In chapter one of Money Ball, Michael Lewis talks about how Billy Beane’s talent lead to his failure as a baseball player. I don’t consider myself a very talented person, but it has affected my skill level. Now if you know me, you know I’m average in all my pursuits. But i do have talent, and it lies in my ability to go from beginner to average in a short amount of time. But just like Billy Beane, this may be a curse.
At the start of learning something new, my curiosity quickly helps me flow through the basics. I learn too fast, I would think. Soon, the learning momentum slows, but my thoughts do not. My desire to gain complicated techniques overcomes my discipline to master the basics. I expect what I’m learning to be just as easy as when I first start, but my expectations are too high.
Then comes the draw of learning another skill. I yearn to enjoy the rush of quick improvement again, to feel out the nuances of a different skill. All this simplifies to my lack of patience. From this, I create a ceiling of mediocrity, unable to be significant. Talent has held me back. Without acknowledging that I’m not as talented as I think I am and putting in the practice, I will always stay average.
Has talent ever held you back?
I have this problem, too. A good strategy is to set the bar for where you want to go before you start learning... then you won't be discouraged when it starts getting hard... you'll realize that you've still got a ways to go.
I think talent can hold you back if you get arrogant - thinking you know it all when there is always more to learn. Despite your talent you are starting to see the holes in the boat so to speak - the impatience, the inability to stick with something to mastery. Generally I don't think there's anything wrong with the jack-of-all-trades types as the versatility comes in handy but our economy seems to reward specialization over generalization. Anyway, in your case I don't think it's the talent itself that's holding you back but your insistence that you hold onto the concept that you have this talent to start with. In other words instead of seeing quick adaptation as a talent see it more as a trait - one that you can continually improve on instead of taking it 'as-is' and assuming it cannot be changed. The word 'talent' always seems to imply some sort of inborn perfection over a certain skill set but nothing is perfect (but some get close). I know it may be a blow to your ego - losing the one talent that defines you - but you'll be able to see things from a much clearer perspective once you empty the cup.
I like to think talent makes you blind to yourself. Talented people seem to make the worst teachers as they cannot instantiate the actual steps to get from beginner to master imo. For example if I wanted to go into weightlifting I wouldn't ask a gifted genetic Adonis for advice - I'd want to be taught by the weakest, scrawniest, clumsiest person alive who's made the struggle, failed multiple times, and eventually trained themselves to lift properly. If I were going into weight loss I wouldn't ask someone with a fast metabolism who doesn't watch their diet for advice. I'd ask a morbidly obese fellow who successfully turned their life around for the long term after struggling for many years. I forgot who quoted something along the lines of 'if you haven't succeeded yet then you haven't failed enough' but that's the line of thought I'm going with at the moment. I do view failure as a gift since you always learn something from failure. Success makes you arrogant and may pave the way for eventual failure. I think talent runs along the same lines - it's great to have but you can't exalt it as unconditionally perfect just the way it is. Even talented ones still need work to bring out their full potential.
When I write about "average people" or "average Americans", I often get flack about it. Some people call me elitist. Occasionally I get called something worse. Then there are the comments about how if everyone did something that I suggest, it wouldn't work anymore, or that the average person isn't exactly the same as me, so he may not be able to do everything I can do. All this boils down to a pretty good topic for a post.
Who exactly am I talking about when I talk about average people? The best way to define my usage of the term would be to say that I'm talking about people who live lives of defaults. They go with the flow and conform to society's expectations of them. That doesn't mean that they're all exactly the same-- there's enough chaos in the world to make everyone completely unique. But although the expressions of their principles are unique, the actual principles are pretty much the same. They do what's easiest. They may have big dreams, but they have low goals. They work as hard as they have to. They don't make independent decisions.
That's not to say that they ALWAYS fit exactly into this mold, only that they usually do. And there's a bell curve, of course, with some people being dead average, some people being mostly average, and then way out on the fringes there are weirdos like myself, and probably even weirder people than me.
Why do I rant about average people so much? It's not because I hate them or think poorly of them-- it's actually because I believe that they're capable of much more and would have better lives if they made the effort. Mostly I think it's a shame that so many people are plodding down this worn trail when there's lots of undiscovered wilderness to explore. I have some contempt for their actions, but not for them as people.
I. This post outlines Patrick McKenzie - a brilliant technologist and entrepreneur - how he's done such amazing things and learned so much, and why he's getting drastically underpaid and how it's his own fault. This post will be most valuable for technologists who underestimate themselves and undervalue themselves.
II. Hacker News is the best tech community on the internet, and patio11 - Patrick McKenzie - is the best contributor there. I don't even think that's controversial, I think it would be near universally agreed by the HN crowd that Patrick has made as many or more important contributions as anyone.
If you're from Hacker News, you know Patrick already. But for my readers that don't know him, let me give you a quick overview.
III. Patrick is a multi-faceted genius, and I don't throw the word genius around casually.
Patrick McKenzie is many things - he's an expatriate to Japan, he's a talented coder, tester, metrics/split-testing/analytics user, a great writer, extremely modest and helpful. He can recruit people, evaluate talent, and manage people well. He understands ROI very well and is good at purchasing advertising. He's good at customer service. Outsourcing. Automation. Coding. Ecommerce.