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There is no talent

Written by Magnus Holm

I’m good with computers. At least compared with others at my age. And believe me, I’ve heard it a lot: “Wow, you really have a talent there!” Well, apparently I do have a talent for computers. Or …?

Let’s try an experiment: Take all of my knowledge of computer related matters and divide it by the number of hours I’ve spent in front of my computer. That’s my “speed” of learning. Then let’s do the same with some of my friends, who are not so “technically inclined”. Whose score would be largest? If I have a talent for computers, it would make sense that I learn it faster than others, right?

Truth is, I believe I would have scored far lower than “regular” people. I’ve spent tons of hours in front of my computer and very often I don’t learn anything new or create something different. Heck, I’ve probably been “wasting” more hours than many non-technically inclined have spent in total. That doesn’t sound like a talent?

I believe that there is no such thing as talent.

There is only passion. I have a passion for computers, computer science, programming, creating things, sharing things, helping others and so on. That’s why I’m willing to spend tons of hours on it: Because it’s fun; because I like it; because it’s what I want to do. That’s why I decided to do it.

In fact, I remember my first encounter with programming quite well. My father has always been working with system management, and I never really realized what he actually did on a day-to-day basis. It was all very distant to me. However, one day he had to write a small application for a client, and he ended up doing at least some parts of it at home. I didn’t quite understand what the program was supposed to do, or how Dad managed to make it do so, but I would just sit right next to him and watch him work. Not asking questions or trying to understand anything (he was working after all), but simply watching was interesting enough for me.

And that’s what triggered my passion. Suddenly I started experimenting with FrontPage, HTML, JavaScript (mostly copy-pasting snippets from other places), PHP and MySQL. I was constantly looking for a better free hosting service, and looking all over the internet for PHP scripts I could install and enhance. How I loved HotScripts! Those were some years full of experimenting and fun, without a clear understanding about how the technologies worked (both together and apart).

The great thing about starting with this while you’re young is that nobody judges you. You are supposed to just having fun, and even if something is way out of your league they won’t burst your bubble, but rather let you continue experimenting.

As soon as you grow up, people will have expectations about you. “You can’t sing.” “You want to paint? Just give up already!” “Skating? Man, you’re wasting your time!” They might not say it like that, but if you’re doing something beyond people’s expectation, you will be met by skepticism. People say that it’s good to “try something new”, but the moment the “something” is considered difficult, you’re “wasting your time” instead.

You will look around and find other people at your age who are way better than you at playing guitar, skating or singing. How can you possibly be as good as them? They must have a talent for it! But in reality, all they did was starting earlier than you or have been spending more time doing it.

It’s so easy to give up; it might almost seem like the whole world is against you. Well, forget about the rest of the world. There is no such thing as talent, and in the end you will end up as skilled as your “talented” heros.

Simply by following your passion.

— Magnus Holm