Let’s get the definitions out of the way. Dictionary.com provides several definitions for talent, but the two that apply here are:
- a special natural ability or aptitude: a talent for drawing.
- a capacity for achievement or success; ability: young men of talent.
Applicable definitions for skill:
- the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well: Carpentry was one of his many skills.
- competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity: The dancers performed with skill.
If you dissect these, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference. Both involve aptitude. The definition for talent seems to focus more on a natural ability, while skill mentions knowledge and practice.
I have some natural singing ability, but it was never developed very far. I didn’t always feel I had a natural ability to train and coach others, but with the right mentoring, practice and motivation, I became quite skilled at it. Dare I say, even talented? The natural ability had to be there to develop those skills, maybe it was just buried a little deeper.
When it comes to drawing, I have zero talent. However, I do remember a particular art project in junior high, when I was actually recognized for a job well done. The assignment was to use colored pencils. The teacher specifically said to make sure the coloring was even. I drew a cat in front of a fire place. I took great care in the coloring. For someone with talent, this probably could have been done easily. For me, it was tedious work. But, my ability and willingness to follow directions and work hard compensated for my lack of artistic ability.
Recently, at work, I was charged with the task of designing and ordering a new safety sign. I often joke that I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. In this case, I also asked one of the Engineers if I could have some graph paper. Even with this, I had to explain to the vendor that the drawing was not 100% to scale. The vendor was out of state, and all of the communication was via email and telephone. I sent some photos of the previous sign and examples of signs similar to what I wanted. While my drawing left something to be desired, I compensated with my communication skills, and got exactly what I wanted.
By the way, my 3-year-old thinks I’m pretty good at drawing. Kids can be good for building our egos at times. In reality though, I know that I am not.
My perception of the difference between a talent and a skill really is how immediately apparent the ability is. I think of a talent as something that comes very easily, while a skill is something that takes more work, but can be developed to a high level of competence.
Now on to the topic of enjoyment. We usually think that people enjoy things that come easily to them. That may or may not be true. If it comes too easily, we may become bored. If it’s an activity that’s unethical, we may become conflicted. On the other hand, if it comes easily, but we find ways to continue to challenge ourselves, it may become a lifelong passion. I argue that this can also be true for things that don’t initially come so easily.
By now, you may be thinking, get to the point, woman! I do have a point, and I think it’s a pretty good one.
Try new things, that take you out of your comfort zone. That’s how you grow. You may find an ability that wasn’t apparent, but can be developed into something great. If you’re not so good at it, you may still enjoy it.
I can’t dance – at all! I have trouble keeping up in aerobics class (there’s always the back of the room, or exercising to a DVD at home!). But, my daughter’s talent in this area became evident at 1-year-old. She had no way of learning some of her moves; she was just born with them. While I have no talent, I still enjoy dancing with her, and she loves it when I do.
You may feel discouraged that you have talents you aren’t using. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home Mom, and you feel your corporate skills are going to waste. You may be working in a job that isn’t in your field. I think God always puts us where he wants us. You can take solace in the idea that you may be able to use those skills again and/or you’re developing some new skills. If it’s really distracting you that your talents are going to waste, it may be time to create a new opportunity for yourself. That’s how I started blogging, and it takes a variety of skills (far more than just writing) well beyond what I ever imagined.
As I write this, Steven Curtis Chapman’s (love him) song, Do Everything keeps running through my mind. Here are some of the lyrics:
You’re picking up toys on the living room floor
For the fifteenth time today
Matching up socks
Sweeping up lost cheerios that got away
You put a baby on your hip
Color on your lips and head out the door
While I may not know you,
I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?
Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do
To the glory of the One who made you,
‘Cause He made you,
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do
Maybe you’re that guy with the suit and tie
Maybe your shirt says your name
You may be hooking up mergers
Cooking up burgers
But at the end of the day
In between stuff
God sees it all the same
Be encouraged. It matters. I’m guessing you’ve got hidden abilities, whether they be talents or skills, you haven’t even thought of yet.