What is Talent?

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Talent is one of those things we talk about all the time, but very rarely define. How often do you refer to someone doing something incredible: Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Usain Bolt as a Natural Talent?

Since that often feels a bit like a cop-out, let’s dive in to the science of Talent.

What is Talent?

One word.


MyelinThat white stuff that wraps your nerve fibers and keeps the electric impulses from slipping into the ether. The more myelin, the thicker the insulation around the nerve fiber, the stronger the impulse received. The more complete the training any given moment.

Firing on all cylinders
What produces talent is constant firing of the right neural pathways. Keep firing them and the myelin builds. The more you fire (the right paths!), the more myelin . . . the more myelin, the more signal reaches . . . starting to sound circular yet?

Sure. Basically it works like this:

A little bit of sporadic effort produces next to nothing as a result.

A lot of effort sporadically spent produces ocassional short-lived improvement.

A lot of effort expended regularly in any direction produces results in that direction.

A lot of effort expended regularly and in the direction of the goal gains exponential results.

In this case 1 + 1 = 5000

talentBut what about these Natural Talents?
What about them? The talent is natural, but it isn’t in-born. That’s the good news. Here’s the sobering part, the natural talent requires significant work.

By the time you have expended 1000 hours or more on developing a particular skill, you are better than 95% of the population for that skill. AND every minute you spend practicing is worth 3 minutes of a less myelin-wrapped competitor.

Your insulation from the competition is literally in your head.

That’s why Einstein’s brain had all that “white stuff.” When Einstein passed away, his brain was studied thoroughly. But no one understood what all the white stuff was. Looks like it was myelin.

Stumbling to the Top ™

So how do you get talent? Start now!

Studies demonstrate that adults still produce myelin well into their 60s and it proves to be an excellent way to hold off disease, particularly those that affect the brain. It is never too late to start. Though you might not be racing Usain Bolt around the track as a 50 year old, there’s no reason to delay your interest in painting. You can develop a masters talent, but it won’t be overnight.

There’s nothing easy about Talent. It is all hard work. In short, you develop talent by stumbling and staggering in the direction of your goal.

Published bykatemckeon

You can try anything one time in Texas . . . after that we may shoot you. -Kate McKeon


  • […] when I read What is Talent? By Kate Mckeon I had to bookmark it. It talked about practicing for 1000 hours to be better then 95% of the […]

  • Darryl Pace

    October 12, 2009 at 1:47 pm Reply

    Great information.
    Your post reminds me of a speaker at a K. Hogan event that talked about how world class achievers (e.g. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc.) put in 10,000 hours of practice prior to reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport. However, your post is more applicable to the adult that is already in a job and that desires to either rise within his/her field, or to switch fields.

    Health, Fitness for Working People — Darryl Pace

  • Greg

    October 9, 2009 at 11:34 am Reply

    That’s really interesting. Essentially, if one works hard enough, they can accomplish anything with time.

    Inspiring. Thank you.

  • Scott Payne

    October 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm Reply

    Thanks for the information, thats a perspective I never thought of. Keep up the good work.

  • Lisa

    October 8, 2009 at 12:22 am Reply

    that’s so interesting, 1000 hours of a skill makes you so much better, so let’s see if I spend 6 days a week painting for 3 hours– that’s 18 hours……18x = 1000 = 55.6

    so it will take me about a year and one month to be better than 95%?? and that’s taking a day off to rest, not bad at all


    • katemckeon

      October 8, 2009 at 12:29 am Reply

      Exactly! That’s why it is never too late to start. If you have a dream, get started!

  • Keri Eagan

    October 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm Reply

    I never thought about myelin that way although I knew what it is/does. Think I did some kind of ….ah now I remember. In the book pH miracle there is something about myelin and how our diet alters it.

    Keri Eagan
    Anything Alternative

  • Baby Boomer Dating Expert

    October 7, 2009 at 7:38 pm Reply

    Hi Kate,

    Oh wow, I LOVE that. it is SO cool! I love how you define Talent with scientific methods. When you wrote, “Firing on all cylinders – What produces talent is constant firing of the right neural pathways. Keep firing them and the myelin builds. The more you fire (the right paths!), the more myelin . . . the more myelin, the more signal reaches . . .” I could see how the building up of fundamental skills like we recommend in athletics, dating/relatinship skills, academic pursuits, EVERYthing that this definition made so much sense.

    SO COOL!

    pardon my gushing

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Single Baby Boomer Dating Success Expert

  • Robert Martin

    October 7, 2009 at 10:49 am Reply

    I did not about the correlation between myelin and talent.

    Robert Martin

  • Rob Northrup

    October 7, 2009 at 6:06 am Reply

    This shows that getting into a rut can be a good thing. As long as we are repeating postiive actions with excellent form .

    Regarding natural ability, I read a book last year called Talent is Overrated… it was excellen t,

    Seize the Day,
    Emergency Preparedness For the 21st Century Family

  • Vicki

    October 7, 2009 at 1:31 am Reply

    I knew I should have kept track of all those hours I spent behind that machine – lol!!! I’ve probably spent many more hours than 1000 but then I think of all the members in our association and really wonder if I’m in the 95% group. Interesting to wonder though.

    Vicki bridal-threads.com

  • Steve Chambers

    October 7, 2009 at 1:21 am Reply

    Myelin? Now that’s not too sexy. Keeping my brain and body young is important.

    Steve Chambers
    Sales Training Speaker

  • Lisa McLellan

    October 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm Reply

    As soon as I see anything about Myelin, I think of “Lorenzo’s Oil.” In something I read about that it said that the body cannot grow replacement myelin. I wonder why then, or can it be, that the body can build more myelin but can’t replace it? Maybe I’m missing something. Very interesting post.

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services – Babysitters and Nannies

  • Martin

    October 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm Reply

    There’s nothing like repetition to get those dendrites firing and neural pathways ingrained.
    There’s nothing like repetition to get those dendrites firing and neural pathways ingrained!

    The old ones are always the best!!

    Interesting article – I didn’t know about myelin and it’s relationship to talent.


  • Jose Escalante

    October 6, 2009 at 7:45 pm Reply

    I had to bookmark this page. 1000 hours of practice makes “talent” achievable (I need to remember this). Thank you Kate this information is excellent.

    Jose Escalante

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