Stop Believing Talent Is Something You’re Born (Or Not Born) With

Far too often, we give up projects and even careers because we’re convinced we just don’t have the talent. “I wasn’t born with the gift of writing.” “I’m not a good public speaker and never will be.” “I not a born leader.” But recent research has dramatically disproven the idea that talent is innate. A new study in the journal Science by Sarah-Jane Leslie, a philosopher at Princeton University, and Andrei Cimpian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois was focused on why fewer women and African-Americans were successful in certain fields. The results of the study indicate that you don’t succeed in certain areas not because you weren’t born with that talent – but your belief in that myth is what actually holds you back.

In their case, the results indicated that the more people in a field believed success was due to intrinsic or innate ability, the fewer women and African-Americans made it in that field.

The point is that it’s your beliefs that are holding you back, more than a lack of talent.  But while science has pretty much abandoned the idea of innate talent, it’s still a very strong cultural idea. Breaking people of that seductive concept is a challenge. Certainly you may need training, hard work, and years of trial and error to be a great writer, musician, or anything else. But if you mistakenly believe you don’t have talent at all, you’ll fail from the start.

While I’m not a positive thinking proponent, this study does indicate that significant numbers of people fail simply because they don’t believe in themselves or their abilities.

So maybe it’s time you started believing in yourself…..

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  1. But what do we do with the people who are convinced they have talent, but are just wrong?… Believe me, I’ve read too many of their scripts. (Or one need only look at some of the American Idol auditions…)

  2. ‘Talent’ is simply a learned—and practiced—skill applied effectively. The more a skill is practiced and used, the more it becomes second nature and appears to others as effortless. Voila! Talent.

    Talent is no more inherent than the ability to walk. You may have the desire, but you gotta fall down a few times to get the hang of it.

  3. Well yes –and no. Not necessarily. Talent requires development and practice, yes. But, for example, there are many excellent singers in the world who have worked hard and attained a high level of skill. However, there are very few Carusos or Pavarottis among them. In some areas, mere training and skill cannot make up for lack of inborn talent.

    1. I have no doubt Caruso or Pavarotti spent thousands of hours developing their craft. For me the question isn’t even whether or not we’re born with it. But because people think that way, they’re pre-judging their abilities. So they stay away from areas they THINK they’re not born for. I say try it out first, and judge later.

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