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Do you want to be a success? Here's how...

Are we genetically predisposed to inherit talent, or can we acquire same with practise?

Karen Frampton

SITTING MID-WAY THROUGH a film over the weekend and I couldn’t help but write down three words that were uttered by the lead character: “Trapped by talent”. I left the piece of paper folded in my journal only to find it fall out early this morning when I opened it to read my weekly to-do list.

What significance have these three little words? They have been on my mind since I heard them and during a long walk around the back strand in Tramore yesterday I found myself deep in thought as I pondered them.

We all believe that we are talented, even the most pessimistic person out there. But where does talent come from? Are we genetically predisposed to inherit talent, or can we acquire same with practise?

What makes talent 

In 1985, Benjamin Bloom, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, published a landmark book, Developing Talent in Young People, which examined the critical factors that contribute to talent.

He took a deep retrospective look at the childhoods of 120 elite performers who had won international competitions or awards in fields ranging from music and the arts to mathematics and neurology. Surprisingly, Bloom’s work found no early indicators that could have predicted the virtuosos’ success.

So what does correlate with success? One thing emerges very clearly from Bloom’s work: all the superb performers he investigated had practised intensively, had studied with devoted teachers, and had been supported enthusiastically by their families throughout their developing years. Later research building on Bloom’s pioneering study revealed that the amount and quality of practise were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.

Take a long, hard look at what we you think your talent is

So if we find ourselves ‘trapped by talent’ in our career; unable to get the lucky break, or unable to find a way out or to the top, how did we arrive at this point and how do we move things along in the direction we want? Should we just be happy with our lot and stop complaining and bemoaning the various career injustices that we presume to have befallen us?

We need to step back and take a long, hard look at what we think our talent is, for starters. The dictionary definition of talent is a natural aptitude or skill. Can you say, honestly, that you are practising your skill every day in your job?

Hmmm perhaps not too many will raise their hand for that one. But isn’t it interesting if we look at our jobs in this way? Truly talented people who love what they do, tend to do the same thing over and over again on a daily basis. If you are working as a teacher, nurse, accountant, office worker can you identify something you do multiple times a day with something that you are talented at?

If you can, then you have hit the career jackpot. You are not trapped by your talent, you are enjoying your job and see it as a career.

If not, then this may explain the faltering levels of unhappiness, indifference or general lacklustre approach to your career. You haven’t found a career or job that matches what you are truly good at, nor have you found something that you want to do over and over and over again day in and day out.

Do what you love 

I’ll leave you with this one. Last year I decided to start a blog. I found that I liked writing. A lot. So I started to write every day. The I stopped for about a month. I was miserable. I felt lost, I began questioning my career, my motives, my motivations. I sat back and tried to see what was wrong. It was simple. I wasn’t writing. So, I opened back up the laptop and started again…

I write every day, some pieces I publish, others I don’t. But I can tell you this with conviction, I was trapped by talent… one I didn’t know I had. Who says I am talented? I don’t have an award for writing and I don’t particularly care for opinions on the matter. But for the few who tell me they enjoy the updates, I am beyond grateful. For I no longer feel trapped. And that, to me, is what this career lark is all about.

Karen Frampton is a Career Coach and writer of a bi-weekly career blog Follow her on Twitter @framptonkaren
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Karen Frampton

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