I’m not a big believer in talent. Oh, I know it exists, but I don’t put much stock in how it will ultimately impact a child’s future. I’ve watched too many kids over too many years to believe that IQ or giftedness or aptitude has the final say in how that individual’s life will play out. While a child may have an incredible natural ability in a certain area, many kids will throw away opportunities because they weren’t willing to do the hard work to get to the next level.
You see, talent alone is never enough. Unless cultivated carefully, it stays in its incubation stage and will never blossom into the fullness that is possible. Here are my tough love suggestions to help your family navigate the talent issue:
1. Realize that most successes are not a matter of talent, but of perseverance. Master teachers will tell you that almost anyone can learn anything: math, drawing, programming, singing, or playing a musical instrument to name a few. While there are a few superstars for whom these things come easily, most of us have the ability to become proficient in a field and develop skills by sheer willpower.
2. Raw talent, when it is in the mix, is inadequate by itself. Work ethic matters and expecting our student to stick with increasingly hard things until she masters them will pay huge dividends in her future.
3. Expose your child to others who are better than they are from the time they are small. If your kid is always the smartest one in the room, he will see no need to broaden his horizons. Both my kids chose universities where they would run in the middle of the pack, where they were surrounded daily by people who would stretch them. Without constant challenges from those with more experience and an ever-vigilant search to learn more, a talent in its original form is little more than a party trick.
Innate talent alone is never worth a great deal. Encourage your student’s growth by helping them navigate increasingly difficult challenges. Expect hard work. Leverage the gifts they are born with into something much more.
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