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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What Happens When You're Not Quite Talented Enough?

What happens to you if you're not quite talented enough to do what you want to do? Sure, you read books about Tom Hanks, and Frank Capra and Katharine Hepburn -- and you feel inspired. But what happens when you realise you're not like them? What happens if you've spent your whole life believing you're destined to create magic but, even after your best shot, you create something barely passable?

Sure, I know, the success books say keep trying, and you feel inspired by the book about how David Beckham kept staying late in training to hone his talent. But what if your talent only stems so far? What happens to you then? Sure, you could work hard and make a living in some way -- but what happens to your soul when you realize you don't have the talent you always based your life on?

I know I know, you keep trying, you practice, you persevere. Just like Steve Martin did and Angelina Jolie did and whoever else did. But they had the talent. What happens when your talent is two notches below the amount that you need to TRULY inspire people? Do you realize yourself, or do look for clues in the people around you?

Yep, people told Chaplin he didn't know what he was doing, and people told Sylvester Stallone he didn't have any talent. But what if you really don't know what you're doing and really don't have any talent? We've all seen an upcoming actor or a short film at a festival and thought "Jesus, what the hell was that?" -- but what if that is you? And what if it is you every single time? And what if you really aren't the talent you dreamed you were?

Was the teacher who told me I can't write right? Was the girl who said you're in a world of your own the only one who saw reality? Was the friend who said when will you get a real job aware of something I wasn't?

You put yourself on a big pedestal and you dream that you're Al Pacino. And then eventually you reconsider and think, hey; maybe I'm Matt Le Blanc. But then time goes by and it's not that the world doesn't take to you, but that you give it your all and it means nothing, it does nothing, it is nothing. And you're Joe Mabbutt, or Jenny Hendon or Matt Shipp. You've never heard of them, because they never made it. Not through lack of trying but because they just didn't. quite. have. it.

If you knew, for sure, that you weren't the talent you dreamed of - what would you do?

Care to share?

34 comments:

  1. What happens when you're not talented enough? you f*****g hone your talent two notches higher by learning from your mistakes, working harder at it and striving to become what you want to be.

    Do it.

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  2. Gotta say I'm with smellmyfinger and say work twice as hard. Natural-born talent is a lot harder to come by - but anyone can be a hard worker if they have the heart and keep their eyes open.

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  3. Like Malcolm Gladwell says.... 10,000 hours.

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  4. this was the depressing thing ever. Now I am miserable. Dammit.

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    1. me 2! Thanks for boosting my self confidence!

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  5. I promised several times to make a comment here and now I don't know what to say. This is really a serious issue for every creative person, but for now I would say as long as you think you aren't good enough you are on the right way because only plain minded people enjoy themselves without any questions.

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  6. I'm all for working harder... a lot of talent in Hollywood didn't happen overnight. Few talent as an artist happens overnight.

    I think that if you're happy pursuing your dreams regardless of level of reward, nothing further need be said. However, if you are miserable, think it over, discover something that does make you happy and go for it.

    Two things off the top of my head... since we're focused on acting, if you won the lottery, would you still pursue it? And the other... if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.

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  7. but then again, look at all of those people who DON'T have talent and made it! I love what madonna once said about herself, I don't know the exact quote but it was something along the lines of -

    I can't really sing, and I can't really dance, I'm not dead drop gorgeous - but god damn it I was determined, and I worked harder than anybody else in the business.

    in the end, if you want something bad enough, you'll get it.

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  8. I appreciate your honesty in posting this, Kid. It's the question of the ages for us creative types. In the end, you just try your best and surrender to your destiny. For me that means, if I make it great, if I don't, I thank my Higher Power for the chance to have tried.
    Here's a quote from Anaïs Nin:
    "The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment with it, that was the miracle."

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  9. I think I am talking about something different to what all of you, apart from maybe Martininbroda, are referring too.

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  10. "What happens when your talent is two notches below the amount that you need to TRULY inspire people?" - Kid

    I think the answer is, you never know that you are at whatever level. You think you're two notches below someone else in talent, but maybe you're not.

    Perhaps the person is confusing fame and recognition with talent.

    If by "truly inspire" you only mean "fame and fortune," then that can be achieved in a million different ways with some marketing skills or a business sense.

    If by "truly inspire" you mean "fame and fortune + recognition by peers for outstanding work," then yes, that might be difficult to get.

    It still doesn't mean that a relatively obscure person isn't as potentially talented and as enormously creatively influential as a Streep,for instance, especially with the internet at everyone's disposal.

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  11. There was a time when I was 19 and thought that I was going to be on the shelf of a book store under the category, Indian Writing. However, at some point in time, I realised that it was a dream that wouldn't materialise, so I switched gears and settled for having my name in a newspaper instead. Today, I'm happy with that adjustment. I'm writing. People read what I write and I'm good at what I do. It's enough. I still have that store shelf dream. It keeps me going and maybe this diversion will help me get better at doing what I need to do to get on said shelf... who knows...

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  12. Firstly I would just like to say I am not a writer or an actor, I am a Landscape Architect but I follow this blog because I am passionate about films.

    I would have to agree with most of the comments on here, I was told that I didn't have the talent to succeed in my chosen field but through my determination (some would say arrogance) I worked 3 times harder than everyone else and volunteered wherever would have me. 3 years later and out of 400+ graduate landscape architects I manged to get 1 of only 2 graduate positions advertised, I have also (despite being dyslexic) written a book which has received fantastic peer reviews.

    Success is 10% talent and 90% perseverance

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  13. IF I felt I wasn't improving, IF I felt that my hard work didn't result in anything, then, I think, I'll finally give up.

    But as long as I feel I'm improving I feel that there is hope.

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  14. A lot of wisdom here. Now here's an unpopular idea: perhaps the dream of a teenage or adolescent boy should not be the dream to pursue for the man. Or perhaps there's something at the nucleus of that youngster's dream that moves you. Only you and you (inner?) therapist know for sure. Either way, one should never stop doing what they love.

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  15. It's a shame as well for those people who ARE good enough and are incredibly talented who just don't get lucky. Would you rather be not that talented but commercially quite successful or the other way around? It's hard to know which would be preferable.

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  16. If I really knew that I was crap at what I do, I'd find something else so I didn't inundate the world with more crap than necessary. But of course, I don't think I'm crap, so I'll just keep working.

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  17. I think most people are missing the point of this post. It's nice to be positive and hopeful but the question is what if you just aren't good enough? What if you are simply not cut out to make it? Say you want to be a NBA player but are 5 foot 4 with no ounce of athletic ability no matter how hard you have trained for the past 12 years.

    This is not only a question for creative people but for everyone pursuing a dream and I, like many, have asked myself the question many times. It's a very very difficult question to face and try to answer because it can be truly hurtful to your self-esteem and feeling of self-worth.

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  18. What happens? What do you do? You look at the mundane out there, the drivel, the below par work that makes it and you say 'if they can do it, so can I'. You brush your ego down and you carry on bashing away.

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  19. I know I have different talents compared to my heroes, and I would LOVE to be as apparently gifted as they - but what I lack, I can hone, what comes hard for me, I can still strive towards, and regardless of failure, tomorrow is always there to start all over again, perhaps wiser, stronger and hopefully all the better for the lesson learned.

    Besides, it's hardly as if there is an option, I do what I do because I have to - yes true, success might be nice (ahem, let's backtrack, who am I kidding? It would mean the sun, moon and stars to me!), but I'll happily pass up on that fame lark, that's got to be one huge, massive pain in the arse to deal with!

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  20. Many of you think seem to think I am talking about being famous - again, that's really not what I'm talking about.

    I think it's fascinating how everyone has interpreted the message of this article in different ways.. I like that, but it's also confusing!

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  21. I think about this every day. EVERY day. Yesterday, while scrubbing the kitchen counters, I thought, "I'm never gonna get published. It just isn't gonna happen to me."

    You know how most women are constantly thinking, "Oh gosh, I'm fat," whether they are, or not? I'm not like that. I don't diet. I don't care! I like the way I look. No, my nagging thought -- my constant nagging thought, is, "I'm not good enough. I'm almost good enough. But it just isn't gonna happen..."

    I think this post was brilliant, and I think you're damn brave for saying it. Lots of people are total hacks, but they don't know they're total hacks. Like the skinny girl who thinks she's fat...can she not see in the damn mirror?! And ugly girls who think they're pretty. People are blind. And no one has any confidence. But then again, there are people with confidence about something they really shouldn't be confident about! I don't know. I try to think I have a realistic amount of confidence in all areas. But I just think I'm two inches below 'GOOD', and it's just never gonna happen...and some days I just want to curl up and die. I think, "If I'm not good enough, why even bother?" But if I don't write on a regular basis, I can't hardly breathe. So there you go. If I knew I wasn't good enough, what would I do? I'd keep writing, keep breathing. I suppose one day it'll stop.

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  22. This is the cool part about skills. If it was easy it would have no value in the marketplace and no one would care. When things are REALLY REALLY hard it ensures that the payoff will be that much better, your skills will be insulated against competition. If you can't get to that point you should quit as soon as possible because you're wasting your time and resources every day you don't try to go all the way.

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  23. I always wanted to become a singer or dancer.. People said I don't dance bad and I think I can sing as long as I train more. But whenever I saw some other people's auditioning videos I just lost all my confidence. I use to think " there are so many talented people out there to become the next star, why would the company bother to choose someone who doesn't particularly sing or dances well?" So I tried to forget about this dream and find another interest, but I can't find ANY career that I'm interested in. So I am very miserable now.. Please help me

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    1. I wrote this blog when I was in a very miserable mood, much like the frustration you are now feeling.

      But I promise you, the thing to do is go after your dreams! It may take a long time, and you may never make it, but it's not about 'making it', what does that even mean anyway? It's about the journey, about doing what you love. Go for it!

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  24. This article and these comments helped me today. This stuff keeps me awake at night, makes me want to crawl into bed and never leave. You echoed my sentiments precisely; you know that horrible impact of reality against fantasy. The helplessness is the worst part. You can't help what you love to do, and you can't help that you are not as good as you want to be.
    Then again, you are born with a lump of clay and it's up to you to shape it into something worth looking at. Whether you sit there moaning about your ugly lump, looking at somebody else's beautiful sculpture, or whether you keep moulding away - that's the deciding factor. Positive thinking can be bullshit when substituted for reality, but when you step back, decide how you're going to react to the situation, and proceed accordingly, it's actually pretty effective. Thanks people. It's nice to hear an intelligent, balanced debate about this subject.

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  25. wow, i see there are a lot of "us"; folks who've tried to achieve some dream or goal and have simply failed....and failed is a potent word and a heart breaking word...i've failed as a songwriter and musician and it's not for lack of effort...i trained as hard as any olympian to get my chops on the guitar and i wrote and wrote and wrote song after song that just didn't sound that special....i've always had other jobs to support myself along the way so that i could have a place to live and have the equipment required to record music and play live....but i don't have a good sounding voice or any range and my writing is not very original....i know some modestly talented people find success that is largely based on luck but that luck has evaded me....now i try to be happy and grateful for the life that i have and to be living in the place that i live....sadness and grief and no more delusions; i'm just an average bloke with average looks and average skills....dammit

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  26. I Feel total empathy with Kidinthefrontrow. Being - quite simply - not as talented as I need to be in order to truly excel artistically, can be extremely depressing and demoralizing. BUT - If you are a truly creative person, even if you try to be "realistic", and give it all away, you will always come back to it. And also being realistic, isn't it true that you will sometimes produce things that you are pleased with, where you truly feel you have created something, even if it only ever reaches a very small audience? I'm trying to be sensible enough to drop it all when it is merely a miserable and frustrating drag (not talented enough to be doing this for a career!), and come back when I feel a true need to create, rather than a need to produce excellence - not quite the same thing.

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  27. pretty depressing post, I was hoping it would have a happy ending. I am a filmmaker (not a very good one) and a few years ago a young kid got in touch for my advice. I told him to practice making short films with his friends. He did, he sent me his first short film and it was better than anything I have ever made. I saw him again today on twitter, he's older now maybe 19 years, and he has made loads of short films and even getting paid to make commercials already. He is a lot better than me with what seems like hardly any effort. However by the looks of things he has had a lot of family support and money which is sure to speed up the process. Also what he makes looks the same as everything out there now. Sure the kids good, but he has yet to make his work unique or different in anyway.

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    1. It's an extremely depressing post - still gnaws away at me sometimes when I think about it!

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  28. What a great post! Was waiting to stumble upon something like this.

    I guess the only thing one can do is keep on trying. As Composer Hans Zimmer making Gladiator theme once said- "Nobody beats me up as much as i beat myself up"
    You may never trully know if you are or werent good enough. We are talking self esteeme issues here if we look at this from a perspective of - 'me and talent' because it is not just talent alone, its not a separate toolbox of yoursef that you choose or not choose to use. You are talent, the capacity of being you is talent and saying that my talent is not good enough for my dreams is claiming that your not good enough for yourself, which reeks of self doubt and self esteeme issues.
    The bottom line is, we cant tell the potential of ourselves(our talent) in short term trails- trying this or that for a year or two, its too short sighted. Nonetheless i totally sympathize with the anxiety addressed here.

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  29. I think there is also a few other factors that come into play here. Many of the people I've met who are successful have the kind of confidence I can only dream about AND a fantastic family network that helps them get there. By nature I'm a doubter and it's a two-sided coin. The positive side means I always search to do better but the negative side means I don't jump on chances when they present themselves because I don't feel confident enough. I think having a team of surrounding people who can give advice and help is of enormous importance in really becoming successful - unfortunately I've never had a support network like that and must always figure things out on my own whilst making enough money to survive so my progress rate is super slow. The more time I spend in the music business the more these two things come up again and again. You can't be a fabulous success on your own and whoever claims that is missing out chunks of their story. So for those of us who don't become mega fabulous I think we should continue anyway because we love it but also because we can give advice to younger ones and maybe help others become fabulous - which has a very positive impact on the world! We can always improve and we can do our best to be ready for good luck when it arrives. Stay authentic to your dreams and you will have some great adventures! Good luck!

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