How to Develop a Talent


When I was in middle school, my mother signed me up for piano lessons at our church. I took lessons for about a year or so, and then quit after we got our first video game system in the late 1980s. But I learned the basics, including learning my scales and how to read music. Even though I stopped taking lessons, I continued to take my old piano books, open up to page one, and just play through to the end of the book on the piano in our apartment.

I have some incredible stories of things that have happened to me solely because I play the piano. I accompanied amazing students as they sang in talent shows. I walked into a hotel lobby I’ve never been in before, saw a piano, and played for the folks in the lobby for a couple hours. I even walked into a swanky looking bar in a luxury Las Vegas casino, sat at the piano, and played for tips.  (I then took those tips and lost it on a bad beat at the poker table.)

The point is that these stories are not really due to the fact that I play piano. (Well, not entirely, anyway.) It’s because I took the leap and learned something that I can do for other people.  Here’s the key: it’s NOT that people are drawn to musicians. People are drawn to talent.

There are several reasons why people are drawn to talent:

  • Developing a talent means you’re disciplined…an attractive trait.  Very few people are good at anything on the very first try at something new. To be talented at something requires practice, and practice means disciplining yourself to work at improvement.
  • Developing a talent distinguishes you from others…another attractive quality.  You set yourself apart from other men, not simply for being able to do a task that they couldn’t do, but also because you actually cared to TRY it. Remember that anyone and everyone can develop a talent. The problem is that most people simply don’t bother.
  • Developing a talent means you’ll never be broke…another attractive trait.  Remember this: all tangible talents can be turned into tangible rewards. If you have a talent for fixing old cars, then you’ll never be broke. If you have a talent for cooking, or if you’re great with kids, or if you have a keen sense of comedic timing, you’ll never be broke.
  • Developing one talent often leads to the development of other talents…and variety is also attractive.  When you learn something new and continue working it until it’s a bona fide talent, you start to realize how good it feels to learn, how great it feels to conquer an obstacle that you originally thought was insurmountable. This leads you to try new tasks. This is why many musicians become skilled at more than one instrument. Many athletes have played more than one sport. They fall in love with the PROCESS of developing a skill to some degree of proficiency.
  • Developing a talent puts you on the cycle of success…yet another attractive trait. When you learn a tangible talent, you eventually see tangible results. A talent for cooking results in good food. A talent for automotive repair results in operable cars. Something that was broken is now fixed. Something that never existed has now been created. Someone who was originally bored is now entertained. The point is that something gets accomplished, and in accomplishment there is a definite beginning and an end. You jump on the cycle of success. Action leads to feedback, feedback leads to informed practice, informed practice leads to improvement, improvement leads to accomplishment, accomplishment leads to confidence in your ability, confidence in your ability leads to more action, leading to more feedback, more practice and improvement, and finally more accomplishment and confidence. The cycle continues.

So here are the big questions…

How do you actually develop a new talent?
How do you reveal an undiscovered talent?

The best advice here is to start with your interests.

Don’t just pick a skill and tell yourself that it will be your new talent. It doesn’t work like that. (Why try to develop a talent for stand-up comedy if you hate comedians? Why try to develop a talent for cooking if you can’t stand being in the kitchen?)

Instead, start with your interests and branch out from there. My interest for food led me to cooking. My love of reading as a kid led me to try writing.

Start with one of your current interests as a springboard. Try to find someone who can serve as a model for creating that thing you are interested in. By the end of this week, identify one or two talents that you would like to develop.

Now here’s the difficult part. Put an actual PLAN together to practice developing this talent. Talents are not developed overnight. Lots of hours are required for practice. But at least use this week to put the plan together for your continued development of this talent.

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