Natural Talent is Bullshit

“You don’t have what it takes.”

“You’re not talented. You got lucky.”

“You’ve waited too long, you will never be as good as …”

“You’re not like them. You don’t belong here.”

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always struggled with the idea of natural talent. I thought that I was the only one who lacked it, because I was different from everybody else.

When I started to teach myself design, this negative self talk magnified. I didn’t feel like a real designer which made everything feel intimidating. I couldn’t draw, I didn’t have taste, I had no sense of style, and I didn’t have a creative thing that I did in my spare time.

Things got easier when I focused on working really hard. Instead of worrying about what I was called or how I appeared to others, I focussed on practicing what I lacked. Stretching beyond my comfort zone and seeking any and all types of feedback helped me improve immensely. Over time, I learned to trust myself better.

The gift of time and reflection has helped me see that embracing your identity as a Designer is mostly a mind game. Worry less about others’ success, and work harder on bringing and developing your best self. There is no arrival place. You are a Designer when you say you are.

If you could magically see the grit of others, would you still think natural talent was a real thing?

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself… That is the moment you might be starting to get it right.”

— Neil Gaiman

Since writing this, I’ve stumbled upon an amazing essay written by Paul Jun. Paul articulates the Science of Talent way better than I could have possibly hoped to capture here. I highly recommend you check it out and all of Paul’s writing.