What’s Your Talent?

By Julian Mokhtar

Talent is something we often see and admire (and sometimes envy, let’s be honest) in other people. We praise people who are good at something or a number of things. So-and-so is a talented pianist; that person has so many talents; she can paint, cook or dance so well. Oddly enough, we often view ourselves quite the opposite - “I can’t sing, I have no talent”, “I wish I could write stories but I don’t have the talent for it”, etc. To dispel such self-limiting assumptions, let’s see what the word ‘talent' means. Most people think of talent as some kind of magical power granted to certain fortunate individuals. However, any dictionary would merely define talent as a natural ability or aptitude to an activity - so there’s nothing magical about it. Simply put, it’s a skill or ability which has been developed and improved on by the individual. While it’s true every person has different inclinations and character traits, when a person takes an interest in something and puts in enough work, practice and learning, they will eventually be adept at it. After a certain level, they could breach the standard that validates them as better at it than most people, and thus a talent is born. What are the biggest obstacles to discovering or improving one’s talent? Oftentimes, it could be resistance to something new or just plain laziness. These factors can come in the guise of complaints such as “not enough time” or “my work/family/business is keeping me occupied”. Such excuses are invalidated when we are privileged with both time and freedom after retirement. Usually people think of talent as referring to music, singing, art, or acting. In fact it can apply to anything that requires a level of skill. It could be cooking, gardening, writing, carpentry, engine repair, business negotiation, anything. Finding new talents or developing ones you’ve kept hidden for whatever reasons is far better than spending time at home being bored. After all, talent is largely ability developed through learning and practice. Another important consideration in developing talent is interest. Without that there’s not much point in pursuing anything as your heart won’t be in it and ultimately, the pursuit will not last. Take me as an example. I have spent more than 40 years working as a guitarist. At 13, I had taken a sudden interest in playing the guitar. It didn’t “come naturally” to me but the interest kept me going. After all these years, I recently developed an interest in playing bass guitar and found it enjoyable. It’s related to what I’ve been doing all along but it requires a different approach to master as the bass guitar is physically bigger and there are techniques that are specific to the instrument. Fellow musicians have told me that I appear to have a talent for the bass guitar as well, despite my late stab at it! I had also gotten into repairing and modifying guitars at the early stage of my career. This led to me making guitars, at first for my own use and later making them for customers. More recently I’ve started making pickups for electric guitars, again for myself at first and then selling them. Again, it’s a related set of talents, and has become another income earner for me. Another talent I worked at was writing. Being an avid reader, I was asked whether I’d like to try writing a few articles for a magazine. I wasn’t sure about it at first but then I figured since I had read so much and with such variety, surely it couldn't be that hard to write. That desire to try out something new began a while ago, and here I am, still writing today. On the other hand, something I don’t have a talent for is acting. I tried it but immediately knew it was not for me. So, if you’re feeling like life is getting dull, look around and try your hand at something. Belum cuba, belum tahu. Who knows, you could turn out to be the world’s next big talent.