talent and responsibilityJanuary was a difficult month for lovers of the Arts. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey… these are only a few of the individuals we have lost since the calendar switched over to January 2016. Yes, they are celebrities, and we didn’t know them personally, but their immense talent and skill at their given craft made us feel like we did. We grieve their loss because we feel as if we have lost something ourselves: perhaps memories of another time that were enhanced by their art.

Talent and Responsibility

When Alan Rickman, a beloved actor who transcended generations, passed on January 14th at the age of 69, I stumbled across a quote: “Talent is an accident of genes, and a responsibility.”

These words slammed into me like a brick wall, because, for me, 2015 was an unraveling of the beliefs I once held around creativity and talent. I think it’s fairly common: at some point in time, maybe once you’ve passed your twenties, you begin to take stock of your life. You look around and make sure your values are aligned with the person you’ve become. You check that you’re surrounding yourself with people that lift you up and not bring you down. You feel a twinge of responsible apprehension instead of diving head first into situations or projects. It’s a phenomenon that has rippled through to everyone I know at some point. For me, deconstructing the concept of talent and exploring the definition of creativity was part of taking stock.

Some questions I asked myself: Do I have what it takes to chase my dreams? Do I really want to? Am I properly prepared to help foster the talent of my children as they chase their dreams? And ultimately, what will happen if I fail at the tasks at hand?

“Talent is an accident of genes, and a responsibility.” Alan Rickman

I suppose Rickman’s words align well with my long-held belief that we are all born with a gift: something unique to us that no other person can do as well. Some of us are blessed with a beautiful singing voice, others with the ability to paint like Van Gogh from a young age; an unmistakable talent that is plain for all to see. Many, however, if not most of us, gradually uncover our talent. It’s not as obvious to us, or perhaps it’s not something artistic like we often default to. But it’s there.

The Responsibilities of Fostering Talent

After spending time with Alan Rickman’s words and exploring them, it seemed that there is much to learn from that simple quote. Today I’m sharing some ideas.

1. It’s our job to help others see their talents.

Whether or not you believe talent is an accident or an act of something/someone greater, is it our responsibility to foster that talent? Is it our job as parents, friends, and colleagues to help others recognize? Imagine living in a world where we openly share with those around us what we admire about them. Perhaps that’s part of our jobs as citizens, friends, family, parents — to help others see the talents they are blind to.

2. The talent spectrum is an illusion.

Irving Berlin’s famous quote, “Talent is only the starting point,” feels like a natural extension of Rickman’s words. We know of course that David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Natalie Cole didn’t reach levels of success in their fields simply because of talent. No, they honed their crafts through hard work and discipline, building their skills to reach the level of mastery they finally achieved.

While it may seem like some are born with MORE talent than others at a similar task, that’s neither here nor there. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have; it matters what you do with it.

3. Talent leads to purpose.

The definition of talent according to Merriam-Webster:

talent: a special ability that allows someone to do something well

When we begin to use our special ability often and work hard to build on that talent, I believe we are more clearly led to our purpose. Talent leads us to purpose.

On a big scale, I think of celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio or Christy Turlington Burns — their talents led them to become important figures in solving global issues. This is one example of the many ways our talents can lead us to our purpose.

What are your thoughts on the Alan Rickman quote?
Do you have anything to add?