This is a time lapse video of me sketching Deetuf, from "Bad Giant Hunters", written by Lex Wilson, and drawn by me. You can see more about Lex here: http://lexwilson.com/
Below is what I say in this video all written out, just in case anyone would like to read it.
“You are so talented.”
We have all heard this before. Someone shows off an amazing skill, and inevitably the compliment comes up.
This may sound funny, but I never really liked this kind of complement.
Don't get me wrong. I love compliments as much as the next person, but my issue is really with the word talent.
You see, “talent” is defined as ‘Natural aptitude or skill’.
Did you get that? By definition, talent is an in born trait. Like having the ability to throw a ball accurately, play an instrument well, or even draw something appealing without EVER, BEING, TAUGHT.
And while I do believe that some people may have some in born aptitude towards certain skills, I don't think that any different than some people’s ability to grow a perfect head of hair, or a maintain naturally appealing body with no effort. By saying someone is talented, you’re sort of saying that the artist was born with their skills. It’s like saying, “You have such pretty EYES.”
Also, complimenting an artist by saying they are talented almost implies that their level of effort has played no part in their development as an artist. That they had no actual control over how much they grew their skills.
And that feels sort of empty.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking. You may have given this compliment before, and not understood the implications of your word choice. You probably only meant to say something nice to the artist, to make them feel good, and let them know you liked their work. Maybe it was just meant to imply that the artist showed a lot of skill, which was impressive.
And honestly its not the people who give this compliment that bother me, because I know that they have the best of intentions when they give it. What bothers me is the type of mindset that this sort of compliment implies.
Lets stop for a second and take this from another angle.
Many of us have looked at the work of someone we have admired, and thought “I want to do something like that!” In fact, this is how many people start pursuing the development of a skill. Then the talent mindset takes hold, and they say, “but I’m not talented” or “I could never be that good.” Thoughts like this come up and at this point hopes are shattered, and people give up on dreams, sometimes before ever even trying to achieve them!
The mindset behind the word talent can also be a double-edged sword for the LAZY. On one hand, if you think you don't have the requisite talent, then that gives you an excuse not to try. On the other hand, if you feel like you are talented, then you may feel like you SHOULDN’T have to put in any effort to get better, because skill development will somehow happen naturally!
As if talent was some sort of VIP Membership Card that gave people the privilege to attempt to develop certain skills, or some magic force inside of only a select few that lets them achieve superhuman feats of awesomeness without even trying.
But this couldn’t be more FALSE.
Talent is nothing more than a leg up at the very bottom of a long ladder. It will only get you so far. And what really divides the mediocre from the master, is Passion, Persistence, and Perspective.
Without passion, or the absolute love for a specific skill, I could have a talent for drawing, but never care enough about it to attempt to master it.
Without persistence, or the ability to keep trying in the face of repeated failure, I could have a talent for drawing, but get discouraged if I fail to get things right, and give up before my skills can flourish.
Without the right perspective, I could have talent, but only compare myself to others who I see as better than myself, and never realize how much I am growing.
Take a minute to think about your heroes. Some of them may have had talent; it’s true. But that isn’t what got them to where they ended up. It was their passion for what they did that gave them the determination to practice their techniques, day in, and day out. To set goals, and constantly reevaluate how they were progressing toward those goals. To realize that no one ever achieves perfection, which means there is always room to grow, and learn.
The bottom line is, don’t let talent be the line drawn in the sand between you and what you want to achieve.
Pursue what you love. Work hard toward your goals. Don’t fear failure, because in its own way, failure just another step forward.
Oh, and the next time you compliment an artist, try and focus on their effort, and not their supposed talent.