What is talent?

Discussion in 'Odds & Ends' started by KineticChain, Apr 14, 2013.

  1. KineticChain

    KineticChain Professional

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    I've seen the word "talent" thrown around here a lot. Many claim it to be a natural psychological thing that people are born with without elaborating any further. As someone who has delved deep into the sciences.. that isn't enough of an explanation for me.

    I think "talent" is a learned attribute. Every single thing we experience via our few senses shapes our neurological structures. I think people like Federer/Djokovic/Nadal ect. have experienced certain things that clicked with them that other players have not. If you've ever watched Federer in any of his practices, he is always very relaxed and trying unorthodox shots you don't see on tour everyday. This relaxed style enables him to pull off shots most other players wouldn't even think to try. It is these shots people refer to as a part of his talent.

    Experiences that have nothing to do with tennis also shape the brain of an athlete. Ever have a piece of information hit you like a ton of bricks? Where you suddenly understand something because the missing piece is now available to you? I think this also plays a major role in the development of a pro tennis player. Pro tennis is half muscle memory and half mentality. Every pro on tour has the muscle memory to compete at that level. A dominant pro tennis player needs an aggressive and confident mentality to win match after match.

    We are all born with a similar brain structure. A world class athlete has experienced something that other people have not. Whether it be something someone has said to them, a thought realization, visualization ect. the world class athlete has a slightly different brain structure that aids them in their domination.

    So the debate is whether talent is a born attribute or a learned attribute. Discuss.
     
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  2. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    I'd say it's more akin to something which, if recognised and worked on, it can be fine-tuned.

    You can't learn genius or create talent at the core level imo. To outsiders though the results of long/hard practice can sometimes look like genius or talent but they're not the same thing.

    Talent to me is often too narrowly considered as something like the ability to play touch shots or hit half volleys etc - but I also include some forms of aptitude or dedication as talents in their own right.
     
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  3. BHiC

    BHiC Rookie

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    I don't know about that, I think that talent is the work ethic and desire to succeed from an early age. Not only the desire to work, but the ability to work smart and be very efficient with everything that they do. In my opinion, the real talent is in the desire to do whatever it takes to achieve (both during practice and during matches).
     
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  4. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    It's hard to believe someone "who has delved deep into the sciences" would suggest talent is entirely learned because "we are all born with a similar brain structure." Genetic (or at least congentital) differences in brain synaptic structure are implicated in everything from schizophrenia to Aspergers to ADHD to mental retardation and even to personality traits. Brains look very similar from the outside but are microanatomically very different.
     
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  5. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    I think you're giving people too much credit in the "working smart" area. That can be very self driven or by those of others. It can also be sheer fluke - a person such as John McEnroe for example didn't go out and practice half-volleys 20 times more or smarter than anyone else - he was mostly blessed with astonishing touch.

    Desire to succeed means little if you don't have the aptitude or can comprehend the gap between where you are and where you want to be and to formulate the steps in between.

    (ever watch American Idol and wonder why there's so so so many people who are lifelong songers auditioning, who train every day for years and yet still sound as pleasant as a cat being strangled?... that's the gap between perception and reality. Sports has it in spades too)
     
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  6. BHiC

    BHiC Rookie

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    Ok, I see what you are saying. I completely agree that it is very important for people to have a specific goal and be willing to do whatever it takes to reach it. People like Michael Jordan didn't just walk onto a basketball court and start draining threes within a week. He became [one of the] the greatest because being sent down to play JV his Sophomore year motivated him to the point that he was willing to outwork everyone else.

    Another example is Robert Griffin III. The guy is a sick athlete because of what he was willing to do to get to that point. I think that if you take any average person and give them the workout routine RG3 went through, then they will be successful (please note that the kid has to want to be successful, the parents just forcing the kid to work will not turn out to well).

    From ESPN -
     
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  7. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    His example only shows you can achieve massive improvement with dedicated, appropriate training and huge numbers of repetition. His father was astute enough to know (or simply a lucky fluke) to have kept him on track. There will be far, far more examples of people who have trained just as long who were never 1/10th as good at their chosen sport as some peer who rocked up to training late every day, hardly put any effort in but still far outperformed them for a variety of reasons.

    Lots of training alone means nothing compared to doing it smartly, with some level of understanding of what you're trying to achieve and being blessed with the right group of physical attributes (or potential for them) for the sport.

    Likewise, there are also many examples of kids not wanting to do something but being forced by their parents to do it where they did become amazing at it - there are generations of pianists who fit this mould.

    That's not to say I disagree with you - but to highlight that the equation is not just hard-work, tons of hours and a supportive parent/coach. I believe that a mindset or aptitude for understanding technical things coupled with an ability (not just desire) to practice a truck-load at a young age is a huge leg up in your chances to become great at something - but there's more to it than that when you get to the difference between say Federer and someone ranked #100 or #200 or #500. Something innate and x-factorish which is often impossible to even identify/explain until it arrives.

    Gilles Simon comes to mind as someone who has an almost intangible knack for tennis. If you just did a comparison of his strokes and movement compared to his peers you would not get close to understanding how he is ranked so high.
     
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  8. KineticChain

    KineticChain Professional

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    That's true.. what I meant to say is that we are born with kind of a blank template for a brain. And our experiences shape how we behave. Like you said, we are all born with different neural connections. Similar overall, but different on the microscopic level. Also, I didn't write the OP sober.. so just ignore that delved deep into the sciences line :).

    However, I'm still not convinced talent is always a born attribute. I could argue, without any proof, that maybe some are born with a structure that allows for them to learn tasks quicker than most. That's a speculation on my part, but I think it is much more likely that the ability to quickly learn is wired into a brain after birth (in most cases). The surroundings in which an infant grows up in is very important, as it is the early years when the brain is making those connections rapidly. Something as innocent as a parent telling a child not to pick things up, inhibits natural curiosity. It is little minute details like this that I think are responsible for how a player develops. There could be thousands of these unique experiences that ultimately builds the mentality of a talented athlete.

    I'm open to any ideas really.
     
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  9. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    "What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets. But enough talk, have at you!"
     
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  10. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    What is man but a bundle of thoughts?
     
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  11. Sentinel

    Sentinel Talk Tennis Guru

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    Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty -- wikipedia
     
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  12. 813wilson

    813wilson Rookie

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    Talent - to me this is something you posess naturally. With training/schooling/effort any talent you have for something will show itself or be enhanced.

    Talent = aptitude/capacity/capability.

    IE - I have no real aptitude for art. I'm guessing with a lot of training, I could draw okay - but would never be good at it.
    Same holds true(for me) and singing. My voice sounds like a struggling hyena. I'd guess a voice coach could minimize that but no real talent.

    For me, talent for something is something you are predisposed to and training only helps....
     
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  13. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    By the age of 5 Mozart had about 5,000 hours dedicated practice. Compare that to a 20 year old with 5,000 hours practice and it isn't so astonishing. Add to that his father being deputy chief conductor to the orchestra of Salzburg and an accomplished teacher in his own right, plus the fact that his older sister Nanneri was already being taught by his father so he listened in to her lessons and copied, his story is not incredible, it is almost inevitable!

    Cheers
     
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  14. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    So you are still stuck in the Nature vs Nurture argument in spite of innumerable articles and science programs on TV showing that both have a role to play?
     
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  15. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    I would define talent as being the level of speed that one acquires a skill compared to the average person who acquires the same skill.

    There are piano students who have only 1,000 hours of practice who play pieces that take most students 2,000 hours of practice to master. To me, the former students would be considered "talented".

    It doesn't mean that the talented student will actually play the piece better than the average student. It just means that they achieved that level of mastery faster.
     
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  16. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    You don't really believe this?????
     
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  17. jakeytennis

    jakeytennis Rookie

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    will smith says you are born with talent while skill is earned/learned/worked for
     
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  18. Dedans Penthouse

    Dedans Penthouse Hall of Fame

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    The kid could listen to a musical piece for the first time and pretty much play it back immediately. I also read in a science journal years back that they estimated Beethoven and Bach to have 180 and 190 I.Q.'s. Mozart? 210.

    210.
     
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  19. Sentinel

    Sentinel Talk Tennis Guru

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    So both lil Moz and his sister had the same environment, but only one became great.

    That was actually a conspicuous example I was trying to pick up. I've actually seen too much in my life as a long distance runner (in the 80's) to believe that its all only about training. At least that's my conclusion.
     
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  20. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    When Leopold took Wolfgang and Nanneri on tours of Europe, Nanneri was often the headline act and is noted to have been an excellent pianist and harpsichord player. However, she was prevented from further displaying her talents to the public once she reached marriageable age, as that was the way society functioned. From the 1770's Mozart toured with Leopold and Nanneri stayed at home, not able to showcase her abilities. Had society not dictated it, maybe Nanneri Mozart would have been the name everybody knows now?
     
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  21. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    And maybe not?

    And maybe both brother and sister had the same genetic talent which others don't have?

    I have watched too many programs about intelligence by now, which identify this trait at a very early age and actually show how the brain functions differently in highly intelligent people. In fact, one of the demonstrations was pretty scary in that, if widely used, it can classify people as intelligent or stupid by the time they enter school.

    No amount of practice can produce a brilliant mathematician. I know for a fact that students with the exact same mathematics schooling are very very widely different in their mathematical abilities. The difference is stark - a problem one of them can solve in 10 minutes will not be solvable by the other in a lifetime. Yes, it is that different.
     
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Talent is Maria Kirilenko.
    Take the looks God gave you, enhance it by BEING a woman, acting like a woman, looking like a woman, on the tennis court, regardless of the situation.
    Like Chrissy.
     
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