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Davidpotter

How do you feel about being called talented?

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I'm sure most people here have been called talented before by those around you so I was wondering if you feel like your hard work isn't recognized because people people attribute it to a natural gift? I understand that people don't mean it that way but I personally would rather be told that I am skilled in what I do because it has taken me years of hard work to get to where I am. I also feel that by using the word talent people are making these skills seem like something you have to born good at in order to do it. When my work is hiring I tell people I know and they say things like, "I'm not talented like you" or "I'm not artistic enough" and it drives me nuts because people don't seem to connect pottery with a skill that can be learned.

This is just a subject that rolls around my head while I lay down at night and I feel that it was time to get other people's opinions, thanks!

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I think context and intent is everything here. If a peer says I’m talented I would take it as a compliment, they would know the  years it takes to make decent pots. If it’s said by someone in a slap dash manner then I would just take is as ignorance but I wouldn’t be offended. My job to educate. Talent, it’s a starting place.

terrim8 and GEP like this

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I think people mean it as a compliment so I'd take is as it is without thinking too much about it.

I guess if you feel uncomfortable you could explain that for you it's more a matter of skill and like Min said, educate them to your views on that.

But I wonder if people really see a big difference in those words to start with, or if they use it interchangeably to say they think your work is impressive...

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Agree that it all depends on who said it and how. Most of the time when I hear it, I can tell that the person is including hard work and commitment as part of the package. Every once in a while, someone will say it in a backhanded way, with an "easy for you" implication. I've learned that those people are actually having an issue with themselves, not with me. If it's somebody I like, or is a regular presence in my life, I'll try to teach them about the hard work and commitment part. When I was teaching pottery classes, this was pretty common. If it's a stranger, or someone I don't like, I just forget about it. 

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So this post is a bit important to me. I have experienced this a lot with different things throughout my life and it did me a disservice most of the time until I later realized what talent is and isn't.

talent: the ability to start something and do reasonably well in the beginning stages. ex: you pickup a brush and paint a flower that is pretty decent the first try, or you take piano lessons and are able to play the beginning music pretty well.

skill: the ability to practice relentlessly until you are able to become really good at something, which people will then later credit to your talent. ** SEE MIN's better definition below. **

So some backstory. When I was growing up I was pretty good at beginning most things. I did a lot of art stuff,  I did some music and other things. I was able to enter almost any field rather quickly and do reasonably well. I was told I was "talented" many times. This boosted my ego and made me feel confident about a lot of things. However it didn't do me any good, because I was "talented" I never really put in the practice when things got hard. I would go back to something I could do more easily. Eventually I would not gain any progress and I would switch to something else. I repeated this same beginner to intermediate pattern over and over. The entire time being told by my parents that I was so talented and I can do anything I put my mind to.

Well anyone can do anything they put their mind to, that isn't some special "talent" that only some of us have. If you work hard, study and find someone to help you get through the rough spots; anyone can do most things well given enough time and relentlessness. 

So if someone tells me I am talented now, I just reply, "Hard work and practice, not talent." I think most people then pause and are slightly confused at why I just didn't take their praise. But in the end I am trying to persuade them to use different words. I have an example of this in my real life parenting that I am already adjusting my phrases with my son.

Story time:

I do a lot of polymer clay with my son. The kind you bake in the oven with lots of colors. We like making figurines from our imagination and then play with them later. I have made hundreds with him from age 2 to 6. About 4 months ago we were making some figures who had round balls as their body. I was rolling up balls and putting them together. He was trying to do the same. He looks up in frustration and says, "I am not TALENTED like you daddy. Can you make these nice round balls for me?!" I told him talent had nothing to do with it and that I had been playing with polymer clay since I was a kid his age. He didn't get it. I told him I wasn't going to make his clay balls for him. He got up in frustration and said he was going to go do something else. I made him come back and sit down. I plucked off 10 pieces of clay the same size and I said "Sit your butt down and make 10 balls the best you can. Start here and line them up as you go." So he started making balls. The first few were crappy because he had a bad attitude, but as he kept going he got better and better. By the 10th ball he had pretty much a perfect sphere. He looked up at me with awe. Like I had just unlocked the universe for him, and he was slightly peeved it was that easy to do in just 10 balls. I just said, "hard work and practice son." We sat there for another few hours and made more figurines. 

Of course I have to keep re-enforcing this habit all the time, he still attributes hard work to "talent" a lot of the time. His school still has the "talent show" instead of the "show us your skills" show. Mostly because everyone around him always attributes things to talent. It is rather frustrating. Even his teachers tell us that he is talented in some of his subjects at the parent conferences. Yea he is real talented in reading... is that even a thing? Mostly because his mother was in his room reading books to him for an hour every night before bed and we made him relentlessly sound out his words and learn phonics when he was in kindergarten. Nothing talented about it, hard work and a lot of arguments. 

The idea of being talented is much more romantic then just thinking about putting in a lot of hours, study and patience to get something right. I mostly attribute it to the optimism curve. 

Untitled.png.4d1f214581df4dfe8e3a138663af0582.png

This curve above is basically how we learn about things. Everything is awesome when you first start something you are "talented" at. You are making great progress and things are going epic. Your uninformed optimism gets you a long way. Then things get hard. You start to realize your going to have to make some decisions, you have informed pessimism. Common things you say are, maybe this isn't the stuff I want to do, maybe I should do something else instead, you start finding things to do instead of what you need to be doing to get better.

Eventually you hit crisis of meaning, this is where you either decide it wasn't for you, or you just put it off forever. Then you either crash and quit, or you realize you have to get good at something it requires more than talent, it requires hard work, study, practice and finding help from others further along in what you want to do. Finally you have informed optimism! 

I would say most people never make it to informed optimism. If someone says you are talented, they probably have never taken something all the way to informed optimism, because they would know that it isn't talent, but hard work that go you to where you are! I feel slightly sorry for these people as they probably are sad they never had any talents!

So yea. They mean well, but change their thinking! 

 

Edited by Joseph F
spelling and grammar
GEP, Chris Campbell, What? and 8 others like this

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Great post Joseph!

 

I usually get comments from students, whether it be on the potter's wheel, or sketching something out.  They'll say something along the lines of "How did you do that?!", or "How can you do that so fast/ well?!"  My response is usually, "Because I've done it a 'few' times before..."  I tell them, that contrary to what they might think, when parents, teachers, coaches, etc. say "Practice makes perfect", they actually mean it.  Nobody magically gets better after doing something once.

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Joseph, you bring up the practice of the “celebration of mediocrity” that I find as being so prevalent in our society today. Parents praising kids just for trying, regardless of the outcome. Drives me nuts. Glad to read you are not one of those parents. :)

I agree with most of what you wrote except your definition of skill. While it might be a skill to practice relentlessly I would call that definition you wrote as perseverance.  And perseverance is what it takes to become highly skilled in a field.

Joseph F and terrim8 like this

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10 minutes ago, Min said:

I agree with most of what you wrote except your definition of skill. While it might be a skill to practice relentlessly I would call that definition you wrote as perseverance.  And perseverance is what it takes to become highly skilled in a field.

Well said! I agree. It is hard to define skill! It is the culmination of many traits that get you to a point where you are very good at something. I am going to edit my post to reference your comment below. :D 

Dictionary.com defines as : the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., todo something well:

Edited by Joseph F

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I used to hate it when they lowered the bar with OOhs and AAhs over something that was at best mediocre and at worst, just plain bad. I guess teaching you had to find ways to challenge the hard working, and engage the talented, too lazy to work. In the mix there you also had those that would trudge along, never knowing until they had the Aha moment, and came out with something truly well done, and you knew it, they knew it, and everyone else knew it. That too felt great. I never went for talented, as in the long run I knew that hard working meant more, and many of my projects were not one day or a week, but several, from designing to detailed decoration meticulous construction, and well thought out glazing.  

When I was told "you're so talented, I could never do that. I would reply as so many have, that I have done it many times, and practice makes it easier. I would also tell those that would complain that something was hard or that they can't do that. . . "Can't can't do anything unless Can't tries. That would certainly confuse them.

 

best,

Pres

D.M.Ernst likes this

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When people tell me I am so artistic, talented, or it comes so easy to me I will say that isn't true.   That I have been involved in clay my whole life even got a degree in it and that I am always working, studying and researching.  Then I show them my book shelf cabinet overflowing with books.    I had a friend ask me to teach her to make tiles just like the ones I make.  I told her it took me twenty years to get to this point when do you want to start.    Denice

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Yeah when throwing a pot in front of a bunch of adults it is always. . . I wish I had a wheel to do that, it looks like so much fun, is that as large as you can make them, you make it looks so easy. I usually reply that throwing that pot for over 35 to 40 years it should look easy, but that is far from the reality of what it was like to get where I am today.

 

best,

Pres

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I have had several experiences that relate to this topic recently. yesterday some people helped me get the big lid on my oval. They later come into my house so I could show them what I am doing with all those kilns..electrics and raku kilns,  A friend of a friend looked at one of my orbs and said you are so talented to throw so thin and thru such a small hole. he was sincere and I appreciated his observations. I told him I used a tool and showed him my finger positions when coming over the shoulder. This guy was about 65 and remembered throwing in high school. So he had some knowledge of the skill.

Next, i was with some relatively new comers to ceramics and they went gaga over a potter's work in Italy. It was embarrassing how much they were oo-ing and aah-ing. The potter makes a living in Italy but they were more impressed with the gold luster that they had never seen before. They didn't understand any of her explanation regarding the mature glaze surface underneath the luster and how that effects the luster surface. Their compliments were hollow for this potter and she knew it. It was unfortunate. We also went to a 3D printing lab where ceramic experiments were happening. They had never heard of 3-d printing and again went crazy. Sometimes I have to shake my head. 

I agree with many of the previous posts and I agree with Pres about when they lowered the bar so everyone gets a gold star for being there. I use to tell my students , you don't get credit for showing up and taking up space. You have to get to work.

Marcia

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I am personally a huge fan of people staying curious and keeping this ability to marvel at things.

While sometimes it may feel like too much, as long as the compliments come from a sincere amazement, accepting it without judgement and then trying to share knowledge with them is the most important for me.

So many people are jaded or have been shut down in the past, I want to give a space for people to express their admiration.

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  I do not have any artistic talents, will never create a unique one of a kind, or have pieces in museums. My God given talents do not include those gifts. My talent seems to lie in solving technical problems, figuring out the chemistry, and my favorite most reliable skill: napping in my recliner. Currently working on a spritz that solves the age old problem of the upper two thirds drying three times faster than the lower third. Getting close!

Nerd

 

for those working on the forum, TY...

Marcia Selsor and Davidpotter like this

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On 9/29/2017 at 0:47 AM, glazenerd said:

  I do not have any artistic talents, will never create a unique one of a kind, or have pieces in museums. My God given talents do not include those gifts. My talent seems to lie in solving technical problems, figuring out the chemistry, and my favorite most reliable skill: napping in my recliner. Currently working on a spritz that solves the age old problem of the upper two thirds drying three times faster than the lower third. Getting close!

Nerd

 

for those working on the forum, TY...

You can't have a bowman without a fletcher.

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Guest JBaymore
On ‎9‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 10:45 AM, Min said:

Parents praising kids just for trying, regardless of the outcome. Drives me nuts.

Our grading standards for all of our ceramics department courses contain the statement that, "Exceptional effort without exceptional outcome is not the grounds for the awarding of an "A" grade."

best,

.....................john

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Guest JBaymore

Howard Gardner:  The Nine Intelligences....................

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465024335/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0465024335&linkCode=as2&tag=fnfbooks-20&linkId=IRO5AMU23F6HCF5C

Thomas Armstrong:  Multiple intelligences in learning............

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416607897/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1416607897&linkCode=as2&tag=fnfbooks-20&linkId=C7F5MAA2IOPYQ3SY

Match up "who you are" with "what you do" and "lots of persistence and hard work" (Malcolm Gladwell).... and you have instant "talent". ;)

best,

....................john

 

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Guest JBaymore
On ‎9‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 10:22 AM, Benzine said:

........."Practice makes perfect", ..........

I typically make what I feel is an important distinction about this common use phrase.   

Practice only makes what you do in that practice (repetition and mindful work) "perfect"... as in repeatable and reproducible with less and less effort and conscious adjustments.

If what you are practicing is not the true final outcome goal.... that what you are doing is reinforcing something other than that desired outcome.  And making it progressively harder and harder to effect a change on that activity, should you decide it needs to change.

So my take on that phrase is a bit different.    "Perfect practice makes perfect".   Reinforcing the "correct" (whatever that means to you) outcome.

best,

...................john

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Gardner et al are not without their critics.

Inadequate Evidence for Multiple Intelligences, Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence Theories - (PDF)

The Illusory Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Not Every Child Is Secretly a Genius

Etc., etc., etc.

Gardner's theories underpinned some of the fluffier end of the work I undertook when engaged with children with severe learning disabilities. It certainly made the staff feel better about what they could achieve, but the lack of evidence for the framework of belief was always a worry. The kids didn't care one way or the other; they were too busy having whatever fun they could.

Edited by Sputty
Orthographic oopsie.

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From personal experience:  always have and always will love an appreciate art: including the skill or craft required.

for those who remember Bob Ross: of PBS fame back in the 80's who developed a very specific technique of oil painting. He would paint a beautiful land scape on every show while detailing technique, explaining the medium, and illustrating theory. I bought his books, his brushes, his paints and watched faithfully every week: practicing while he taught. My 100th painting looked just as bad as my first: with the exception of minor improvements here and there. Sometimes you just have to accept your limitations.

A year ago, I bought my first wheel; although I do not have the time to use it a lot. In this case, my 100th bowl is far superior to my first. Then again, a potters wheel is just an inverted lathe: so the mechanics come more natural to me. Because of the mechanical component involved in throwing: it comes more natural to me. I was 30 when I tried to paint and 60 plus when I started throwing: the difference being is I do not care if I master it or not.  If I throw a good pot then great, if not: oh Mr. pugger I have another gift for you. I will get there in my time and in my own way.....eventually. My life continues rather I hear about being talented....or not.

i started learning about clay formulation several years back because crystalline glaze is a finicky *#]#^%*. I actually bought 25 pounds each of several different porcelains: all yielding different results in controlled tests. In the last five years I have probably clocked 2000 hours plus studying, researching, and blend experimenting.  It took me sixty years to find something I actually enjoy and cared enough about to invest time and money into mastering. No, I will never hear someone comment about being talented: but my self worth is not dependent upon the approval of others. 

I have never been called talented outside the realm of carpentry: my occupation. However, since my early teens I have lost count of the number of times I have been called a rebel. That term has been used to describe me in this forum a few times. I do not look at clay chemistry in the classical sense, and much of what has been written is wrong in my opinion. Then again, no one has ever studied it outside of mixing various bodies to see if they work or not. So when you start pointing these things out, it sorta rattles the long held traditional norms of the pottery trade.  Then again Taxtile Doat was considered a rebel in his time: but long after his time honored as a pioneer. So I guess I have to leave my rather large volume of notes and research papers behind: then take a dirt nap.

moral of my post: none really. You will get out of it whatever your current perceptions allow. Except to say: be content and let the passing of time teach you.

Tom

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Personally, I have no problem with being called talented. Smile and say thank you to the gene pool.

I know lots of people more creative than I am ... more talented than I am ... more original than I am ... more educated than I am ... more experienced than I am ... smarter than I am ... better connected than I am ... just all around more artistic than I am .

I also know many will not take that next step ... the one that promises total success or abject failure. F A I L U R E on a visible stage.

So ... take a deep bow if a hideous kiln load did not stop you ...  if a bad glaze just challenged you ... if an ancient technique intrigued you ... if a hideous craft show did not end you .., if a horrible day of throwing did not make you quit ... if a customers whining did not defeat you ... if your student's entitlement did not get the best of you.

Our talent might just be brutish persistence.

glazenerd, Benzine, Joy pots and 1 other like this

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Guest JBaymore
3 hours ago, Sputty said:

Gardner et al are not without their critics.

Absolutely true.  But those theories (which they are .... not laws) seem to hit a lot of the bases until we have something else to go on. 

best,

.....................john

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Chris: you get the post of the month award,  but you will have to glaze and fire it yourself. Still waiting for new parts to replace the new parts I just got. Even the best made plans produce nothing without action. I blame it on the self help books of the 70's: " I think, therefore I am."  Or this classic: "think and grow rich."  

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