cerebellum blues

"Life changes and throws you curves, asks you to live for better or for worse"

• The myth of the talent myth.

Right now, I’m about halfway through Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else and on every page, I feel like the book is fighting itself. On the one hand, it wants to simply support its title, but on the other, it wants to debunk the notion of talent. I get emotional about the concept of talent, because I have always felt that I have little to none of it for much of anything. I was no prodigy on the guitar. I was not speaking multiple languages by age three. Ask me a math problem and I will visibly panic. Worse, I feel like most arguments against the concept of talent are feel-good arguments. Anyone can be president! Well, I like your drawing! You did it the hard way, but you did it! Most painful of all for me is to be cheerily told that my lack of rhythm is a myth of my own creation. It’s not. Ever since I first picked up a guitar, I have struggled to play in time. I can do it for a few measures, even groove a bit, then I loose the beat. It’s maddening.

“Talent Is Overrated” suggests that a regimen of deliberate practice would allow me to groove like Keith Richards, but I have deliberately practiced groove for way more than 10,000 hours and nada. I still struggle. In fact, it’s such a problem that I hardly play guitar on my album; instead, I work out what I want the guitar parts to be, then I have Tim Young play them. Were it not for this deficiency of mine, I would most likely have taken music far more seriously far earlier in life. I hate that I have this problem and cannot seem to overcome it.

So, what’s going on? Is this a lack of talent? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as a DNA deficiency. Somewhere in my genes, the necessary stuff for my being able to develop a killer sense of musical time is missing. Now, if I had this potential, it’s certainly possible that I would not have done much with it. Instead of being a bad guitar player who can think up good rhythm parts because I have thought so much about rhythm over the years, I would be a good guitar player who thinks up boring rhythm parts. I dunno...

Bottom line, if talent is defined as a natural potential, then it’s no myth, in my opinion. It’s very real, at least in my case. Which means that no matter what I do, I will never be able to overcome my groove limitations. So instead of beating my head against a wall, I’m working hard on all the other things I can do and seem to have some natural potential for. And I think this is important. I mean, if you’re 5 foot 2, you probably don’t want to spend too much time and energy on getting into the NBA, John Stockton excepted. Whereas becoming a fighter pilot...