Talent Is Our Best Answer to Change. Here’s Why.

Talent excites me, even when it’s not a Big T talent like that of Michelangelo.

Why should you care?

Because of the speed of change.

Your student will encounter change on steroids. Technology continues to morph and advance, pushing businesses to innovate and compete for skilled employees. It’s now predicted that in high tech fields, skill sets will become obsolete in as little as three years. (Lower tech fields will get a bit more time to adjust.)

What this means is that your child will have to hit the ground learning. Then she’ll need to continue to add skills throughout her career.

Talent is the best way to meet those endless learning challenges.

High aptitude, a raw form of talent, is the innate ability to learn a certain kind of task more quickly and easily than others. Employees whose talents are well matched to their tasks adapt both quickly and well to new challenges.

Let’s take a look at how a famous artist turned his talents into steady employment. The Italian artist Michelangelo began earning an income when he was 14. He worked as a painter, a sculptor, and an architect until he was 88. His employers were as diverse as wealthy families, town councils, and popes. The method he used to develop his talents 500 years ago provides an informative example for today, even though our world is faster and more competitive.

How Michelangelo became the towering talent of his time.

Michelangelo, like all of us, was born with a pattern of abilities as unique as his fingerprint. In addition to creative talent, he must have possessed high-level aptitudes for eye-hand coordination and three-dimensional thinking. Eye-hand coordination allowed him to more quickly pick up manual skills such as painting and sculpting. His 3-D spatial gift was very handy for producing the statue of David from a block of marble.

But early on, when he was a boy, his abilities were merely a potential. His talent needed a focus, which he found in art. Fine art became Michelangelo’s primary area of interest. Art was the subject he liked best and wanted to know more about. In his visually rich Renaissance world, he learned by observing the work of fellow sculptors; in the Florence workshops of master artists, he learned artistic techniques such as marble carving. Through self-study and apprenticeship, he turned his innate abilities into knowledge and skill, a more refined form of talent.

Michelangelo’s skills were further propelled by the passion of his personality. His aesthetic and religious values became strong motivators. He wanted to attain even greater knowledge and skill, so he persevered despite obstacles and setbacks. Nobody taught anatomy in his day, but he didn’t let that stop him from learning how to give his David gorgeously detailed muscles.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo

Michelangelo as an example of talent

Michelangelo used his talents to solve problems.

When Michelangelo was commissioned to sculpt the David, he had several problems to solve. For example, he was given a stunningly awkward block of marble, so narrow that previous sculptors had hacked away at it, further limiting its use, until they gave up. In addition, he needed to please his employer, the city of Florence. His city-state was threatened by aggression from rivals. So he gave his David a feisty Florentine expression, a symbolically defiant warning to the other city-states: “Don’t even think about messing with me!”

Natural strengths, developed with the proper training and infused with the desire to solve a relevant problem, produce talent in the most complete and valuable sense of the word. Talent now means the whole person, who is not sitting around expecting admiration for being such a special snowflake but is instead solving problems for others.

It was true 500 years ago and it’s true today: Problem solvers get hired.

Your child will be able to leave home and buy her own cappuccinos when she’s capable of solving someone else’s problem. Simple as that.

In upcoming posts, we’ll explore how she can develop her talent in a process of growth similar to Michelangelo’s. How does she identify her abilities? Choose a field? Act on her values? How does she find her preferred problems in our chaotic world of work and then persuade an employer that she has the skills to solve them?

Once she gets a job, she’ll be solving familiar old problems and new ones too. Because the speed of change will never allow her to rest on her laurels.

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