Being Referred to as ‘Talented’ is Demeaning – (Part 9)

It has been a while since I added to this series, so I am going to start with a short review of the premise of this series. Most people like being referred to as “talented” and most people think they are complimenting someone when they praise them for being “talented.”

Calling someone talented is one of the worst things you can do to anyone, especially a young person. Doing so often takes away their drive to improve themselves and to do even better. It elevates their worth before they have tasted any meaningful success.

There is also an excuse in the subtext when praising someone for their talent that is routinely missed: “I would be just as good as you, were it not for the fact you have more talent than me.”

That is why I teach my clients to take offense when someone calls them talented, and urge them to point out how hard they have worked to develop their skills (which are often mistaken as talent). I suggest you take this approach too. If you would like further background info, all of my previous articles from this series are still live on this site.

This is not to say that there aren’t people with a better predisposition to become successful at different endeavors. For example, if your goal is to play in the NBA, every few inches taller you happen to be, enhances your odds of reaching your goal. But the fact that you are really tall is far from a determinative factor and by no means a guarantee of your success.

If you are between 6’10” and 7’ tall your statistical odds of reaching the NBA are still only around 3.2 percent. Remember the subtext I mentioned above in calling someone talented? Let’s say you are between 6’ 10” and 7’ tall and playing in the NBA. Now insert the word “height” in place of “talented” in the subtext example I used above. “I would be just as good as you, were it not for the fact you have more height than me.” Now we know over 96% of people in your height range do not make it to the NBA, so it seems silly to hold the belief that if the person saying this to you simply had your height (or “talent”) they would be in the NBA too.

It is not where you start, but where you finish that matters in any endeavor you undertake. There is a myriad of factors that go into success that are more important in determining who succeeds than height or talent. Sure, being between 6’ 10” and 7’ tall is an advantage at the start for someone who wants to play in the NBA, but a vast majority of players in the NBA are still under 6’ 10” tall.

Being labeled talented or intelligent often makes people become more cautious. In order to grow, we must continually stretch ourselves by trying things just beyond our current reach.

The bottom line is that while you may start out with some inherent advantages over others, what ultimately determines who is successful has more to do with your desire and the amount of work you put in to develop your skills than any advantage you started with.


You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc


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