Talent Is Not a Skill, It’s a Process…

Ever see someone so gifted but never end up amounting to much? That’s because any skill in life must be honed over time lest you lose it. See, I (Phil Svitek) used to think for the longest time that talent was just a skill-set. And yes, talent is a gift of some kind (no matter whether you believe in God, the universe or genetics). But like all gifts, our talents must be honored and not wasted. That’s the difference between those who are successful and those who are not. Successful people exercise their talent and apply it daily. Talent therefore is a journey. That’s how we must think of it moving forward. In this lesson, I expand upon this notion and highlight the importance of making sure you never lose your talents and the ways in which you can practice your craft everyday. I’ll cite stoicism, as depicted by Ryan Holiday in his book The Obstacle is the Way and Pastor Erwin McManus from Mosaic. Comment below with thoughts, opinions, personal experiences, questions, etc.

What It Takes to Be Great by Erwin McManus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BeC2GrSc6I

The Obstacle Is the Way: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1591846358/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=philsvitek-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1591846358&linkId=5d4cb59dafd1c07bcce19c4a0973fbbf

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What is talent? For the longest time I defined talent as a skill-set. And by the dictionary’s definition, this is exactly what talent is: a skill-set or sometimes referred to as a gift.

I like the term gift because a gift implies something outside yourself. Whatever you believe, God, the universe or otherwise, has handed you a certain amount of ability to do a particular activity exceptionally well. Notice the words to do in that sentence.

During my years with AfterBuzz TV I have seen my fair share of skilled hosts – from WWE’s Cathy Kelley, Fox’s Eboni K. Williams, Us Weekly’s Jackie Miranne, E! Correspondent Mari Henderson, Reelz host Derrial Christon, Access Hollywood Live’s AJ Gibson and hundreds of others. I’m blessed enough to be part of each of their beginnings. And what they all have in common is the fact that they worked. They were gifted with something and honored those gifts by applying them wholeheartedly.

I’m also unfortunate to have seen my fair share of very skilled hosts who never use their gift. Once in a blue moon when this type of person does a project he or she will do it so well that you’re left stunned as they make those around them seem silly by comparison. The travesty is that the gift this person possesses is not put to use. Anything in life that isn’t used deteriorates. That’s what saddens me the most. That such a gift will go to waste. It’s as if the world is getting robbed the chance to be able to experience such a wonder. It’s very selfish if you stop and think about it.

Artist Pablo Picasso once said, “If they took away my paints I’d use pastels. If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.” How’s this apply to talent? It applies because what Picasso is saying is that no matter what he’d find a use for his passion and art. He wouldn’t let it remain dormant. He didn’t need an excuse to be an artist. Better yet, he wasn’t going to allow circumstances to prevent him from doing his craft. From honoring the gift bestowed on him.

This is precisely what the skilled hosts who never end up successful lack. Call it determination. Call it grit. Call it passion. Whatever you’d like. Either way, it’s not there and they’re not doing anything with their incredible skill.

And so because of all this I have redefined the way I view talent. To me it is not a skill-set but rather a process. Only through action can you display the skills you process.

Think about it from this perspective. If talent wasn’t a process why would athletes need to train? They’d just show up to games ready to play, right? We both know that’s not the case. They need to train to not only maintain the skills they have but also develop them. In the book The Obstacle is the Way, author Ryan Holiday talks about this notion. He points us to the phrase “the road to success” and says it is just that. A road. A road that must be traveled in order to get to the destination. Step by step, day by day. There are no shortcuts. By that definition, you do not get the luxury of choosing when to use your gift and when not to. It’s not a light switch to be turned on and off. It must remain on and active.

In a sense, it’s a question of figuring out if the thing you say you really want to do is actually what you really want or if it’s just something you’d like praise for rather than putting in the work. I’ve seen plenty of those people. They’ll use phrases like I want to be famous or I want to be the best. These are red flags. Just do it, like Nike says. Don’t talk about being the best. Focus on crafting your skills little by little until one day others deem you the best. Being the best is not a moniker you get to bestow upon yourself. Nor can that be your objective because it’ll never come to pass. In order to be the best you must work extremely hard. You’ll never put in that hard work if you don’t truly love it. The people whose greatness we get to witness everyday – whether that be athletes, actors, politicians, activists, etc – is only the tip of the iceberg. Their greatness lies in all the aspects we don’t witness. What we see is only the result of their hard work.

Interestingly enough, Erwin McManus talks about what it takes to be great on a podcast called Mosaic. It’s worth checking out as it approaches the idea of greatness, his word for talent, in a different way than I do here. Just note each episode is actually a sermon so he does preach the word of God. However, if you’re someone like me, which is to say an atheist but loves to learn from anyone, then you’ll enjoy the episode just the same.

What it all boils down to is you have to step forward and take action, which is another cliche self-help idea. But the reason why it’s cliche is because it works. Not only does it work, but it’s imperative you do it. Figure you what you love and go after it. Don’t let excuses get in the way. Don’t end up being the type of person who takes their skills for granted. Use them. Use them everyday. Stephen King says in order to be a writer you must read and write every day. That’s just what it takes. You can apply that sentiment to any activity.

Also, as a final thought, sometimes people think that what they’re passionate about and what they’re good at are mutually exclusive. This depresses them because they feel like they can’t go after their dream because it’s not the thing they’re good at. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can combine the two – usually creating some entirely new path that hasn’t yet been trailed. Take, for instance, my role at AfterBuzz TV. I wanted to always do something within the creative space but was more analytical and mathematical in terms of my skills. When I left college podcasting wasn’t an industry. And thus when I jumped on board with AfterBuzz TV during the conception phase, I carved out a brand new career. One that didn’t exist at the time. Now, my role is commonplace in the podcast space. I’m extremely grateful because I get to put to use my creative passions alongside my methodical brain.

It’d be too much for me to cover the full steps in figuring out how to combine your passions and skills into your life’s purpose or goal. I’ll save that for a later episode. If you’d like to hear it sooner rather than later, comment below.

Thank you for tuning in. To reinforce the lesson that talent is not a skill-set but rather a process, here’s a few quotes that speak to the idea that you must put your gift to use lest it go away.

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. – Colin Powell

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Calvin Coolidge

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy. – Robert Half

Talent without working hard is nothing. – Cristiano Ronaldo

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. – Stephen King

I think we judge talent wrong. What do we see as talent? I think I have made the same mistake myself. We judge talent by people’s ability to strike a cricket ball. The sweetness, the timing. That’s the only thing we see as talent. Things like determination, courage, discipline, temperament, these are also talent. – Rahul Dravid

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