A couple of weeks ago, after performing Albi the Racist Dragon, I was talking to an associate. She said to me “It’s impressive you went as far as you did [in the competition] considering you didn’t really have a talent.”
I think this was a compliment, that could have been seen as an insult, but in either case it was food for thought: what is a talent?
What she meant was that I didn’t play the piano, or know how to do tricks with a jump rope. But neither of these are really talents. These are skills, and skills that lend themselves to public performance (the piano more so than the jump rope.) And it is true that I didn’t demonstrate a skill, nor do I have one that lends itself to performance.
Talent, to me, is inherent. It is being good at something without having specialized training. Sure, you can increase your proficiency with training, but there should be some spark to start with.
Skill, is something that you’ve trained yourself to do. It’s a set of capabilities, built over time. Maybe you were talented to start, maybe you weren’t. But through effort and education you’ve become capable of doing something others generally aren’t.
The winner of the talent competition played the piano, and played it very well. And one of the judges made the point during her scoring that after that performance, he could have any lady in the audience. This struck me as odd.
Do I find piano playing attractive? No. I think I value the ability to play the piano as much as the next person, but I don’t find it attractive. I don’t find guitar playing attractive either, but I see its seductive appeal more than playing the piano.
I’m not bashing on the piano, or the piano player winning the competition. That’s fine. I just came to realize that I don’t find talent attractive. If talent is inherent, it’s hardly praiseworthy. Should we praise someone for being tall? For being of Romanian decent? No, they didn’t do those things. They were born that way. We can be more attracted to blonde hair or attached earlobes or nimble fingers, but they’re not praiseworthy.
Skill though, is praiseworthy. But even though I value skill, and the dedication and drive it represents, I don’t think I’m inherently attracted to it either. I’ve dated musicians, artists, athletes and academics. It wasn’t their skill set that I found attractive. It was their passion. Sure, a passion in taxidermy may not be attractive. But generally, I value that the girl is interested and invested in something, but the actual focus of her effort is often inconsequential.
Someone asked me the other day what I was passionate about. I didn’t have a good answer. Dragons I said. The fact that this was my answer, and that I didn’t have a better one, are likely part of my problem. And not my problem losing talent competitions.