Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does Talent Always Achieve Its Potential?

"Closely allied to indomitable American individualism, for one, is American optimism. Self-made men and women can and do shape their successful futures, we believe".

This HuffPost article* points out what many Americans believe, that destiny is shaped by the individual rather than the circumstances. Many Americans believe that life is the ultimate do-it-yourself project. One's future is a self-fulfilling prophecy that one shapes, that no other person or set of circumstances or opportunities can kill.

It is a fatalistic point of view that I cannot always agree with, because I think a person's spirit can be destroyed and our future is dependent on our circumstances and the relationships we have, how others treat us and whether they look up to us or are condescending. A lot of our future depends on whether others like us or not and whether they can open doors for us or not.

Children are dependent on parents opening doors for them. Opportunities aren't existent for everyone. We all have different circumstances and are dependent on the kindness of strangers as well as our families. It's not the information we have but how we use it that matters. It's true that we open most of our own doors, but we can't always choose which doors those are. In important ways, we are dependent on others to shape our futures.

Talent for anything must be nurtured. It can be squelched, I believe, as a plant that isn't watered will die a prematurely early death. "Use it or lose it" is a phrase that applies to talent, language-learning and our optimistic spirits. It's obvious to me that talent is not going to determine everyone's future. Talent has to be nurtured constantly in an atmosphere of encouragement until it becomes like big, like a strong tree that can stand up on its own.

As I grow older and wonder in awe how our needs and bodies change as we mature, it is obvious that we ourselves are the best to know what we need at any particular time. It's one thing to know what we need and another to be able to get it, at any age. It's also hard to ask for help to get what we need, if getting that help takes us outside our comfort zone, whether it's foreign travel, investing dollars wisely or taking a big career risk.

What do you think? Can a talent or innate gift die if it isn't nurtured? Some say no. I say yes. Soon I will write about educational psychology and the importance of self-fulfilling prophecies in an educational setting. Please leave your comments.

*The Huffington Post, "AIG and the 'Road Not Taken,'" Brian Shott

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