Does talent really exist?Watched live by over 12-million people last month, Mat Franco became the first magician to win America’s Got Talent and preparation for the show’s return next year is already underway.

Rightly so – the best skills, knacks and party tricks are handed center stage for the summer period in front of an enthralled audience; both in-house and at home.

Yet ‘talent’ is a funny word to use, isn’t it?

No matter where you are or what you’re up to this weekend, you’ll be meeting people who are good at things. And some would describe those individuals as ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’. But what does that mean and is it accurate?

Let’s begin by considering something at which we are able. Somebody might even have said you have a certain talent for it.

You might be a strong public speaker, a proficient pianist, or a competent cook. Yet are we actually talented or is it simply our experiences and exposure to these activities that advance our capabilities?

Granted, for physical challenges and sports: our height, weight and genetic makeup all play a fundamental role – it is probably impossible to be a world class runner if we are not born with the right proportion of muscle fibers.

But the mind is different. The mind begins as a blank slate.  From birth we become shaped entirely by our experiences and life events. Everything we are and all of our knowledge is determined by our learning.

Whilst French philosopher René Descartes held that certain things occur naturally regardless of environmental influences, John Locke taught tabula rasa – how our intellect and abilities are pure potentialities that become realized through education and experience.

Take all of your knowledge of mathematics, for instance, and divide it by the number of hours you have put into practicing sums, algebra, and the like. Those who spend more time undertaking an activity will, by definition, become better at it.

Talent is defined as a ‘natural aptitude or skill’ which is somewhat bizarre. In fact, it’s rather lazy to attribute the successes of someone at the top of their game to a form of superpower or ‘gift’ that we were born without.

Is Mat Franco really ‘magic’? Does he really have natural ability to perform and engage? No – he’s simply dedicated hours and hours of time to perfect his passion – and that’s even more impressive.

If you were born in identical circumstances as a friend, to her same parents, at the same time, and were then brought up in exactly the same conditions – thus having precisely equal experiences up until this day – then you would have matching interests and be correspondingly competent at every activity.

You would even enjoy an ice cream on a warm California evening just as much as she does.

So perhaps when America’s Got Talent returns for another splendid occasion, we should be contemplating whether ‘talent’ is the right word to use. ‘Maybe America’s not got talent,’ we should be thinking. ‘America has simply got dedicated, motivated and flourishing people.’

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