Talent vs Ambition


Photo courtesy of Mariano Vivanco

Flipping through the March issue of Elle UK, I came across a thought provoking piece by Victoria Coren Mitchell on talent versus ambition. Based on her own personal experiences, she makes the case that drive and persistence are the true determinants of success, not skill. Framing the article around a live Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett duet of Cole Porter's Anything Goes and Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of the classic, Mitchell calls the young singer's performance terrible by comparison. She then compares her own musical skills to Lady Gaga's in order to illustrate the fact that one does need some talent to work with, effectively weaving in her own pursuits as a writer. 

In junior high (or high school as it's called in England), while classmates with similar writing aspirations focused on getting good grades and impressing teachers, Mitchell, armed with grit and determination, hustled her stories to publications until she finally sold one. In junior high. Back in the last century. Before the internet. Well known across the pond, Mitchell lacks in neither talent nor ambition. The point is, you need more than aptitude. You need to put yourself out there to make things happen. Hardly groundbreaking, sure, but it bears repeating in a world where people give up so easily and then complain that so-and-so has it better because this-and-that, while trying to drag others down with them. 

Success takes time. It also takes courage and strength to build your dreams, whether or not you're pursuing a path that's creative or less conventional (but let's be honest, it's extra terrifying when your goals are creative or less conventional). Feeling comfortable enough to put yourself out there is a painful and long-- painfully long-- process for a lot of us. That's okay! Take the time to cultivate yourself and your talents-- harness that isht. Someday, sooner than you know, you'll be delighted to discover that while you were developing and investing in yourself, you were also automatically building the confidence to share your work, your voice, yourself. 

In these super-fast-changing times, people mistakenly assume there's no time to blossom at their own pace. Remember to be resilient in the face of resistance, not just your own but especially the world's. (How else does a person learn to doubt the self after all?) When others deny your talents or pass you up for someone less deserving (i.e., less intimidating), know that you will have your moment. Your glory. And. Lots. Of. It. Don't forget that. Don't knock anyone else's ambition or compare yourself to others. It works perfectly as an example in Mitchell's essay, but in real life that's the surest way to a miserable and mediocre life.

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