Is talent born or acquired?


Fact Box

  • Merriam-Webster defines talent as 'a special, often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude' and 'general intelligence or mental power: ABILITY.' 
  • The nature versus nurture debate suggests that human behavior and potential are based on either nature ('all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are—from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics') or nurture (all the environmental variables that impact who we are, including our early childhood experiences, how we were raised, our social relationships, and our surrounding culture).' Experts believe both factors 'play a critical role.' 
  • Business Insider estimates that artist, musician, engineer, inventor, and anatomist Leonardo DaVinci was 'perhaps the most diversely talented person to have ever lived.' 
  • Britannica distinguishes talent from genius by explaining that the latter 'involves originality, creativity, and the ability to think and work in areas not previously explored—thus giving the world something of value that would not otherwise exist.'

Elisa (Acquired)

A mistake many people often make when referring to someone with skills or expertise is calling them naturally talented. In fact, it can be rather insulting because it is dismissive of the arduous work people put in to achieve their dreams. Many overlook the dedication that goes into developing any talent, and one could argue that talent would not exist without a strong work ethic.

There is a myth surrounding innate talent, with examples such as Sam Snead, who was often called a 'naturally talented' golfer but who actually accredited his expertise to hard work and dedication. Similarly, Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, was not always so, but he had the perseverance to achieve his goals. In fact, most top performers in the world, in various domains, demonstrate that talent rarely has anything to do with their success but rather their long hours of practice do.

Moreover, many scientists say talent doesn't exist at all and skill doesn't come from genetics; instead, it is all about one's work ethic. The major problem with the 'natural' view of talent is that it may shut doors for many working toward a dream. With students, in particular, this obsession with talent over hard work is detrimental to them, creating a fixed idea of greatness. 

In the end, study after study will tell you clearly that success comes from hard work, and while some may have a predisposition for some pursuits, talent cannot be achieved without effort. Next time you encounter an accomplished person, you may want to express admiration for their great work ethic instead of commenting on their talent.

Bre (Born)

Official definitions leave no mystery to the distinction: a person is born with talent, whereas skills must be learned. Simply put, when someone excels at something without any relevant experience, natural talent is irrefutably evident.

Everyone is talented in one way or another, and when a talent is recognized and fostered, one can more easily achieve expertise when compared to others. Demonstrated talent, once noticed, facilitates intentional practice to ultimately increase success. It’s also less likely that someone will become bored with a specific career when it incorporates their inborn talent and unlearned interests.

Society has been amazed by exceptionally gifted children and prodigies, such as Picasso and Pascal, for centuries. There are documented cases of young peoples’ remarkable talents worldwide, even where socio-economic circumstances create limited access to resources. Biologically, genetic variations have been shown to predispose certain individuals to possess heightened information intake abilities for particular subjects. Scientists can even determine and predict talent.

Innate talent in an area determines the ease with which someone can develop and perfect the related skills. Talent is what allows and drives people to acquire learned skills; it comes from within. It’s not a guarantee for success, as more dedicated, less talented individuals can also reach astounding levels of success in their fields. However, it does clearly impact how difficult and time-consuming the mastery of a topic will be. An ordinary person may be capable of learning to be a composer, but it’s highly unlikely they’d do so as swiftly and inherently as Mozart did.

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