“No, no, I think you’re born with talents and you acquire skills” were the words of one of my colleagues only a few days ago. Words that got me thinking about what talents and skills actually are and how people acquire them.

Are you born talented? Or do you have to work to develop it? What about skills; surely some people are naturally gifted to have a certain skill set, but can’t everyone eventually learn a skill?

It reminded me of a saying – Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.

So let’s dissect the two areas and see what we have…


‘Natural aptitude or skill.’

If someone is born with a natural ability for something they are said to have a talent for it. Whether it’s genetics that makes someone more suited for something or it some mystical ability that a person happens to have from birth, it seems that talent can’t be taught, it is natural.

By this definition, aren’t we constantly using the word in false context? “Roger Federer is very talented” – well firstly, at what? You can’t really answer ‘tennis’, he wasn’t born a Wimbledon champion, it took years of work for him to develop the ability to be a champion. So what was the talent he was born with? Mentality, perhaps good genetics to train his body hard, good eyesight, or will we just have to classify it as an unknown set of abilities that work for tennis and he is able to excel faster than others because of this head start, whatever it may be.


‘The ability to do something well’.

You can definitely learn a skill, playing the piano, for example, is a skill that is learnt. It may take longer for some people than others but everyone can make some progress in learning a new skill. It is the development of an ability.

Roger Federer has hundreds of skills that accumulate to make him a world class tennis player; his serve, his ability to read the game, perhaps even his work ethic is a skill. Are they all built up over time or was he born able to do such things?


I view skills and talents are very mutual things, you can’t have one without the other.

I do believe in natural ability – a talent – and therefore do think that some people are born with a head start, not everyone can run like Usain Bolt! However, I believe talent can be extended upon through the accumulation of skills as if they’re building blocks. Have enough blocks in place and you have extended, or create a new, talent.



Perhaps if this depiction is accurate, hard work really can beat talent, if talent doesn’t work hard.