Talent vs. skill

March 28, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

We think of someone with talent as having a natural ability—a born-with level of skill.

They got the brass ring.

I would suggest this notion of talent is somewhat of a self-limiting myth.

Vladimir Horowitz wasn’t born to play the piano. His combination of physical attributes coupled with his life-long development of skills got him where he wound up.

If I am willing to invest the time, energy, and dedication to developing a particular skill I can elevate myself to the point where others might look at me as having talent. (which would make me smile because I know how many years of hard work it took me to become an overnight-talented success).

If you want to build the best stereo system in the world you don’t need talent.

You need only desire and persistence.

ht: to Seth Godin for this riff.

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16 comments on “Talent vs. skill”

  1. I think „everyone can reach anything in the same way, with just desire and persistence“ is as wrong as „without talent one can’t reach anything on a high level“.

    But I surely understand why it’s right (not only for you as a manufacturer who sells) to encourage people to start building their stereo system, no matter where they start. A lot can be reached by most with developing skill.

    I’d still doubt I could have made it anywhere close to Horowitz, no matter how much I practiced. It’s also because not even any other pianist imo made it close to him in many regards.

  2. My biological mother was left-handed (I’m told) & my biological father was
    right-handed & I ended up with both sides of my brain vying for supremacy.
    This has resulted in me being quite unco-ordinated when it comes to playing
    a musical instrument, specifically piano & guitar…it didn’t matter how much
    I practiced, I was never going to be better than average.
    However, building a sh!t-hot home-audio rig; well I managed to fluke that
    back in 1993…it didn’t take much effort at all.
    It’s a funny old world, isn’t it.

    “Forward he cried, from the rear & the front rank died.”

  3. Natural talent is something you are born with. World class sprinters ( the record for 100 meters is 9.58 seconds ) are born with an enormous amount of fast twitch muscle in their legs. You must have this to be a sprinter, however, you still have to practice like crazy if you want to win the gold medal at the next Olympics.

    Skill is something that is usually taught and then developed through practice. You maybe born with certain attributes that make learning the skill easier, but you still have to learn it and practice it.

    The lines between these two ( talent and skill ) get blurred in society. We say that someone is a very talented writer. Is good writing a natural talent that you are born with or a skill that you learn and develop?

  4. I agree. You can have a great sounding system. The best system in the world if you do your research and take your time building it. You don’t need to be rich either. There are plenty of giant killers out there.

      1. The best system in the world is not necessarily the most expensive system. It might be but it doesn’t have to be. You can put together a pretty darn good system shopping for new or used equipment and not have to mortgage your house. Sure it makes it easier if you’re rich and money is no object. But even then you don’t have the buy the most expensive of everything to get the best sound.

        1. “Pretty darn good” is not “the best system in the world.” Most of my system components were purchased used or on sale at a discount. They were still very expensive even at 1/3 the price of new. Having the very best requires the financial means to afford it. Desire and persistence alone won’t cut it.

          1. I respectfully disagree but you’re entitled to your opinion. I have seen 2000.00 to 5000.00 amplifiers in Stereophile class A recommended components along with the 100,000 amplifiers. I have seen 10,000 amplifiers in class B or C. The same with speakers and other components. I have seen some very expensive components that didn’t even make class D. More money spent does not translate into better sound. You need to do your research or you are blowing money needlessly. I bet the FR-30 blow away some speakers costing a lot more just like there is less costly used equipment on the market that sound as good as some new gear that costs several times as much. Just to say I’m going to find the most expensive of every component and think you have a system that is better than systems that cost much less is not necessarily going to happen. Paying that much money just convinces someone in their mind that they have the best sounding system in the world. That is what their money is buying them. Not all expensive systems are equal either. You can buy an under performing expensive system.

            1. I guess it boils down to what you think is a lot of money. For an average family or retiree, even $10K is a lot of money. That won’t even buy you the quality of cables you need for a system. When you talk about the “best system in the world” that is more than just amps and speakers…that includes DACs, interconnects, power cables, power conditioning/regen, supports, room treatment. For the best sound “everything matters” and that is how it gets very expensive. Of course you can be content and even enthralled with a lessor system, but don’t portray it as the “best system in the world.” LOL

  5. Talent requires hard work. If its going to amount to something, it does. Recognizing one’s talent only points out to the one having the talent where hard work is to be applied.

    Its not having to be “mono-talented.” There are people who are multi talented.

    I say that because Vladimir Horowitz was born with the talent to play the piano. He simply had to discover it, and then decide what to do with it…….

    Talent does what the average man can not do. Genius does what talent can not do.

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