What is the difference between a skill and a talent (and why it matters)?

When you line yourself up towards your new improved life, where do you start? Do you start with what you can do now or with what you should do?

You are born with talents and interests

I have identical twin boys. Surely they have exactly the same talents and interests? No. They are only four yet they are very different in so many ways. One is very physical and loves sports. He solves problems by doing things. The other one loves to argue. If you have  a plan, he will talk you out of it in no time. He is a little bit of a showboat and very quickly takes the centre stage as a leader. They are clearly on a different life strategy, as I call it. You know, all animals have a strategy how they are going to get the best things out of life and survive the longest.

We are born with some natural talents and are inclined to like and dislike different things. Since I was a little girl I loved horses. Where did that passion come from? I have no idea as we lived in a city and there were no horses around, nor did my parents have anything to do with horses. I don’t love horses enough to have made it my livelihood, but I have shaped my life so that no matter how busy I am with my work and a my family I always get to ride at least twice a week.

I believe we are born with a wonderful direction and purpose for our lives. We have the knowledge inside ourselves how we can prosper. Then something happens. Our parents, other people around us and the society starts pushing us around to fulfil their dreams and their ideals of how one should live. I’m not talking about living in an anarchy, surely society must have rules and parents must bring up their children to behave and live like human beings. I’m talking about the emotional pressure that people apply to each other to manipulate them and to control them. We must re-learn who we truly are and start living our own lives.

Skills can be acquired

Skills you can learn in school. You can get a diploma and a certificate. You can get tons of them as a matter of fact. Some people stay in school to avoid the fact they should look inside of themselves and discover who they are and what they really want to do. After a certain point, school can offer a nice shelter for many years.

It is ideal to figure out what you want before you go and acquire any skills. Unfortunately most of us are too young to know what we want when we choose universities or other eduction and most parents or teachers don’t provide any useful advice on how we should choose our path. Skills build on talent will become extremely powerful tools to shape your life, but skills acquired just for the sake of the shiny diploma will start gathering dust pretty soon.

I hear people saying that they should go into a certain career or profession because they studied the subject in the university and the time would be wasted if they didn’t. Think about it. You studied something for 3 years and now you want to waste the rest of your life just because you have diploma! How about truly figuring out what you wanted to do and what your real talent is?

You can use your talent in many areas

I’ve used Jodi Ettenberg as an example of re-designing her live earlier in this blog. She told me that her talent is ‘storytelling’. She studied law and was able to use her talent when she practiced as a lawyer. Now she is a famous travel and food blogger and she has put her talent into even better use!

I believe my talent is conceptualising. I can take an abstract issue and shape it with words and images into a simple and more tangible form. This is why I was very good as a branding consultant. And this is why I am writing this blog and running the DrivenWomen groups as I’m trying to conceptualise something which is abstract (creating a life you want) into something that is easy to understand and simple to put into practise.

Try think about your talents. What are the things you can’t stop yourself from doing? Everyone must be able to write down at least five talents they have had all their lives and what they have applied in different situations. Were you a ‘forward’ or a ‘defence’ player in your local sports team? What did you enjoy doing since you were a kid? Write down and remember that as long as they are legal, all talents were born equal! (It was the society that decided taking care of others, for example, was a less important talent than being able to lead large groups of people.)

Create your life based on your talents, not your skills

Whether you are thinking of changing the direction of your career and looking for a new job, or thinking of leaving the one you have all together, it is important to base your analysis of your opportunities on your talents, not your skills. The uncomfortable part is that you may have to go and acquire new skills. I think nothing is more fun than learning new things, but if you find learning a drag you may want to consider changing your attitude. By the way, changing attitude is much easier than changing your talents!

~ Miisa

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Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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