For the longest time I always thought that talent in anything was everything. If you were born with the perfect ear, you can compose your first symphony at the age of 7 like Mozart. If you knew the intricate relationship between shapes and lines, you could be the next Picasso. That's why as a child I thought I was in trouble because I was not born with any talent. This is partly the reason why I doubted my own ability to start my music path. My hopes and dreams of going to Berklee Music School, only the largest independent college for contemporary music, was almost next to none because I had no talent to make an attempt to apply. But then 1 year ago, music and I decided to take a chance on each other and today my answer will now be "Yes!"
But what is "talent"? Today we use the term so loosely but in the general sense, it implies a skill set that is natural or divine. We also have the common misconception that if someone has a "natural talent", that what it is they're aiming for comes so easy to them and that success is catapulted to the highest level! Although talent does play a role, it isn't the most important nor does it mean that your dreams will land neatly into the palm of your hands. If things come too easy, the learning process is simply non-existent and work ethic starts to disappear. Talent therefore is actually counterproductive to becoming the best you can be!
"Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard" - Tim Notke
Growing up my sisters and I were straight A students, over-achievers and "appeared" to know everything. I didn't and I still don't. A huge part of it was our upbringing and culture but for me I needed to compensate for not being talented. So what did I do? I worked and studied HARD! I practiced piano for hours every single day, my mom disciplined us at a very young age to always get homework done on time, study hard, get 2-3 part time jobs during school (I literally had 2 part time jobs during pharmacy school!!) and strive to exceed expectations. To this day, it "appears" that my piano skills are off the charts when in reality it is the product of years of practicing classical piano and techniques. But if you ask me what chords I'm playing, 80% I can't tell you and I think I'm tone deaf - like for real!
But there are so many of us who work extremely hard but still not where we envision ourselves to be? Experience! For example, as musicians and performers we have to continuously be performing publicly in order for us to build confidence, our individual stage presence and to improve in our own art in a live setting. Yes, experience is extremely important in our field but for others, you can work in the same job for 40 years but won't be able to find mastery.
What other characteristics are just as important, if not more important than talent to help you achieve the level of mastery you dream of achieving? Here are some I've come across in my amateur year in the #YEGmusicscene!
DESIRE // DRIVE // PATIENCE // PERSEVERENCE // DEVOTION // TIME // TENACITY // METICULOUS // INSPIRATION // SUPPORT (FAMILY/PEERS) // CURIOSITY // PRACTICE // BELIEVE // COURAGE TO FAIL & SUCCEED // COLLABORATION // POSITIVITY // RECEPTIVITY // DISCIPLINE
What separates the great from the good? All of the above combined into one but there is one that I believe stands out! We know it all too well and yet so few of us, including myself don't do it!
Practice Makes Perfect
But not just practicing - deliberate practice!! What does this mean? Sometimes we practice just because we have to, because my mom told me to so really it was a matter of going through the motions. But deliberate practice means practicing with purpose, with a plan of action, efficiently and effectively with one common thing in mind - to improve! Deliberate practice means identifying areas that are the most difficult, repeating them but also getting feedback on how to fix the mistakes. For me, my biggest area of improvement is my voice. I've taken steps to finally invest in vocal lessons, to learn proper techniques but ironically, I have yet to master deliberate practice. Partly due to my limited time but I cannot get into the trap of making this an excuse. So, I have devised a practice schedule for myself even if it's only 15 minutes a day of vocals regardless of how busy I am (in the care driving home from work, in the shower, practicing my breathing at work, etc etc) to aim towards improvement! My vocal teacher, peers, and friends have always and will always be the ones to give me feedback!
Take notes, practice and repeat!