Mind,  Motivation

Why It’s Important to Know the Difference Between Talent and Skill

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, By olly

Talent and skill are words that are often used interchangeably. In fact, many of the so-called talents we see in talent shows are not so much talents as they are skills. But there’s a clear distinction between the two, and that distinction has an interesting connection to the concepts of growth and fixed mindset.

Both talents and skills are things you’re good at. However, a talent is something you’re naturally good at from birth, whereas a skill is something you become good at through practice. For instance, no one is born with the ability to code. You develop the skill through practice. Meanwhile, you may have the talent to pick up such a skill quickly.

The Mindset Connection

Returning to the aforementioned talent-skill connection to growth and fixed mindset, the more you obsess over talent, the greater your fixed mindset. This is the belief that you’re either innately good at something or you’re not. Furthermore, you believe there’s nothing you can do to acquire or improve an ability because your abilities are unchangeable. On the other hand, the more you value skill as much as or more than talent, the greater your growth mindset. This is the belief that you can be good at or get better at anything with practice.

The Result

Suddenly, knowing the difference between talent and skill becomes empowering. You’re no longer beating yourself up over things you’re not naturally good at. You have other talents! So, with this understanding, you’re able to move on with no shame but confidence–determined to develop new skills. Meanwhile, you’ll notice your growth mindset improving the more you deemphasize talent and emphasize skill.

Keep in mind that when it comes to talent vs skill, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. They are just different forms of ability with one requiring more effort.

As eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt puts it, “Skill is only developed by hours and hours of work.” And as stated in this quote from athletic coach Tim Notke (which nicely follows Bolt’s) “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

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