearing the practice. These moments will have been inevitable on the way to the top of the charts and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Certainly, one evening, I heard hit singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran having a fascinating conversation with Jonathan Ross on his talk show here in the UK where he revealed the truth about talent.

Before he went into that, he got out his phone, put it up to his mic and took a swig of wine for courage as he shared a clip of his early music that had never been played in public. In the clip, he is squinting with the pain of listening to the recording and has to cut it short, openly admitting that it is bad.

And, what was the truth he wanted everyone to know? He said, “When people say artists are born with talent, you’re not. You have to really learn and really practice.”

If you’d like to see the evidence, check out the video below.

A further, important way we need to look at talent.

Many people look at the likes of Elton John and Ed Sheeran and consider them talented. They’ll say the same about other people at the top of professions that commonly come under the spotlight like sportspeople, actors, TV presenters, novelists, and artists.

But talent takes many more forms. How about all the talented people who work behind the scenes? The TV producers, the sports coaches, and the set designers? Rarely will they be referred to at ‘The Talent’ on their job profiles but they are still talented.

And, how about all the other incredibly talented people we have around the world that make it go round? How about our nurses, teachers, engineers, and so on?

Fewer people would claim their talent is born. Who talks about being born naturally able to draw blood, or teach algebra, or calculate the exact specifications required to give an aircraft lift? These skills are learned and mastered by people dedicated to their professions.

When we look at talent as a pure skill it seems absurd to think of it as born.

Of course it is acquired!

And, when we stop looking at talent as something mystical – which is how it looks when we don’t see the thousands of hours of work that go into it – it can liberating.

Just like when you learn the method behind a magic trick, talent stops being an illusion and starts being something you really could do.

The 'Triple Trick to Talent'.

Ever wondered if there’s a method for becoming talented?

Well, that really depends on what you want to do but, just like any great magic trick, there are a few great elements.

I call this the ‘Triple Trick to Talent’.

Trick to Talent 1: Flow

Rather than ask, what are your natural strengths or natural talents? You need to find what flows naturally for you.

So, some better questions are…

  • What energises you?
  • What, when you do it, tends to make the time fly by quickly?
  • What doesn’t feel like work or what feels least like work?
  • What do you find you improve at most easily?

If you find yourself struggling with any of these questions, allow yourself to explore a variety of activities you’re curious about, to find if any give you this feeling of flow. You won’t feel it all the time but it’s helpful if you feel it the majority of the time.

When you find the things that create the least resistance for you, you’re more likely to work at them and stick at them, making it more likely that you’ll be successful.

If procrastination is a problem, you may need to put that aside when considering your potential talents. By ‘flow’, we’re talking about the feeling once you’re really into a task and you’ve got going.

If you find it hard to get started, check out this great episode of the Origineurs podcast featuring seven ways to beat procrastination for good. 

Trick to Talent 2: Desire

Desire is the ingredient that matters most.

Whether something flows naturally for you or not, whether it feels easy for you or not, if your motivation to do it is strong, you’ll work at it and stick at it.

When you realise that talent is not simply a born ability but that it requires work, it can feel intimidating as well as liberating.

The idea of work doesn’t sound exciting and it’s the reason – I think – so many people don’t want to admit it’s the secret to talent.

Yes, there are other factors, like luck and connections but many of these things rely on chance. The work is something you have direct control over and if an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready.

The question is, do you want to be talented enough to work at it?

Think about how great it would feel to master that skills.

Would it be worth the time and the work for you?

From a scale of 1-10, how strong is your desire? What would need to happen for it to be at its peak? That’s the thing you need to work on because it’ll be key to your success.

Trick to Talent 3: Meaningful progress

It can feel good being in your comfort zone doing your favourite activities, and sticking to the bits that you’re good at. And, sometimes you need to do those things to keep your motivation up and remind you why you’re doing it all.

However, you need to push yourself to do the things that feel difficult and to keep innovating – believing that you will be able to master them at some stage – because that’s how you keep improving.

This requires getting used to the feeling of discomfort. But, discomfort is your friend. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough or that you’ll never make it, rather that you are on the cusp of your next breakthrough.

Whatever you dream of doing – or are in the process of achieving – know that by finding your flow, harnessing your desire and making meaningful progress, you are on your way to being the most talented you’ve ever been.

Talent is not born, it is self made.

Key takeaways.

  1. True talent is magical to watch. It looks effortless and natural. Many people believe that talent is something we are born with. But, the truth is, the only thing we are ever really born with is potential.
  2. Talent takes many forms. It’s not just for those that capture that limelight like artists, musicians and sportspeople but people in professions all over the world like nurses, teachers and engineers. Anything that requires a skill can become a talent which requires dedication and work to master.
  3. The ‘Triple Trick to Talent’ helps you harness your abilities. First, find your flow to discover where your natural energies lie and where you have least resistance. Second, know that your desire matters most and will sustain you through all the hard work that will be required to realise true talent. Third, make meaningful progress regularly by embracing discomfort and knowing that each time you feel it, you are on the cusp of your next breakthrough and on the way to being the most talented you’ve ever been.

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]