Is Innate Talent a Myth?

Is there really such a thing as innate talent? Are we born into a fitness caste system, or do we control our own destiny?

Innate Talent - Cards we are dealt...

Not many people are dealt a royal flush in terms of health…we all have to work at it to some degree.

Many will applaud the hard-working athlete that claws their way to the top, while others will stand in awe at the talented athletes that seem to effortlessly win their events or sports.

What portion of their success to you think is attributable to genes and what is a product of their hard work?

I still laugh when I overhear people talk about Kenyan distance runners, as if they win because of their genes.

Rarely do these discussion include any of the facts:

  • They usually run twice a day almost every day...
  • Their runs are on hilly terrain at an elevation of 7,000+ feet above sea level...
  • Their moderate diets include mostly vegetables; fruits, eggs, milk, and a small amount of meat. 

What do you think contributes more to their running success? 

There’s an interesting human performance paper by Noah Beardsley that studies the training of a small group of runners from Kalenjin, Kenya.

While I don’t deny the genetic differences that make us individuals, I think we put too much stock in the affects of genes and not enough stock in the merits of hard work.

We’ll likely never be able to truly decipher the point where talent stops and where hard work begins. As we look down the path of our fitness plan, each of us was dealt a different hand: our starting point. We’ll each set different goals and take a different route to get there. And while we all like to look at those envious athletes and swim suit models and say, “They’re just lucky”, we’ll never really know if that’s the case or not. Who knows what they were dealt and how they’ve played their hand?

It’s easy to focus on our differences and make a blanket excuse for ourselves such as, “Running just isn’t for me”; “I just have a bigger frame”; or “All people in my family are large”.

Yes, we’re all different, but everyone is capable of improvement in some area or habit. Work hard to change those habits and you might just be the one that changes that family stereotype and empowers your future generations.

We all have some genetic momentum and hurdles to deal with in life. Some may have been dealt a pair of deuces while others were dealt a full house. What we do from that point on is up to us. We can control the effort we put into our health and fitness habits and the priority we place on improvement. Work hard at being better tomorrow than you are today. Regardless if there's such a thing as innate talent, our long-term success depends on how we play the cards we were dealt.

You can find Innate Talent and other motivational fitness information in the October 2006 article of The Bullhorn.

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