My uncle Joe was a metal-smoothing wizard. Most of the men on Mom’s side of the family were car mechanics of one sort or another, and Joe was good at troubleshooting engines and fast at replacing various engine components, but where he really shined was body work. He took it as a personal affront if someone suggested filling in mangled, crumpled fender with Bond-o. Joe didn’t just believe in pounding a metal fender out, he wanted to take the time to smooth the metal back into the shape it had been. He rolled and tapped it until you couldn’t tell there had ever been anything amiss, before saying it was ready for primer and painting. Watching him work on a car’s quarter panel was like watching true magic.
Joe is my mom’s baby brother and only four years older than me. As a teen-ager working in a body shop, he did a better job coaxing the crumpled car body parts back into shape than men who had been doing the job for decades. But people outside the body shop didn’t seem to value it as a talent. It was something he had a knack for, they might say. Or it was a skill you could make a decent living at. But it wasn’t really talent.
A lot of those same people insisted that I had Talent, with a capital-t. Because I was clever with words. I could think quickly on my feet, recalls enormous amount of data, construct compelling arguments, and paint vivid pictures with words. They were certain that god had given me these gifts and intended me for great things.
I wasn’t so sure… Continue reading Talent doesn’t mean what you think it means