I'm not talented... and neither is Mo Farrah

I'm not talented... and neither is Mo Farrah

You've probably heard of Sir Mo Farrah. 

If you haven't, you have either been living under a rock for the last few years, or you don't like sports. 

On the off chance you don't know - Mo is an olympic champion for Great Britain. He won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in 2012 and 2016. 

Mo trains 365 days a year. He runs about 17-24 miles a day and misses his family for 6 months a year whilst he's at training camps. He also sleeps in a special low oxygen tent at night which mimics and compliments the effects of high altitude training. 

If he's feeling under the weather, he still trains. If he's missing his family, he still trains. If he's hurting, he still trains. 

This is why he is an olympic champion. 

People will sit on the sofa and watch him win medals on TV. They'll say stuff like 'wow, he's so talented', 'I'll never be that talented' etc.

They're wrong. He wins because he works hard between races. He wins because he has been working most of his life to get that good. 

Now I'm not saying he doesn't have any natural abilities. He does. But he'll be the first to tell people that he wasn't the fastest or strongest when he was younger. 

He took his natural abilities, his passion for the sport, his drive and worked really hard day in, day out to achieve his dreams. It actually seems almost disrespectful to assume olympic athletes are just born more talented or gifted. They work really really hard to get to that level.

 As it is for sports men and women, it is for creative professionals too. 

That guitarist that you like - he's put hours and hours in practicing. He's missed social events, he's worked his fingers bloody and he's probably lost friends too. 

That ballet dance that looks so graceful on stage. She's sacrificed friends and relationships. Behind the scenes her toes are broken and bloody and she could really do with a burger or two. 

It's like that for design. 

Before I go on... here's a disclaimer... I'm in no way saying I'm as good at design or illustration as Sir Mo is at long distance running. 

However I do sometimes feel the same frustrations when people say 'You're so talented', 'I wish I could be that talented', 'you have a gift' etc etc. I'm sure people are genuinely just being nice and paying me a compliment - but sometimes I feel that saying someone has a natural talent dismisses the years of hard work and learning they have put into something.

Again, I know it might sound like I'm being big headed or ungrateful (and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I find it difficult to accept compliments in general), but I don't mean to be.

My point is that I think 'talent' is not something you are born with. Sure, you can be born with certain traits or physical attributes that give you an edge over others in certain ways. However those traits still need to be nurtured and worked on.

In my case, I just have an interest in art and design. I always have. In fact, here's a video that proves it.

But without drawing for years, without missing social events or watching/listening or reading various tutorials, lessons, lectures etc, I wouldn't be as good as I am, and I still have far to go.

Being talented is nurturing an interest and never settling for 'good enough'. It's learning from every iteration and improving every time. 

It's about making mistakes and learning how to overcome them, and it's about enjoying that process as much as you can.

I don't think any of my work is ever good enough, and if you asked Mo Farrah about his times and performances, I suspect he'd say something similar. Has he won enough Olympic medals? .... only he can decide that. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him competing in Tokyo in some form or another. 

Whilst this sounds like a general rant, it's actually meant to be inspirational. If you want something bad enough, the only thing stopping you is you

Put the work in.

Put the learning in.

Develop focus and patience. 

Know your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. 

Now go out there and kick some ass in whatever field you want!


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