Is Talent Real?

The professor of flute invited the Jerusalem Academy's dean, a clarinet player, in for a masterclass.  Usually, he is really insightful, but this time, he tore apart the entire class.  I had the blessing (or was it a curse?) to play for this man.

Let me talk about the guy who went before me.  His name was Cheng Hsuan, a bassoon player.  He played some piece I am unfamiliar with, but he couldn't get past the first 3 seconds of him playing without the guy yelling at him.  The dean even at one point yelled, "PLAY THE FUCKING NOTES RIGHT!!!!"  

I had to play next, and because of what happened right before me, naturally I was pretty frightened.  However, I managed to get through my whole piece without him saying much.  He then did some other work with me that had nothing to do with anything. (He ended up just trying to sell me some holy water to tape onto my instrument, claiming it would make me sound better.  Who knew that the dean of a respected school could also be involved with MLM schemes...)

Afterwards, he told me, "keep playing, you are talented so you will make it."  Normally, one would be happy, but I was kind of insulted.  Let's go back about a month before this whole incident.

It was the beginning of September, and I decided to start practicing for an audition.  I woke up early every day, practiced for a minimum of 5 hours a day, and dedicated my entire life to perfecting my music.  I did this for a month and a half, and I continue to do this now.  I worked on every single passage slowly, and brought it up to tempo to make sure everything was perfect.

For all my hard work to be undermined by the comment of, "you're talented" felt insulting.  Am I practicing this hard on my instrument, literally only stopping when I bleed, just to have someone tell me that I did something that I could have been born with?

I am not talented.  I am hard working.

Why am I talking about music in this?  I would say that my ventures in yoyo have gone very well.  I would also say, that for someone who started my instrument a lot later than everyone else in the business, that I am doing very well as well (the audition I took, I ended up being runner up, only losing to someone who is well into his career, and hasn't been in school for decades.)  I was good at skateboarding when I did that, and I graduated with a 3.77, starting as a triple major, ending up double from UCLA.  

Am I trying to brag?  No.  I am using my own life's examples to bring the concept of talent to question.  I believe this:

Talent is not real.

How come most people who are "talented" at one thing, are hardly ever only talented at that one thing?  Here are some examples of this, yoyo or not.

John Chow: National yoyo contest, 3rd place 1A.  I went to high school with him.  He was also good at breakdancing, and went to MIT.

Mark Mangarin:  Bioinformatician.  I believe that he has the highest skill cap in the United States at yoyoing.  At the bare minimum, he is a very good yoyoer.

Isaac Schultz:  Unknown yoyoer, but has a solid understanding of yoyo.  Was featured in From the Top as a high schooler, and now attends Rice University for bassoon performance (the Harvard of music.)

Sid Seed:  Yoyo innovator, hiding from the rest of the community.  Now a high profile collaborator, making videos for high profile clients.

Peter Peng:  Better known as Doublelift, is considered the best AD player in western League of Legends, salary estimated at 1 million USD.  Was also a top student at his high school.  

Andy Dinh:  Better known as Reginald, was the team captain of the eSports team Team Solo Mid.  Became the head, and is now the CEO of the largest League of Legends, and other teams, Team Solo Mid.  His estimated net worth is 1.5 million.  

I could go on and on, and I skipped over many very obvious people, I know.  But the point is, most "talented" people are hardly ever only good at one thing.  So what is it that makes them better at most things than average people?

I believe that it is the mindset difference.

These people are hard wired to only succeed, and will not stop until they reach their goal.  Their drive, mindset, and hard work lead them to better, and faster results.  

My pianist for that masterclass started arguing with me because I told her this, after the teacher called me "talented."  A week later, my pianist's roommate also confronted me about not believing in talent, and asked "If a teacher has 10 students, and they all practice the same amount, how come some are better than the other ones?"

  1. No one will ever practice the same amount as someone else, ever.
  2. Their mindset, approach, and thinking will always be different

That is where the talented people are separated from the "untalented."  They work their asses of behind the scenes, think differently, and aim to be the best that they can be.

My name is Tyler Hsieh, and I don't have talent. 

Tyler Hsieh