Talents & Skills

“Mom, what are my talents?”

My face must have flashed through sixteen contortions before landing, frozen, back in foundling traumas of insecurity. If I never head the word ‘talents’ again, I wouldn’t be disappointed; I might even sweat less.

“Talents?” I asked, trying to bide my time to give answer.

“Is it singing?” she asked, wide-eyed and eager.

Oh precious girl…

I didn’t think my heart could be fractionated any further as to crack again, but teensy bits of it crumbled again, wringing the last ounce of pain from my youth out into my mouth as honey… or was it vinegar? (It can be hard to see the difference in the moment.)

“I don’t think we know your talents yet, sweetie.”

Her face dropped fifteen dollhouse floors.

Ugh.

Thus, commenced the discussion of talents and skills…

Youthful Lies

In my youth and young adulthood, talent was everywhere and everyone seemed to have it but me. Well, almost everyone; but youth tends to deal in absolutes: everythings and nothings, everyone’s and no one’s, the whole world and the whole weird world of me.

For a long time, I bought into the lie that I had no talents to speak of. My friends would ask this weird ‘talent’ question, and I’d shrug it off: not a clue.

That one was a master of music…

That one was a goddess of speech…

That one had so many letters behind their name that they must hold several talents by the tail…

This one was an artist…

This one, a business wizard…

This other one was going to make it in media one day…

Somewhere behind the word ‘talent’, a magical, super-easy, I-didn’t-have-to-try-ism lurked.

I think this pitfall is probably common among youth, though I can only speak for myself here. Sometimes, talent is simply mistaken for something one likes to do…

Example: I like to sing, so singing must be my talent.

The very erroneous thing I was trying to safeguard my own daughter from thinking, even at this early age. Because, while she may like to sing and, while singing may be a talent she proves to possess one day, the long road of talent discovery will always intersect the road signed Skill.

They must cross. They must reason together. There simply is not one without the other.

You doubt it?

Well, I could say that I have learned the skill of teaching my children through homeschooling, but that does not mean I have the talent for teaching. (I don’t.) I could likewise tell you that I have a talent for riding horses, but — alas — I have lost much skill over time in that fun venture. (I wonder if that talent has died…)

You may have one without the other in these kinds of ways, but isn’t it always true that to showcase true talent one must marry that talent with skill (practice, effort, the finer elements of the craft)? And to be truly skilled at something, one must also have ‘a knack’ for it, as they say — the marriage of talent — No?

I hope to marry my talent for writing with skillfulness, so I will speak of what I know.

I can read two equally well-written, properly punctuated, and grammatically perfect short stories written by two different individuals and tell you — instantly — which one has ‘the gift’ for it and which one, perhaps, has skill, nice form, but lacks the razzle-dazzle of innate talent.

Think about your own talents and skills. I’m sure you can think of a parallel example from your own arena of expertise and giftedness — especially, if you’re over 30. 😉

Hey, these things take time (you 20-somethings and under)… Remember, that long road of discovery? Yeah… It’s like that. (Well, for some of us anyway…)

Marriage Is No Picnic, Baby

You’re gonna have to work at it — even if you are talented, dear one!

And that was the message I tried, through my own newfound intersections, to pass along to my daughter that day. Life is hard enough without being misinformed about talents.

I recently sat down to figure out a song on piano ‘by ear’ that I had never played before. So much of that process has been demystified for me over time, and, it turns out, it wasn’t magic or some strange acoustic voodoo at work. While I can easily admit to not being as talented as some in this department, I have realized that much of what I thought was mystery was simply missing theory and lacking mastery.

After ten minutes, I could play the verses and most of the chorus. Given a week of consistent practice, I have no doubt I could learn the whole song.

How?

Easy. Once you learn all of the major scales on the piano (something I was taught long ago), figuring out most songs by ear is a simple matter of figuring what key, what scale, the song is being played in. There are only so many chords and notes within a scale, right? So, that narrows it down a bit. If you have ears for music at all, they will do the rest of the work.

I have two pitfalls of SKILL here:

  1. I don’t know all of my chords in every scale
  2. I lack consistency and diligence in practice

Am I talented at piano playing? Maybe. It’s hard to say yet…

I haven’t honed the skill. 🙂

Follow Jesus’ words; He won’t steer you wrong — in any matter.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7

You have a part to play in your story of talents and skills…

Shalom.

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