The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

I’ll never forget passing by a young woman who walked to the daycare around the corner from our house. As I left for work each morning I would drive by her walking to work there.

Depending on the time I left, I would see her at different points in her walk. I was always headed the opposite direction from her on a timeline but always wanted to stop and take her to work just to save her one day of that very long walk.

It reminded me of the years I also worked in daycare. We had very little as a family. But it was always amazing and humbling watching other mothers who had even less. There was one particular mother who always impressed me.

She walked from her home to the daycare pushing an umbrella stroller with a missing wheel.

She would drop off the baby [who was always in good health, well cared for, and loved] and then walk about 2 miles to her job at Fazoli’s.

And regardless of when she was released from work [even if it was early] she walked back to the daycare loaded the baby in that 3 wheeled umbrella stroller and walked home.

I grew up with a singing voice not often heard. I was always the voice in the choir that was just a bit stronger than the others. The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

If I auditioned I got the role.

If I wanted the solo I got it. If I sang I was praised.

If I competed, I won [most of the time].

I went to college on a music scholarship.

Singing and musical theatre was my talent. It came easily to me. I didn’t have to work hard to do well.

Michael Phelps has won a lot of Olympic medals.

I’m not going to pretend to know his record… because honestly it isn’t relevant….

But what’s the one thing about Michael Phelps that sets him apart wen it comes to swimming?

His body is a biochemical anomaly. He has double jointed ankles and elbows, unusually long arms, and gigantic paddle like hands. His genetics allow him to successfully achieve things you and I would never be able to do.

The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

I tell these stories because I think they’re a great example of the profound difference between talent and ability.

Talent is defined as a natural aptitude or skill.

Talent is natural.

It’s the organic gift that each of us carries within us.

For me it’s music. For Michael Phelps it’s swimming.

Each person is genetically pre-disposed to be better than someone else at something.

I watch my daughter draw. She’s 8 and she has an incredible artistic gift. No one has taught her how to draw. No one has taught her ratios and shadows in drawing. She has a talent for drawing. It’s just something she has within her.

Each person was born with a talent. Something they are inherently great at. It’s a little perk. Our own personal one up.

Every talent is different. Every person carries out their talent in different ways.

Sometimes talents are extremely outward like singing. Sometimes they’re not so noticeable.

Having a talent is easy. There’s no work involved in being talented.

The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

Now would Michael Phelps have won a gazillion Olympic medals purely based on talent? Uh. Nope!

Did I get scholarships and win competitions just because my vocal chords behave themselves better than someone else’s? Definitely Nope!

A talent is basically like being given a seed.

It doesn’t move, it doesn’t breathe, walk or talk. It’s just a thing that exists. Organically!

The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability Now let’s talk about ability.

Ability is a totally different beast. Ability requires movement. Ability breathes, moves, walks, and talks.

Broken down ability means able to.

What are you able to do?

IE: I am ABLE to clean the house. My waist bends – my legs move. My brain knows what to do. I still don’t do it… but I suppose that’s for another post.

Now let’s play a little with the concept of ability. I believe that ability is a product of the mind.

Catching my drift? We are able to do whatever we’ve made up our mind to do.

[Don’t get stupid and be like… I still can’t pick up 300 pounds even though I think I can. We’re all smarter than that here… and that just makes you a cynic].

Ability comes from deep within. It’s a mindset. A permission or perseverance you set in your intentions.

Just like that mother who pushed the 3 wheeled umbrella stroller everyday back and forth from daycare so that she could work and provide for her family. Or the young woman who even through the winter walked well over 3 miles to work. It was a decision they made. They chose to have the ability and tenacity to get a job done.

Now let’s couple ability and talent together.

Talent alone breeds no results. Talent coupled with ability?? Produces the most beautiful results.

Many times however our talent is hindered by our own ability.

You love to ski. And you’re a natural at it. And then you moved to Texas… where there is no such thing as skiing. There is a barrier between your talent and your ability right?

Let’s go a little deeper. You are an incredibly talent water colorist, painter, artist. But you work in a 9-5 job that’s more like a never ending job. It’s sucked out all of your creativity and has left you colorless. You are literally not ABLE to create.

Or you’re like me. A mom, a wife, an employee, a business owner, a grocery shopper, a snot and butt wiper, a friend, a daughter, a niece, a sister and there is no ABILITY left for you to invest in your talent.

Or you’re also like me and you think you’re too fat to do that thing you used to love, or you no longer have the confidence, or skills, or your rusty, or you think that your day has come and gone to grow your talents. You know… people grow and change. Right?

So you shut the door. You intentionally tell yourself that you are not ABLE to cultivate or invest time and energy into your talent.

If you’re a mom… you get it… completely. I have 30 fingers and 30 toes to take care of above and beyond my own fingers and toes. What I want very rarely rises to the top.

But often what happens is that we begin to BELIEVE that we are no longer ABLE. We tell ourselves that we no longer possess the ABILITY to put into motion what we have in our talent basket.

I did it. I even wrote an entire article when I first started this blog about how I wasn’t following my dreams. And that I’d likely never sing or do musical theatre ever again!

But then I did it. As I sat in my son’s audition for his summer musical I was prodded. Why aren’t you auditioning? Well why wasn’t I? Because I didn’t think I had the ability. As a matter of fact, I walked out of call backs sure I hadn’t been casted. I no longer possessed the ABILITY that made my talent come to life.

But I was cast. As a principle player none the less. In the role I was sure I had not gotten. And throughout the rehearsal processes, I doubted that I would be able to do this!

My inner monologue sounded more like a scolding mother who could’t stop telling her child how ugly, fat, stupid, and worthless they were.

It wasn’t about talent. It never was. I was talented. That was a given. Every rehearsal was about ability. I left often feeling very down trodden. I knew I wasn’t 20 anymore.

This was incredibly, horrifyingly, exhaustingly SCARY! I wasn’t sure I had the ABILITY.

The Powerful Difference Between Talent and Ability

Since the launch of this blog, the breakdown of a trusted friendship, a lay off, and the creation of a business, I’ve done A LOT of incredibly SCARY and BOLD things.

I’ve sent some gutsy emails. Written some very vulnerable articles. And I’ve had some amazing successes!

During this time a friend and faithful reader encouraged me with this quote from “We Bought A Zoo” –

I had been living on this quote. That all it took was 20 seconds. It was my new life motto. And it still is. In fact I did several scary things just today. Because it only takes 20 seconds. And most of the time good things happen. I’ve never regretted being brave.

It was just before curtains up on opening night. I was at home putting on stage makeup and strapping on the Fort Knox of body slimmers I wore under my costumes.

{Side note: That took more than one person to successfully execute and a crap ton of corn starch… I’ll leave it at that!}

Inside- I was literally crumbling. I was completely freaking out. What was thinking? I was not ABLE to do this!! I’m just a mom with a talent. I’m not this performer that I’m about to dress up to become. I am not that person anymore. I can sing… that’s it! I really should just go back to butt and nose wiping and grocery shopping.

Let’s just face it. I was a hot mess! A ROYALLY hot mess. I held it together. Put my stage face on- literally- and went and put on a show. I was so nervous throughout the entire show that I couldn’t pee, couldn’t eat, couldn’t smile, couldn’t cry… I was freaking out. I didn’t have the confidence to do this! We finished the show, did our cast bows and ran off the stage… and then I fell into a THOUSAND pieces!

I shook and cried and laughed and emoted ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Frankly, it was embarrassing as heck. I mean what lead performer doesn’t know they can do it? Right?

But in that moment, I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions. I CAN do this! Look what I was ABLE to do. Did I really just do that? Was I really on stage again? Had I just sang in front of all of those people for the first time in 15 years! I had done something really HARD. I had taken my talent and coupled it with ability. I opened a closed door.

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How? I had 20 seconds of insane courage. I made a decision to audition. That’s it. Really. That was all I did!

I allowed my head to believe in my heart. 

You see that is the difference between talent and ability. Believe that you can. And then put it into action.

I knew I needed to do something to mark this triumph. Something that would remind me of the day that I chose to be ABLE.

So what’s a girl to do when she’s done something worth celebrating? Why…shop of course! I had recently joined the affiliate program for a sweet handmade charms company called Charmed Collections.

Two Name/Family Tree/Compass
*affiliate link

Charmed Collections makes the most adorable custom necklaces, bracelets, and charms. The website does a much better explanation of the custom process. I’ll let them say it for themselves!

Charmed Collections Silversmiths
And they are super adorable!
Each piece is handstamped by us to provide personalized, meaningful keepsakes. Every piece in our shop tells a story and that story begins in our studio. We use a powerful combo of blow torches, 1500 degree kilns, acid baths, power tools, metal cutters the size of your face, three-ton presses, and the finest hammering equipment available to create such delicate pieces. Don’t get us wrong, while it’s heavy duty work, we still get a thrill out of working with real gemstones like princesses. 
Well when I saw the necklace that says… I Can Do Hard Things! I knew I had found my soul piece. The ladies at Charmed Collections were amazing. They were incredibly supportive of my journey and offered to make a custom necklace that would represent my experience and continue to be a symbol of fearlessness and courage. They even added the custom piece that says 20 seconds of courage and specific colored beads to the necklace that were representative of the show.
But what impressed me even more was receiving the package. Every step of unwrapping the box was lovely.
Charmed Collections
They even send the product with care instructions and a microfiber cloth for cleaning and maintenance. They thought of everything!
So I think from here forward when you mount the insurmountable, or you fight your fear and win, or you tell yourself that all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, or you want to mark a momentous occasion like I did with a return to the stage, this is absolutely the way to do it!
Because if it’s around your neck or your wrist it’s a constant reminder. For me, I’ll remember everyday that I CAN do hard things IF I pull up my big girl ABILITY pants and get out there and try! 
Boss Tip: How cool would it be if you knew a struggling friend or better yet a triumphing friend and you purchased them a symbol of their courage! For me this will be a gift that gives on and on and on!
Charmed Collections
*this product given as a gift at no cost to me

It was an incredible gift and I will forever cherish this! Thank you so much Leisha and Charmed Collections. Now hurry over to their website. Click on the empowerment tab and find your life symbol!

Charmed Collections
Compass/Hope/Stackable Rings/I Can Do Hard Things/Family Tree/Forever in My Heart
Now I challenge you! Go out and be ABLE! Don’t just be talented… be ABLE! Or even better combine your talent and ability and literally become unstoppable!

You got this!
*This post includes affiliate links. Which means at no cost to you, I may earn a very small return on any purchases you make for suggesting these products. We do not suggest or review products we do not use and love and we feel confident that you are also going to adore these products and companies. If you love our blog and you love these products then supporting two small businesses at once is an incredible gift you can give to the author and product creator. 

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  1. Love this!

    I want to add an additional piece, too: Just because you don’t have a natural talent for something doesn’t mean you can’t do it if you work hard and perservere. You remember in high school how I “couldn’t run.” I was downright terrified of it. A few years ago, after working out pretty consistently for a few years, I thought perhaps I could give it a shot if I followed a training plan. And now look at me! I run multiple half marathons a year!!! I’m not winning races or going to the Olympics – I don’t have a natural talent to be fast – but I trained, I was patient, I saw the transformation in my body to be able to do things I never thought possible. And it’s been one of the best things that has ever happened.

    My 20 seconds of bravery were downloading the Couch to 5K app to my iPhone 4 years ago.

    1. That’s awesome! And yes… that’s a whole different facet. Another post maybe? About the difference between talent and activism! I’m also brewing something on the idea of knowing your why. Which could tie in! Love you Jen! Thanks for reading!

    1. Hi Natalie, All of the content on my blog is original to my real life experiences. I think it’s so important to be completely authentic. Even if it means that I look completely vulnerable. We don’t share the real enough. That’s why I committed to talking about all the ways I’m really not together.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I have never though about talent and ability that way but it makes a lot of sense! It’s so easy to forget we have talents when we see others doing wonderful things that we do not possess the natural talent to do but we all have our own gifts and we can cultivate those gifts so much better if we enable ourselves to just go do it! I love this line: “But often what happens is that we begin to BELIEVE that we are no longer ABLE. We tell ourselves that we no longer possess the ABILITY to put into motion what we have in our talent basket.”

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