A friend recently emailed me asking to comment upon natural “talent” vs “acquired talent”. I honestly find it hard to differentiate.
It’s tough to distillate your abilities into natural ones and acquired ones.
Vincent Van Gogh is a terrific painter, but he couldn’t identify this himself until almost 30. When asked about whether his skill was natural, he always said, he was never natural and had to toil a lot. Lot in the grandest sense.
In his letters he wrote to his brother Theo, he constantly mentioned how difficult he would find just drawing and sketching. Forget about colors.
Yet, 10 years later, and now a century later, his paintings are one of the costliest art pieces ever sold in the history of mankind. His seven paintings in this list alone were sold for over 700 million current dollars.
On the contrary, I know an Indian batsman who is considered the God of Cricket. Sachin Tendulkar. He was a child prodigy. At 16, he was the youngest Indian ever to debut a Test match in cricket. Over time, now, he has the highest runs ever made by any person playing cricket in all formats together.
Vincent’s talent appears to be an acquired one and Sachin’s appears natural. Just appears. But it isn’t so. And even if it is, it doesn’t matter much.
What’s phenomenal is that they believed in just 3 things.
1) Identify what you love
2) Do it passionately until you succeed.
And sorry, though you might be tempted to know, but there was never a third option.
He was clearly a genius. He craved just to paint. He started painting pretty late in his 20’s. In the first 8 years of his last decade of life, he created over 2000 paintings. In his last 2 years of life, he was in a lunatic asylum where he further painted another 100 which are now a part of the most celebrated post-impressionist works ever. You need to stand in a huge line to watch them here.
He lived only 37 years. But I guess he lived it all.
What I find amazing about him is two-fold;
1) He was in an insane rush to create so many paintings as if he somehow knew he’d die eventually. Wait, we too know we will die eventually, though we may not like to remember that fact.
2) He was absolutely irreplaceable in his era. Yes, there were better artists with finer brush stroking ability, but his mad-rush to create 2000 paintings, was, is and will be unmatched ever. He was the best in his business.
He died penniless and was cremated in the ground.
I reckon, roughly 900,000 incredibly rich people died on the same day or in the same year or in the same decade. They were all cremated in the ground too.
But unfortunately, since they couldn’t take with them, they all left back their money.
Vincent, since he had nothing, left back a legacy.
Now, read my title backwards. You’ll surely agree better.