The Talent Myth

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I used to believe that you were either good at something or you weren’t.  

I believed talent was decided by genes.

You were either born with the artistic gene, the athletic gene, the musical gene, the smart gene or you weren’t.

If there was something you loved and you weren’t good at it, bummer for you.  Talent was determined at birth.

Except I was wrong.

Utterly, amazingly wrong.

Yes, we’re born with gifts.

But that’s only half the picture.

What I now know to be is true is that we’re born with the ability to learn gifts and acquire talent. 

Abilities are like muscles – they are built with practice.

We can learn to draw.  To play music.  To run.  Even if it doesn’t come naturally at first.

Michael Jordan wasn’t a basketball prodigy at birth.  He was cut from his high school team.

Early in his career, Walt Disney was fired for a lack of imagination.

Lucille Ball left drama school after being told she had no future as a performer.

Maybe those judging these talents simply missed the boat.  Or maybe their talent was developed along the way.  By passion, by determination, by practice.

In fact, research shows there’s powerful magic in simply knowing the truth that you can develop and grow talents and skills for anything you desire.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, has found that individuals who have a growth mindset, those that know they can develop skills over time, are more likely to stretch themselves, take risks and be successful.

I wasn’t born athletic.  When I first started running, I couldn’t run a quarter of a mile.   Now I’ve run 26.2.

I’ve developed the ability to run.  I’ve acquired a talent for distance.

Not because of my genes.  In spite of them.

So where are you letting the talent, the skill the ability myth hold you back?  What would you be willing to try if you couldn’t believe you weren’t gifted at it?  What challenge would you face if you knew you could learn the skills over time?

Share your comments in the comments section below or tweet your answer to @ChristyMLambert.


  1. Kim

    February 21, 2012

    I agree that it’s not all about having natural running talent. I do think there are some things natural athletes have, that I don’t have… body type, and an incredible VO2 Max, for example. I’m never going to be an elite athlete, and I might not ever qualify for Boston. But, I do know I have traits that will make me the best runner I can be– things that I could consider inherent “talents” (nature). I work hard. I am committed. I don’t give up. I would like to think running can teach a person to work hard, to be determined, to commit to something and see it through… a hard worker with average talent will beat a gifted athlete who is lazy. However, I also think there are some things we are naturally better at than others, and we will always see greatest progress in areas where we have the greatest talent. Great post!

  2. Emily

    May 5, 2012

    what a great post! such an important reminder for those of us who want to step back, observe our fears and plow forward anyway! totally bookmarked it.

    i have just discovered how much i love working out. i always thought exercise and being in shape was for people who were naturally athletic and i am SO grateful to discover how wrong i was.

    BUT! the challenge i would face if i knew i could learn the skills?
    salsa dancing

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