Do You Have Real Talent Or Mere Ability?
Few of us choose our careers. We may have aims, desires, ideas, and ideals that take our fancy. But as we grow up, get through college, and then face the hard reality of earning a living we let go of our childhood aspirations and latch on to what will pay the bills.
The career you’re in need not be slow, boring, or distasteful. You may have gone into something that seemed interesting enough at the time you applied for your first job. And you may have shown competency in the successive positions you’ve moved through. As the years have progressed, you’ve even attained some success. Your current career brings an income sufficient to maintain a comfortable, if not lavish, lifestyle. You enjoy travel and other perks, and you get to work with a great group of people.
You’ve noticed, however, how some people in your field produce outstanding work in a rather effortless manner. They live, breathe, and beam the job; and you know that they will someday be leaders in the profession while you will still be shuffling along at mid-level or lower.
Your ability keeps you employed and safe. But do you have real talent for the work that you do? This is the question that needs answering.
In my own case, I graduated from high school knowing that I had above average intelligence and a certain amount of charisma that made me a natural leader in most settings. I hungered for adventure and desired to fulfill what I believed to be an obligation to serve. So, I joined the Navy. After a few years of enlisted service, I got an appointment to the Naval Academy, graduated, and went on to serve six years as a line officer.
I did well as an officer, but I left because I thought my future lay elsewhere. I went back to school for a second master’s degree. I then went to work as a management consultant, a stint which lasted less than two years: again, I had ability but no talent for the job. It wasn’t until I left this last job that I found my true vocation: writing. Since then, I have found satisfaction in my work. Although I am a lot poorer, I am a great deal happier because I know I am doing something for which I have real talent rather than mere ability.
Money is perhaps the most difficult aspect of this issue. If you know going to where your real talents lie means a pay cut, it can be hard to make a move. If you are working as an IT consultant or an accountant or a lawyer because you can do those jobs well, but you know that you really ought to be teaching or painting or writing novels, you will hesitate, you will rationalize and make excuses for why you can’t change careers.
It also works the other way. There are people in the arts who should be in business. I have met a number of individuals who are determined to succeed as singers or musicians who really ought to give the thing up and pursue more business-oriented careers in which they have shown great skill. They ought to be producers, agents, and recording label entrepreneurs rather than artists.
Anyhow, you should confront the question of talent versus ability at least once in your life. Give yourself the chance of not missing what may be your true calling.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.