Art student reflects on relation between talent and work


Kun Hong, Features Editor

Not long ago I was accepted into my dream university. It is a rigorous dual degree program, joined by a world renowned design school and an exclusive liberal arts college. It has been on my wishlist for many years. The feeling of relief and satisfaction after a long course of battling the hardships in my academic career was incredible. I don’t know how to explain my instant thoughts and feelings when I opened up the acceptance letter.

Many family members, friends, and colleagues congratulated me afterwards. Wishes and cheers poured into my phone and my email inbox. Among these compliments, I heard them say, “Wow! You are so talented!” or “Wow! [Being accepted into a design school] is really good especially if you are born with [amazing artistic abilities]!” Although these are nice words and are told to me by kind people, it got me thinking…am I really talented?

I started to question if the results of my artistic accomplishments were indeed sprouted from some kind of “natural aptitude,” something in my DNA, and if it is something I am “gifted” with, or what the definition of “talent” suggests. And the answer I came up with is no.

I have been involved with art for as long as I can remember. I drew my first drawing before I could even properly write my own name. In the past eighteen years, I have never spent a week in my life without a few hours devoted to sitting in the studio or working on projects at home. I would honestly attribute most of my artistic accomplishments to the time and effort spent, rather than being a “genius.”  Skills are gained over practice and are far more critical in making progress than an abstract, unreliable spark of passion or in this case, talent. And I truly believe this is the same case for most “geniuses” out there, artistic or not.

Of course, I acknowledge the fact that gifted abilities exist. But after spending some time thinking about the topic of talent versus hard work, I feel that we should start giving more credit to the concept of “hard work” rather than “innate talent.” We hear far too often from people in our day to day lives, the idea that “smart people are born smart,” or the all too familiar “I just can’t do this. I wasn’t born with the talent.” Most of the successful people out there did not make it because they were “born with it.” Speaking for myself and others, I wish to see less of the obsession over talent, and more of the dedication to work in our school and the work environment.