Talent is not enough

By Annabel Theodora Christabel. Annabel, 16, lives in Tangerang, Indonesia. She attends IPEKA Plus BSD. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”- Albert Einstein

We are always told by the people around us to find our talents. That there is always something that each person is particularly good at and it is our goal in life to find it- and hopefully pursue a career out of it. But honestly, finding that talent can be quite a difficult one and is not as important as most might think.

Why do you think that kid is able to win that Math Olympiad? Maybe a small portion can be attributed to talent, but isn’t the real reason the hours he/she has put in to explore and learn math? The desire to find the solution of a particularly challenging question? Wondering how many different ways there are to solve this particular problem? It’s curiosity. Curiosity is something deeply ingrained in humans and is a huge part in our advancements as a race. But why do we have a tendency to undermine this wonderful thing in contrast to ‘talent’?

When saying something like, ‘Oh wow! Winning that competition?! You must be so talented!’ we genuinely thought of it as a compliment to the receiver, but in most cases it can actually be considered an insult. This means we’re not acknowledging how hard they’ve worked to get that far and are basically just saying ‘how lucky you are to be born with crazy math skills’! A person may have innate talent in math, but that doesn’t mean they’re capable of solving university level math from the get-go.

Curiosity and hard work are both very important aspects in the road to success and it can be said to go hand in hand. If you’re passionately curious and interested in something, won’t you do everything to learn about it as hard as possible? Curiosity should be the driving force behind hard work.

Why ‘should’, you may ask? One of the main reasons for doing hard work is to survive (especially working in the context of a job). Surviving is an entirely valid reason of course, but it ideally shouldn’t be the only reason you work hard. The ideal job is a job that you love so much it doesn’t feel like you’re working. A job you’re so curious about that you don’t mind working more to satiate your curiosity. Like Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Wouldn’t it feel like you’re living instead of only surviving?

And curiosity-driven hard work is also more long-lasting, it’s easier to do hard work if you like it!

Well, okay curiosity is great and all but you can’t really be saying that talent has zero influence in a person’s success?! Well, I do not think that. Talent gives you an edge against other people but if you don’t keep improving, it’s almost always that the curious and hardworking one will win.

Another point to make: the word ‘talented’ is a word with a sense of superiority and this is not a very good thing. If somebody has been told they’re talented their whole life and nothing else, they might be less willing to learn from others or to ask questions about the things they do not know, in fear of people doubting their ‘talented’ label. In contrast, curious people know that what they know is limited and is the reason why they’re more willing to learn. Curiosity also makes people more willing to step outside their comfort zone and be more open-minded, this is because non-curious people think that their knowledge is enough and do not want to broaden their view and knowledge.

For the people who haven’t found their talents yet, talent limits us and may result in a mindset that believes it’s not worth pursuing something if we aren’t naturally good at it. You just have to try and learn, and through all the struggles you face in learning this difficult something, gauge yourselves in how willing you are to continue pursuing it. How much do you love it to be willing to put every effort in? How long can you see yourselves constantly wanting to improve and be curious in a job (or something else) you need to work harder than others for? Well, I have some good news (or bad it depends): in the future, habitual and mindless jobs will disappear one by one. Automation is progressing fast, and only the creative jobs will remain. Curiosity is now more important than ever.

The bottom line: talent is never enough. Curiosity-driven hard work results in better lives, better skills and better futures.

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