Talent versus Skill

When someone walks up to an artist, looks at their work, and exclaims, “You’re so talented!” they mean to compliment the artist. But it’s important to pay attention to our words and the impact they have. 

Talent is something you’re innately better at than the average person.

Skill is an ability you’ve studied and practiced until you are better at it than the average person.

Many artists do have talent–it’s why they bothered to develop skill. If you notice you’re good at something and you’re proud of it, it makes sense that you’ll be drawn to it.

But complimenting someone on their talent is much like complimenting them on something else they were born with, like their eye color. You’ll never be as satisfied by someone saying, “Wow, i’m impressed by how beautiful your eyes are” as you will by someone saying, “Wow, i’m impressed at how well you can play soccer/write code/draw the human figure.”

It’s also more complex, of course, because there isn’t a way for you to learn to make your eye color even better. But if there was, if you could learn to change the color like an octopus or a chameleon, then wouldn’t it be even weirder for someone to say, “The eye color you started with is so impressive!” It even implies that the work you put in isn’t nearly as impressive as the talent you started with.

Continue reading “What is the difference between talent and skill?”