Why Talent Is Nothing Without Hard Work

Talent versus practice. Gifted versus hard work. Nature versus nurture. The debate over whether an individual’s innate ability is better than putting in numerous hours to hone a skill is as old as time. On one side, we have absolutely no control over the talents we are born with, but on the other, we can willfully put in the effort to acquire any skill we desire. So which side of the argument is actually right? 

In this article, this author will not pick a position or even attempt to be the authority on which side is right or wrong. The author is of the opinion that the dichotomy between talent and practice is simply redundant because possessing either quality without the other will not unlock one’s true potential pertaining to any skill set. What is talent without the hard work that goes into refining and enhancing it? And where will hard work get you if it has no purpose or direction to guide it? 

Is Talent Real? 

Most of us have known someone that is seemingly born talented. Perhaps it’s a classmate who never seemed to study but scored brilliantly in an exam. Or that self-taught friend who picked up a musical instrument by ear while you slogged away on the piano only to sound just half as good. For the rest of us who feel like we have no talents, it can be very discouraging to think that some people are just born with a certain skill or natural intelligence. Yet, it can also be a convenient excuse not to try and acquire that desired ability to master the piano or do well in your exam. 

Yes, talent does exist. It is an aptitude and natural inclination for specific abilities, activities, or even thought patterns that can manifest at any stage of an individual’s life. When we observe someone who does something with less effort than others and yet produces outstanding results, we’re inclined to believe that he or she is ‘talented’. I am a firm believer that every individual on this planet possesses a unique talent that they may or may not be aware of.  

Yet, talent is a finite commodity that can easily be squandered or wasted on those who do not have the means or will to exercise it. In the worst-case scenario, awareness of one’s talents without the will to bring out its full potential may even lead to arrogance and an inflated ego. This is precisely why a bit of hard work goes a long way, and in the long run, can take one’s talents to greater heights. 

Most of the talented people that I know are people that are quite aware of their own gifted abilities while at the same time putting in a lot of practice and hard work to refine their talents. It’s not so much a debate between talent versus practice; these two should actually go hand-in-hand and complement each other. When this happens, individuals who are talented in certain areas outperform those who aren’t gifted per se.  

How to Set Goals Effectively  

Rather than looking at your goals as one gigantic task, breaking them down into smaller daily, weekly or monthly cycles can help you work toward your goals as a work in progress. Effective goal setting prevents you from feeling overwhelmed, and you are more likely to stay focused and motivated toward your objectives. If you’ve been abandoning your goals and new year’s resolution one too many times, try defining your goals within the following framework. 

Can Hard Work Make-Up For Lack of Talent?

That being said, what about the rest of us who work hard for talents we don’t apparently possess? Do we stand a chance when we compete against gifted individuals? One key ingredient that is not often mentioned in the debate between talent versus practice is determination or the will to achieve. 

To illustrate this, take my example as a case in point. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an affinity toward music and rhythm. Having received no formal musical education nor guidance and having no financial means to receive that education, I was guided by my sheer determination to acquire the ability to replicate the sounds of musicians whom I truly admire. The guitar was my choice of instrument to achieve this, and upon discovering an abandoned guitar at a relative’s house, I brought it home and taught myself how to play. 

It has been 18 years since the day I brought the guitar home with me, and over the years, people have remarked how ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ I am with the guitar, considering the fact that I am completely self-taught and have never received any lessons. Whether or not this is attributable to some innate ability to play the instrument, I am not entirely sure of the answer, and I never let it get to my head. But what is certain, however, is the fact that I spent an average of about 7 hours per day practising for roughly 10 years before I got to the level of proficiency I now possess. By now, most of you may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. If you did the maths, 7 hours per day across the span of 10 years works out to about 25,000 hours of practice. 

The point that I am trying to make here is that hard work and practice does indeed pay off. Quite literally. I am now able to utilise this skill to generate money by becoming a guitar instructor and imparting my skills to those who want to learn the instrument. And it is certainly not limited to just playing a musical instrument. It applies to any skill, ability, or field of study you can think of. But it does take determination and a strong will to become good at something for hard work to bear fruit.  

There are those who are faithful to the old adage that practice makes perfect, while others argue that no, practice does not make perfect, and you will never be as good without talent. The age-old debate on whether talent matters is inconclusive despite the numerous amounts of research by experts. Ultimately, talent without practice will mean that full potential is hard to reach. At the same time, practising without any clear sense of direction or will to succeed will only make you feel that you can never go up against talent. There’s no winner in the talent versus hard work debate, so why not incorporate both? 

Here at Bridge, we want you to ask yourself what are the goals and aspirations that you’ve set for yourself for the week, month, and year. Check out our career guidance page for more useful lifestyle and career tips!   

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