Talent Vs. Skills

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (as I have done for the last six or seven years or so), and the last book I read was a book on management styles.  It is apparently well-known among the country’s best managers (according to Gallup) that the happiest employees are ones who have been steered toward jobs that make use of their own natural talents, regardless of skills.  This got me thinking, “What’s the difference?”

I sat down and examined it, and realized that I have a lot of skills.  I have the skills to fix complicated machinery, and have learned the techniques that assure that I’ll do it well.  I have been keeping this blog for over six years, a professional one for one and a half, and I’ve kept private journals for over twelve now.  I have a commanding knowledge of the English language–and a larger-than-average vocabulary–because of it.  I have been a music student for over eighteen years, starting in 4th grade, when I picked up the Trumpet for the first time and learned to read notes and sheet music.  I have expanded my skills into playing a variety of horns, taught myself to play the guitar, and to a very minimal degree, the piano as well.  I also at some point taught myself to wrap a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue–mostly as a party trick.  But none of those are my talents.

My talents are few, but they are there.  One of the lesser talents that I have is a by-product of my skills as a music student:  I can take nearly any song on the radio, and learn it by ear on a guitar.  (Not reproduce it, but learn it.)  I also have the talent of determination to learn things on my own–I taught myself how to play the guitar, as well as how to snowboard.  Never took a lesson, just got out there and tried it until I got it.  I also have the natural ability to twist and manipulate images in my head–for example, if I have the chance to study a map of a route or an area, I have an unflappable sense of direction as I’m driving around ON that map, in that area.  Some people find that to be very difficult to do, but I can do it with relative ease.

The most obvious talent that I have, by far, is my talent for communicating with people that I don’t know.  I find genuine interest in talking with other people, finding out what makes them tick, what problems they have that I might be able to provide solutions for.  I am a naturally outgoing person.  One of my best friends saw me talking briefly with someone once at a party, and asked me how we knew each other.  When I told him we didn’t, he asked me sarcastically, “When’s her birthday?” and he was stunned when I knew the answer–it had come about over the natural course of the conversation, is all.  I have been looking for ways to inject a little bit more of my natural talents into my work…I’m sure that once I do, my career satisfaction will be through the roof!

Give it some thought, and tell me just what your skills are, and how they differ from your talents.  I’m fascinated to hear your answers!

PS–Try this on for size:  Is it a coincidence that the words “talent” and “latent” share the same letters in different configuration, and kind of refer to the same thing?  (That’s another talent I have for some reason–seeing patterns in word spellings.  Sort of like how “Words” is “Swords” without the “S,” and both can intimidate, defend, or kill.  Odd stuff like that–no idea where it comes from, it’s just there!)

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