Ideas / Life / July 15, 2011

The Delusion of Talent

We have all seen those hilariously awkward episodes of American Idol when theatrically intense “singers” slaughter various pop tunes in the hopes of impressing the judges only to be turned away. It is these people’s reactions that serves as the icing on this cake; their incredulity at being told they aren’t good. GASP!
I have gotten some good chuckles out of instances such as these, but the more I watched the more they made me think. How do people get this way?
In Acquisitions for a publisher I see quite a few proposals from writers. There is a distinct flavor of this same inability to recognize faults and limitations in many of these as well. In general over-confidence and excessively high views of one’s own talent are rampant.
Where does this delusion come from? How do people get like this? More importantly and more personally, how do I help my children not be like this?
We need to find that balance between the rubbish of “you can do anything you set your mind to”, a recipe for crushed dreams, and being harshly critical dream crushers all by ourselves. I need to be a filter for my children, my wife, those close to me to help them see what they are bad at AND those things at which they are great.
There are few greater disservices than allowing or encouraging someone to believe they excel at something at which they don’t. You are being a part of, at the very least, wasted time and effort, and at the very worst a wasted life. There are few greater services than clear, pointed encouragement to pursue something at which someone is good or has the potential to be good. 
When I see clips of those early-season American Idol tryouts, my thoughts go immediately to the family and friends of those horrendous failures. Because it is those family and friends who hold great responsibility in their embarrassment and failure.  Just as we hold great responsibility for the successes and failures of those close to us. What direction are we encouraging them?


Jul 15, 2011

I think we need to encourage people to excel at something they love, not something they think others will love them for.

Jul 15, 2011

Great comment on the post Sam.

My wife and I have had similar “Huh?” moments watching shows like these. Do these people have any friends? Didn’t someone love them enough to tell them that this was not their talent?

Our culture is losing the ability to discern almost everything.

Jul 15, 2011

Isn’t this more about true humility – seeing ourselves as God sees us – rather than being negative about what we are not good at?

I tend to think people need encouragement more than discouragement. A bad Idol audition doesn’t necessarily mean that you will always be bad at singing. It may mean that you need to practice more. And the hard facts may be that you will never be good enough for some goal or achievement, but that is usually only discovered after trying hard over a period of time. And this is a valuable discovery, too.

Granted, some aims and desires aren’t good for us, and we need to be honest about our motivations.

Jul 15, 2011

Sam, by the same logic we should help people love those things at which they can excel.

Jul 15, 2011

JLong, wouldn’t true humility also recognize those things we’re not good at? Also, encouragement isn’t only saying positive things bits saying things that help someone, right? This post is aimed at en pirating people to encourage others in a helpful direction as opposed to being yes men/women.

Jul 16, 2011

I think true humility is not thinking more/less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. Brilliant, right? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I got that from a Timothy Keller sermon.

The real issue is that most of us do not want to be open to the scrutiny of living in authentic community. This is more than merely being honest with one another, but it is responsibility to nurture, to help identify strengths/talents/gifts and hold us accountable to using them. Though we expect parents should be the primary “filters”, we also need to submit to a larger circle. The high value we place on privacy and independence makes this type of community unpopular in America. When we dedicate our children, in theory we invite others to help raise our children, and they commit to do so. In practice, both sides of the covenant tend to break down.

All this aside, you all would tell me if my blog was the inspiration for this post . . . right?

Aug 20, 2011

I’m really glad I “found” your blog – thanks to a Piper tweet, I think. I COULD comment on each of the 4 posts I read so far…This one, like each of them, has shown exceptional insight, in my opinion. Keep it up, Barnabas.

Sep 23, 2015

Most stupid article ever. i don’t even want to waste my time explaining why i think that.

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