One of the most important things I learned at Berklee School of Music is the difference between talent and skill. The lesson seemed to come at a perfect time for me in my life. I was about to launch my first company, hire a team - all while struggling to keep up with the amazing drummers and percussionists that we're surrounding me in the classroom.
The lesson was taught by once Extreme and current Dream Theater drummer, Mike Mangini. He wrote the two words on the whiteboard and continued to ask each of us to name some of our talents. And then some of our skills.
The lesson was learned in the intersection of the data. What is something that constitutes solely as a talent but not a skill? And vice versa? What's the difference in the two words?
Talent is defined as "a natural aptitude or skill." The keyword here is natural. These are traits you are born with. In my case in that classroom, I might not have been born with natural rhythm, while many of the talented individuals around me certainly had that advantage.
Skill is defined as "the ability to do something well; an expertise." In its definition, it doesn't mention how this expertise is obtained. It can be concluded based on how we use this term in everyday life, that a skill is learned. We practice to become skillful at things. However, a skill certainly can stem from a talent you were born with.
So Mike Mangini went on to teach us that our talents might not enable us to accomplish something at any given moment, but harnessing our skills can eventually. The idea is that nothing trumps hard work and dedication to a craft.
I have revisited this simple lesson more in my entrepreneurial life than any other (and I went through a brutal 5-year University program). It applies to life all of the time and in so many ways.
As a manager, you often must consider which is the better hire - the recent college graduate with a lot of natural talent and potential or the seasoned veteran that has a great deal of skills that stem from experience. It's always a tough call, but it all comes down to people and personalities.
What are some of your natural talents that you don't fully take advantage of? On the contrary, what are some of the skills that you have learned that you feel you don't need?