I am currently reading Serious Creativity by Edward De Bono. It’s a great book by the way, I’ll write a review once I’m done reading it. In one chapter on misperceptions about creativity, Bono wrote:
CREATIVITY IS A NATURAL TALENT AND CANNOT BE TAUGHT
This misperception is actually very convenient because it relieves everybody of the need to do anything about fostering creativity. If it is only available as a natural talent then there is no point in seeking to do anything about creativity.
That some people are naturally creative does not mean that such people would not be even more creative with some training and techniques. Nor does it mean that other people can never become creative.
Natural talent vs. hard work is a topic that has been debated by people of all professions throughout history. It’s also known as Nature vs Nurture, the difference between one’s innate ability vs. ability affected by personal experiences.
The term “talented’ or “gifted” is often mentioned in the artistic field. The achievements of artists, both in fine art and performing art are more obvious and visible. I have yet to find the reason why people have the need for such debate or self-awareness. Perhaps for some, it’s to gain self assurance, while for others it is to be hopeful.
I read a lot fables as a kid. Many of them touched upon this topic. For example, the race between the rabbit and the turtle. As a fan of the anime Naruto in recent years, my favorite character is Rock Lee (pictured above). He has no natural talent that other ninja students posses, but he makes up for it with his tenacity.
But fictions are fictions, they teach us the moral of being humble and diligent. Reading Bono’s excerpt, I can’t help but to consciously wonder if there’s such a thing as natural talent, especially when it comes to creativity. Last year I read an interesting and passionate discussion regarding this topic on Conceptart.org, and supporters of both sides raised some good points.
Here’s my opinion on natural talent vs. hard work: (P.S. as redundant as it may be, I’d like to point out this is just my opinion. Agree or disagree, that’s what the comment section is for).
Of course there’s natural talent, it’s not a myth. My statement comes from the achievements of people like Mozart , Michelangelo, Einstein, Michael Jordan etc. and my association with some very smart people in real life. I believe some people have more natural aptitude than others in certain areas. This is what I call natural talent.
However, the verdict of someone being naturally talented is often skewed. For example, when we see a fine piece of art or music, we often conclude that the artist must be really gifted. We come to this conclusion because we’re judging the end result – the art work itself. We tend to forget about the process and the journey of getting there. The artist may have been practicing for many years to get to that point. In which case hard work plays a huge role, regardless of whether he/she is naturally gifted or not.
In many discussions I’ve seen, talent and hard work are often talked about in a dichotomical way. E.g., Gifted people are perceived as complacent and lazy; while non-gifted people work harder to make up for it. In reality, talent can only carry you so far, the rest is hard work. The two are not mutually exclusive.
I also believe tenacity itself is a form of natural talent. It’s not something everyone is capable of. Being able to work hard towards a goal, consistently, despite hardship, is a gift. It’s easy to judge talent by a painting, photo, music score or fanbase because they’re more conceivable.
Another factor that’s often ignored in such discussions is Passion. Passion makes us strive for excellence. Talent + hard work + passion is a winning formula for success.
My views are formed based on my personal experiences, I’d love to hear yours.