What If You Have No Talent?
Here are your options.
If you’re like me, you are a talentless hack. You have little to no talent.
(If you’re NOT a talentless hack and do have talent, skip to the end).
Nothing seems to come easy when other people seem to fly by. You can’t quite do the things you want to do in the way you want to them. You try and nothing seems to work. You thought you wanted to do something one day, only to realize the next day that you didn’t.
If that sounds like you, here are your options:
1. Give Up.
You are a talentless hack so you should give up.
This is a pretty good option, especially in the short run. Giving up feels so good. (I prefer giving up to quitting, because quitting I think is more strategic or something.) But for real giving up? That means turning in a whole new direction. That means not looking back. I mean, I thought I was going to be a lawyer once. But I gave that up (though sometimes it rears its ugly head every now and then). I’m not on the path to be a lawyer. I’ve never applied to any law schools. I’m (fairly certain…I think?) not going to be a lawyer.
2. Admit That You Have No Talent
You are a talentless hack, and you need to admit that you have no talent.
Go ahead and do that. I’ll wait…
Did you feel that? That’s sweet release. The pressure is off. You’ve admitted it.
I’ll tell it to you straight: some people have more talent than you.
We could get jealous and loathe ourselves for all the ways we lack…or we could admit it and go on.
Even your heroes struggled and had day jobs (probably). Very few people just arrive (those are the prodigies…and are annoying).
And the OTHER truth is that you may not make it. What really is going to happen is that “making it” won’t seem like you thought it would.
Especially when you see how much talent other people have and then how you stack up. So what if you’re not the funniest comedian? The most eloquent writer? The most stunning artist? So what do you next?
Give up? (Go back to #1) or…
3. Keep “It” As Your Hobby
You are a talentless hack, and you should keep “it” as your hobby.
“It” is something you can watch and follow and not necessarily make money from. And that’s okay. If you are talentless (like me), keeping a hobby is fine. There doesn’t have to be good and bad in the equation. Actually, discerning between good and bad messes up the equation. Why does it have to be either? Why can’t it just be?
Judging yourself that way steals the joy from the hobby, from the…dare I say…passion.
So maybe some of your hobbies are just meant to stay like that. Maybe if you’re talentless, your passion is just supposed to stay a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re not failing. You’re a person with an interest. That’s important.
A word on making your hobby into your job
Ah, yes. But we live in an incredible age (don’t we?) that we’re still figuring out. Can’t you just feel the technology in the air?
And then wondering — what if…if only…maybe I could…
Look at SUCH here AND SUCH over there. They’re making money from their hobby. Maybe you could.
BUT…that’s a different talent. Did you catch that? Much of the legwork to make your hobby make money takes a different talent. It takes some business acumen. A little marketing know-how. Some networking and entrepreneurship.
You may be actually be more talented at the hobby than SUCH AND SUCH, but maybe they’re more talented at the marketing and the money and the business.
And here’s something else that us talentless hacks hate: they may have more than one talent. ACK. That means you have to give up (go back to #1!) or…
4. Work Harder
You are a talentless hack, and you must work harder.
Oh boy. This is the part I’m not good at. It will be harder for people like you and me since we are talentless hacks. And it’s doubly unfair since some people have not one, but two or three more talents than us.
You could work harder. And maybe you’ll do a little better than you would have if you didn’t work harder, but will you crush it? Probably not. Otherwise, you’d be a prodigy. And I don’t think we can all be prodigies.
So here’s another option that many people don’t tell you about…
5. …Don’t Work Harder
You are a talentless hack, and you don’t need to work harder.
What if you don’t work harder? Is that the end of the world?
No. Did you know at a certain level practice doesn’t even matter anymore? That the 10,000 hours rule helps you get better but not all the way better. Check it out here.
You could still pursue something you’re interested in and not be the best at it. There are plenty of doctors around who are awesome but not the best of the best of the best. Lots of business owners who are not Unicorn Kings. And they have a pretty nice life. Not quadra-billionaires (is that a word?), but living and enjoying things.
You could make a living from your interest in art and design without showcasing in MOMA or at the Whitney. You could make some money copywriting and not be published in the New York Times. You could code without trying to launch your own app or start a business. It’s totally fine, because you’ve learned to…
6. Develop A Skill
You are a talentless hack, and you need to develop a skill.
People will hire you even if you’re a talentless hack, because you have a skill. Sometimes that skill will be in something you wish you were more talented in or it could be something completely unrelated.
For example, I can’t play basketball professionally. I’m short and can’t shoot. But I love basketball. I could’ve maybe just maybe worked for a team as a business analyst or something. I guess I still could. That’s an example of part of an interest (basketball) corresponding to a skill I picked up (business analyst).
Sometimes our interests and skills correspond, sometimes they don’t.
I’m sure there are some people who are passionate about teaching. Other people realize it was a skill and they decided to pick it up because they were generally interested in it.
Many times our skills precede passion. The professional smart person Cal Newport even said this:
“…we should begin by systematically developing rare and valuable skills. Once we’ve caught the attention of the marketplace, we can then use these skills as leverage to direct our career toward the general lifestyle traits that resonate with us.”
Sometimes people are TALENTED in something they’re not that passionate about. Those people are super annoying if you are passionate about something they’re talented in. But then they often lack the skills to make it happen. They decide to not work hard and get by on talent alone. Which is also super annoying.
Does any of this make sense?
If not, go back to #1.
You don’t have to be passionate about something to be talented at it. And you shouldn’t always pursue your passion because you might not be talented in it.
It’s okay, you’ll survive if your “passion” stays as a hobby.
It’s okay, you’ll survive if your “passion” become something you can monetize slightly but not be the best at.
It’s okay, you can find and/or develop a skill that you don’t mind. That will give you some freedom (hopefully!) later on.
What if you’re NOT a talentless hack?
I’m sure you’ll figure something out.