The difference between Passion, Skill, and Talent

The difference between Passion, Skill, and Talent

Have you ever watched American Idol or a similar reality TV show? You know, the early season where they show the excruciating auditions, because they think it is entertaining? There is inevitably at least one contestant who is terrible, but genuinely doesn’t seem to know it. The judges, either gently or harshly depending on which show you are watching, will tell them singing (dancing, juggling, comedy, etc.) is not for them and they should pursue another passion. The contestant storms out and tells the cameraman, “those judges don’t know talent when they see it, I’m going to be famous.” We cringe and wonder, who ever told them they have talent? Then we realize it was us!

Our generation has embraced the “you can do anything” mindset. We tell our children, and ourselves, to pursue our passion, don’t listen to the criticism of others, and persistence will triumph over talent. But, what if this is not true? What if we have been telling lies, and have created a shroud of delusion over reality?

I don’t mean to be a cynic. I believe in pursuing your passion more than the average person. However, I believe we have confused the differences between passion, skill, and talent.

Passion is the easiest. It is the enthusiasm or excitement we have for something, or the act of doing something. It is our primary instinct that we love a particular activity, and although it can be fueled by others, it has to arise out of our own inner desires.

Skill is something you earn. Skill is the physical execution or performance of a task. Skill can come more naturally to some than others, but is only developed and refined through repetition (practice). Skill is best exemplified by the “10,000 hour rule”; made famous by Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, and based on a study by Anders Ericsson. The premise is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any particular field or study.

Talent is the hardest because it is cannot be earned or faked. Talent is what we are born with. It may be a higher lung capacity to run or the delicate coordination required to draw and paint. It is the natural capability we have to do something better than others.

Now that we understand these three elements, there are certain formulas that can assist us in finding our best paths in life.

Passion does not equate to skill or talent. The simple fact that we are passionate about something does not mean we can succeed at it.

Skill is required regardless of passion. It does not matter how much we love something, there are no shortcuts. It is always required to put our time in and earn the skills for whatever endeavor we are pursuing. I’ve heard it said, “There is no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory”.

Talent is found through exploration. How do you know if you are good at something if you don’t try? It can also be observed and identified by trusted friends and mentors. We often overlook, or discount, areas that come naturally to us.

Success is achieved when our passion, skill, and talent align. We need to understand that sometimes we have talents in areas where we do not have passion. Simply because we have the talent does not mean that we should pursue something. Furthermore, often talents go undiscovered as we have not explored those particular areas.

The key is to keep trying. Explore different things until you find that you have both the passion and a potential talent. Then work hard to develop your skill. It is when these three areas come together that success happens.