Thursday, January 2, 2014

Talent Minus Hard Work Equals ???

During the week between Christmas and New Year's Day that I spent at home, I mostly disengaged from other things. I spent the time spending time with my family, doing little hops to places around the Bay Area with them, visiting with friends, and doing some much neglected and necessary work around my house. I also had a chance to see something up close that I hadn't paid as much attention to previously.

My elder daughter is an artist, i.e. she draws, paints, and is now learning to manipulate pixels, etc. She's been doing art in some way, shape or form since she was about 4 years old. At first I thought her drawings were cute, then spirited, then showing promise, to "oh my gosh where in the world did this come from". Now, granted, I am biased. I'm her Dad. Her work will probably always be amazing to me simply because she's my daughter, but she's asked me to be as objective as I can be. To tell her areas she can improve, to make her craft better. I told her that I'd be hard pressed to help her with the mechanics of her work, but I can offer a personal opinion as to how she draws and what I see.

While I was home this week, I stayed up a little later than normal, and spent time doing other things, to the point that I noticed a rhythm in my house I hadn't really been familiar with. As the lights would get turned off, one lone light in the upper part of the house stayed on, and on, and on. A few times, early in the morning, I would walk upstairs, and there I would see my daughter, working on something, sometimes at 4:00 a.m. or later. She'd been at it all night. I thought this was an occasional thing. Nope, more nights than not, this is how she works. What does she do? She posts on Instagram, and asks her followers who would like to be drawn. She collects the responses, and then she picks at random from the responses. From there, she goes into her "work mode", and she makes a sketch of the person based on a photograph or a description and then posts it. Her Instagram account is filled with these pictures, and the word of mouth is spreading her reputation far and wide. I laughed when I told her that her Instagram followers outnumber my Twitter and Facebook followers combined, and well she should.

My daughter reminded me of something very important with this. She has talent, no question, but her talent has been honed by years of putting in late nights and spending hours and hours each day to draw, paint, or sculpt. She understands the value of continuous practice, and she uses external motivators (other people and their requests) to try out new ideas and mediums. She's public about what she does, and she is gracious with the feedback she receives. What's more, she applies the feedback she receives, and puts into practice new insights, ideas, and enjoys both the process, and the notoriety, that comes with it.

This dovetails nicely into my post from yesterday. Resolve only gets us so far. To really make headway on something, we need to commit to it, we need to do the work necessary to improve, and we need to court opportunities to get more practice and do better. Tying our reputations to the work we do, and making our reputations public is something I and her find valuable, but we realize that's not going to work for everyone. Regardless of the methods, talent is great, but it will only take you so far. Hard work, diligent practice, and engagement with others to the point of developing reputation will trump natural talent if natural talent is all that's on display. To carry talent to its fullest, we've all got to practice, and practice regularly.
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