Before I get to my post I would love to thank everybody who played the game for the yarn giveaway! That was fun, so many close answers! My hometown is called Cherepovets and my current location is San Miguel de Allende. According to Google the two towns are 10 341 km apart! Quiet a distance!!! The closest guess was by Adrienne, her answer was 10 261 km. Congratulations, 4 skeins of Stroll Tweed by Knit Picks are yours! I will contact you by email tomorrow. Thank you for playing along!
Warning; it’s a long post with way too much thinking 🙂
A couple of years ago I finished a book that was disturbing and inspiring at the same time. It shattered so many prejudices and doubts that I used to have. The book is called “The Little Book of Talent” by Daniel Coyle. The book is basically a short, more structured version of Coyle’s “The Talent Code”, that broke all the stereotypes of such a phenomenon as “innate talent”. Since the very early childhood we are prone to hear this adjective – talented – in so many forms. At school you are studying talented writers, talented composers, talented scientists, talented artists, talented musicians and so on. On TV every celebrity is described as “beautiful, talented and successful”. The fashion magazines are singing odes to talented designers. If you are lucky, the word “talented” may be applied to you as well.
“Talent” used to be a terrifying word for me. As a child and a teenager I couldn’t help but wonder – “What is my talent? Do I have one?”. I didn’t seem to – I was a good and diligent student, but nothing extraordinary. Math, physics and chemistry scared me, literature and language were interesting, but nothing that vibrated with the “talent” energy. So, at some point I decided I wasn’t gifted any special talent.
The I picked up needles and a crochet hook. I loved it from the first touch and immediately had an idea to make myself a crochet dress. After 2-3 years of hideous side sloped pieces of fabric and after reading and watching tons of educational videos, I finally “got” it – white, fitting, not perfect, but MY dress. One very dear friend who has been always supporting me exclaimed with admiration when she first saw it – “Wow! You are so talented!” This was the first time in my life that anybody told me that I am talented in something. When I started working with children my principal told me “You have a natural talent working with children”. Hmm, I was flattered and perplexed. I certainly didn’t feel “talented” in any way. Everything that I did and achieved didn’t feel “natural” to me… And I couldn’t help but wonder if I am doing “my” thing… Everything was hard to achieve.
When you are looking at talented and successful people, when you’re reading newspaper articles about them, it really seems that everything that they do is a breeze. They are talented for goodness sake! It much be so easy for them to wake up in the morning and fly on the wings of their talent, right?!
I am following an inspiring knitter Maria (@maria.levine) who at the age of 26 happens to be one of the most famous, talented (of course 🙂 ) and searched for knitting teachers in Russia. She gives dozens of classes every month from Moscow to Siberia, travelling extensively around the country. Her teaching philosophy is never teach knitters how to knit from the patterns, but to teach them how to think and create on their own. Not everybody is happy with it and I often find comments: “Oh, it’s easy for you to say, you are so talented! I would never be able to do that on my own.” Maria always has an answer for it: “I am not talented. If you have hands and brains, you can do it. You just need to work a little bit harder”. Those who believe her, go to her classes and create wonderful things, those who don’t, well, they just keep writing how talented she is and how they wished they were her.
That got me thinking – how many times did I look at the person admiring her/his work and thinking: “Oh, I would love to do that, but I am just not cut out for it, I don’t have any talent for it.” And guess what – I never even tried these things. I was just too scared to fail. Every time it got way too hard, I thought – “Well, maybe it’s not for me.” And stopped. Only 3 years ago when I started working in the Montessori method, something shifted in me. I suddenly realized that I don’t achieve anything, because I just don’t do anything until the end. I stop, with this thought at the back of my head that I am not talented.
And then “The Little Book of Talent” came along, it’s funny how sometimes things come together… It shook me to the core. It stated that the talent doesn’t exist. There is just no such thing as “innate talent”, as the magical gift that is given to you if you’re lucky. Coyle introduces a fascinating research that reveals how the brain works and how we can turn simple disciplines into our “talent”. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
When working with children, I understand how careful you should be with using the word “talent”. This word has some connotation of “specialness”, “betterness” that others… If it is applied to you, it can lead you to believe that you don’t have to work that hard, you are talented, the world is your oyster. And if it isn’t applied to you, you get lost, you give up and become disappointed if things get hard.
What I understand now, for myself, after this experience, after reading this book, that the main goal in anything that you do should be the process, not the destination. Just look at truly happy “talented” people – they all love the process of what they do. The results become just the pleasant side effect, nothing more. And I guess this is the secret of “talent” – your talent is just the ability to find something that you enjoy doing, no matter if nobody pays you for that, no matter if it isn’t prestigious, no matter if your family doesn’t support you, no matter if you don’t see the results for years. You keep going, you keep learning, you keep perfecting your skills and all of a sudden you raise you head and hear how somebody says to you – “Oh, you are so talented.” The main thing is to get your head back down to work after that 🙂
Maybe someday I will change my opinion, but for now I believe there is only one talent that is given to every born human being – the talent of life, that is full of endless opportunities, no matter how long or short it turns out. From now on, I will never stop myself from trying things just because I think I don’t have the talent for it. I will learn, I will grow, I will keep trying.
What about you? Have you ever considered yourself talented in something? What does the word “talented” mean to you? Do you think that it’s a natural gift that is given to “special” people or the “talent” can be achieved by simple work discipline?