The ABCs of Talent

        My wife has a saying I like: “There’s no such thing as talent.”

        I always say that’s ’cause she’s been hanging out with me all these years, but I’m just kidding. What she means, and I think she is correct, is talent is not innate; it is learned. Every good musician you see has invested a lot of time along the way.

        I had a motto in med school; live by the ABCs. If I only reviewed the material once, I’d make a “C.” Twice was good for a”B,” and three times through would net an “A.”  I was an “A, B” kinda guy. If I’d been smarter or had a thirty-six hour day, I coulda made all “As.” At least I didn’t settle for “Cs.” I wasn’t brilliant, but who’d want a Doc who was content to be average? 

        My music has been the same. I tape all my lessons and I am in the process of my second review. In keeping with the theme here, I would rate myself as a grade “B” mando pro. The guys at the top of the heap like my pals Darin Aldridge, Wayne Benson and “Cuz” Alan Bibey need not fear for their jobs, they are really good; “A+.” Heck, the little Moore Brothers can already outplay old Doc, and I’m proud of ‘em for it.

        I don’t know what all this says about writing though; there the ABC rule seems not to apply. I know in “The Mandolin Case” I musta gone through thirty revisions before I presented to an editor, and it morphed several more times before it made it to print. Maybe as a writer I am slower or less talented. Perhaps it is just a more difficult discipline; I don’t know.

        I am sure of this, though; the book world belongs to the persistent. I’m making slow but steady progress on “Acquisition Syndrome.” Look for it sometime in 2012.

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “The ABCs of Talent”

  1. Tom Bb Says:

    I’ve also said the same kind of thing as your Marfar. But on the other hand, when I think of the ones that are in that blistering good category, there was something there for them from the start. Some of us may have decided at some point we really liked the music and we want to be as involved as possible and spend quite a few hours keeping up. And ending up with some very passable chops. But those other guys and gals knew it early on. Something clicked for them like nothing else would. And they sorta HAD to do it or else. Maybe that’s a little bit of what the elusive “talent” is about.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Tom Bb,

      I think you are right. Talent can be learned but you can’t teach genius. For the overwhelming majority of us humans, finding some talent is the best we’re gonna do.

      I wasn’t a genius, but I sure was thankful for what little bit of talent I developed along the way. It kept me from having to work for a living.

      For me, I had to see patients. I loved it right from the get-go and had that feeling you describe; I had to do it.

      Dr. B

  2. Smitty Pres of Neuse River Says:

    Doc, loved the application of the ABC’s, sound so much like school. We are getting ready to head that way Wednesday. I will touch base soon.

  3. Laura Best Says:

    “…the book world belongs to the persistent.” A lot of truth there, and something that is best learned early on. I think a certain amount of talent needs to be there in the beginning, but it comes down to what we do to help nuture that talent. Writing/publishing does take time and persistance.

  4. newt221 Says:

    I think we are gifted…But, we need to take that “gift” and “work it” to be talented…

    Waiting for another exerpt of the book to show on the blog…

  5. Rick Says:

    Actually, I think there IS such a thing as talent; God-given even. How else does one account for Chris Thiele on mandolin? Alison Krauss’ fiddle and voice? Tommy Emmanuel on acoustic guitar? The somgwriting of Mac McAnally?

    Doc, no offense, but you can listen to your lessons all you want, but you ain’t ever gonna be as good as Chris. And, don’t tell anyone, but I could write 1,000 songs and never be as good as Mac. Ain’t fair, but some folks are just sprinkled with the magic dust. The rest of us can practice til our hands bleed, but we won’t rise to their level.

    Just how it is, and always has been. And I’m okay with that!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Rick,

      To me those guys fall in the genius category. And I agree; regular folks with a little bit of learned talent can not approach that.

      Let’s see, where’s my stethoscope?

      Dr. B

      • Rick Says:

        Sorry for the typos above… I speak fluent Typo-nese.

        I call it the “It” factor; some people have “It,” and it doesn’t come from practice, (though practice is what helps all of us reach our potential). The blessed few just have more potential (see: innate talent) than the rest of us, lol.

        Wish we were all born with truly equal tabula rasas, and each of us could become a virtuoso just through hard work… but it ain’t so. We can still have fun on the journey, right?

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Rick,

    I’m so fluent in Typo-nese I didn’t even notice.

    I agree with ya. The first time I heard Alison Krauss I though she had it for sure.

    And you are too dang modest, ’cause I know for a fact yout talent level is very high I.Q.

    And as far as I know I am the world’s best physician bluegrass fiction writer; that is a good enough journey for lots of fun.

    Dr. B


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