A few years ago I wrote a post entitled ‘Talent Is Cheaper Than Table Salt’. In this post I outline how talent is actually not so rare and rather it is hard work that matters when it comes to finding success.
I’ve often thought about this post, especially as it is one of my most viewed posts. Yet since I first wrote it, I’ve increasingly began to question it, even though, at least at a logical and basic level, it may be correct. But what if, just what if, I may have got it completely wrong regarding talent? Maybe genuine talent is actually rather scarce. To be clear, when I say this, I mean a kind of talent that is just so special and very hard to replicate.
The quote in my original article by the writer Stephen King goes like this; “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
King is correct, especially if one also takes into account the second sentence of his quote. It is all true. Yet talent and hard work are two different things. Anyone can develop a hard work ethic, but not everyone has real god given supernatural talent. I think we need to really reassess how we define talent. I also dispute this notion that if you work hard you will automatically be rewarded. We fall victim to something called ‘Survivorship Bias’ – only looking at success stories and overlooking all the failures.
There are countless stories of those who worked extremely hard and didn’t ‘make it’. Yet those stories seem to be lost on us. But that doesn’t mean that one should not work hard. Absolutely not. Hard work, unexpected challenges and multiple failures are an important part of one’s character building. Saying that hard work is a waste of time sets a bad example.
As a whole, we often neglect to take into account just how random the world can be. Please see my other post Fooled By Randomness. Life is not as linear as we think it is. There are some things that are simply beyond our control.
But getting back to the subject of talent. When I look at the people I admire throughout history one thing they all have in common was that they were special. They were not like everybody else. They had talent in spades and often there was hardly any chasm between their life and their art. Now THAT is rare.
By Nicholas Peart
June 21st 2021
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