Talent is a word with a weird connotation. Often people define that word, in speech, as a natural entity. One is born with talent, and gains a skill. This thought is a common perception.

Malcolm Gladwell, though he certainly didn’t invent it, popularized the 10,000 hour rule. In his book Outliers,  he argued that natural talent is a myth. He also argued that IQ bears no weight in gaining skills, or societal status. Both of these ideas are opposed to conventional wisdom.

Some of his ideas, ironically, are debunked by his own examples. The Beatles being the main example, and debunkers. (Success took much less than 10,000 hours of them being a band. None of them had even practiced music for 10,000 hours by this time either.) Whatever you believe of Gladwell’s arguments, his book brought up great ideas to ponder on. Is there a such thing as natural talent. Is time all we need?

In my career flux, these are the fun topics to think about. If nature built us to have certain skills, then why do we struggle to get there? Why aren’t we sorted like pieces of mail, and thus freed of our supposed struggle to find that natural ability? Surely our methods leave many without discovering their “inherent” abilities before they die.

No, natural talent isn’t a part of my beliefs. But sometimes it’s just uncanny how talented some people become in shorts amount of time. Do those people just have high self-esteem, and believe in themselves? Do those people practice four hours on end? Who knows.

Outliers is a pretty sensational book, and an enjoyable read. One thing Malcolm Gladwell is right about, which I and many of my friends are finding out, is that opportunity is important. Bill Gates, The Beatles, and many others found, and gained the opportunities to learn in a way that few people in their time were able to emulate.

Recently, one of my friends expressed dismay at this notion because it begets something few people seem to like: nepotism. Famous people breed and create famous sons and daughters, and this goes on forever. Some might think nepotism is unfair, and many hate being labeled as a nepotist. Either way, is there really a better opportunity to take advantage of than one you were born into? Plus, it’s not as if people choose to be born.

Maybe everything just comes down to opportunity first, then talent second. Perhaps it’s the talent that creates the opportunity. Whichever way it goes, being gifted doesn’t seem to play a role in anything. The struggling light always manages to escape the dark room after all.

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