You Can't Make it on Talent Alone

3415498843_dbf352b0a8_b When I was in High School I remember a few kids in my art classes who's work was just stunning. They were so talented and made it seem so easy. It was hard not to be either disheartened or jealous. I remember one day, my Art teacher telling us all that "you couldn't make it on talent alone". At the time I thought that was such a dumb statement.

But the reality of that statement started showing true through my years in art school (2 different ones even). We all started out bright eyed, eager, naive... along the way the crowd was thinned. Some people couldn't hack it, others lost interest. I remember one sad extreme example vividly.

There was a fellow student we'll call "Steve". Steve was so naturally gifted. His work was always praised, and seemed to need little reworking following our critiques. I would have bet he was on the fast track for success. Yet he started to miss some classes here and there. And soon he was absent more than present.  Rumors of alcoholism surfaced. And one day sitting on a bar stool at a local pub, I saw this first hand. He confessed he had no hope. His addiction swallowed him. And Steve disappeared for good one day.

I remember thinking that was such a tragedy. From outward appearances he was this shining star, ultra-talented artist. But his demons got the best of him.

Other Art School dropouts just seemed to be victims of wayward passions, dead-end jobs, financial situations... the normal stuff of life. "You can't make it on talent alone." Now I got it. But what do I do with it?

Keep showing up. Make the best of YOUR situation. Take YOUR experiences and create your art in them, through them, and even in spite of them. Keep learning and growing.

For a long time I didn't. I got sidetracked. Lost. Buried with other responsibilities, false identities, believing lies about myself and my art. But it's never too late.

You can't make it on talent alone: A beacon of hope for those who feel talentless; A tale of warning for those who rely too much on their natural giftedness. Take it as you want. But either way - Just show up. Do the Work. Be yourself. Offer the best you can right now. Keep following the path before you.

I heard Will Smith make a statement on the first episode of the Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon. When Jimmy asked what advice Will gave his kids who are in show business, Will's answer was to make their Art a gift to others. As artists we have the opportunity to make someone smile. To brighten their day even just for a moment. Don't make your craft about pursuing success, but rather a gift to the world around you.

Talent gets you noticed and opens doors. Character and hard work lay the track for your best work, work that impacts your life and  the lives of those around you.

Stop lamenting your lack of talent or opportunity. Give your gift of Art today. Someone in your world needs it.

 {Photo Credit: Louis du Mont}