Seán Mathews Irish Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter
You don't send a plumber to wire a house. You don't send a GP to perform Surgery. You don't call a Nobel Laureate an idiot for burning their toast.
This is where part 3 of "I have no talent" takes us. For a long time I have seen people who are miserable because they didn't achieve their potential. These people shouldn't be miserable. They made the best with the chances they got in life. I remember a business owner once spoke to me about how limited his capacity for writing and reading was. And how he left school young. I said it didn't matter. Because he had a PhD in people.
So what is talent that was never used? Hustle. Graft. Finding a way. Goal setting. Discipline. Some people cling to what went against them. But the ones who thrive are those who realised a long time ago that everybody has something they can do better than the next person. And I don't mean things like building a house. I mean the capacity to understand things. Like some people are mechanical, some are strategic lateral risk based thinkers, some are ergonomic, some can construct dialogue well like good salesmen for example.
Maybe my "talent" is to drill into things. And all that really is is a sum of my experiences. I can flesh things out laterally. It’s a habit I have used to marry my scientific and musical backgrounds. To some that makes me pedantic and contrarian. Also, because every possibility is considered in this context - it can make me a bit paranoid too. I am less compliant in doing things with an A, B, C format. For an operations manager in a large company I would fit the bill as a problem solver. As someone who finds solutions hiding in plain sight. Like how a song can form out of fresh air after hearing just two notes that go well together. Lateral thinking has its place in the world.
The fixation on measuring someone on the 1 out of 100 things they get wrong is born out of the bitterness many feel who have never reached their potential. There is no thought for the 99 other things. This is why Ireland was obsessed with Education for a generation. Why we always had to travel abroad to realise our dreams. In the words of Aslan, “everybody hits you, everybody knocks you down”.
I hope I live to see the day our children don’t enter a race for a middle class pensionable civil service job or a degree. Where we pay no attention to the haves and the have nots. And where we stop being obsessed with property.
One day Talent will not be seen as a god given thing but a product of our environment to be nourished like anything else in the world. And as society attempts to pigeon hole the next generation, remember Talent is only a small piece of the capacity to achieve your goals.
PS - I managed to avoid that silly Einstein meme about a fish climbing a tree because he never said it ! (or the definition of Insanity thing!)
I remember a History teacher once saying 20% of our class were more intelligent than him. I remember thinking had he lost his mind? Is he being sarcastic? Who can be more intelligent than the teacher? I remember handing in a decent honours mock exam (GCSC A Level or SAT) to that teacher and saying “I want to do a lower level. Because I'm afraid the wrong questions will come up”. The teacher said “you are limiting yourself, you are well able for it, but ok…”.
The Teacher was 100% in what he said. See, the school system taught us to believe that the teacher was always right, always more intelligent and always got full attention and respect.
Now for another situation. Picture a girl growing up in a poor suburb of Toronto. Her promise to achieve what she is capable of depends on many things. Will her parents provide her with a steady moral foundation? Will her parents sustain her with good food and good habits? Will her neighbours cause peace or unrest? When her confidence is tested when she is asked to smoke a joint out on the street will she have the confidence to say NO THANKS? All of this feeds into whether or not her talent will be realised. School is a piece in the puzzle. But ultimately it comes down to everything else around her.
I have no talent. I had White Privileges. I got handed a good moral compass by my parents. I had the chance to become educated. I took that before I pursued music part time after setting my career on the right path.
I believe there are different types of intelligence. I believe that the arrogance the world once had is beginning to fade. Talent is a tiny part of somebodies ability. Talent doesn't matter as much as you think. It is hardly needed. Its a bit of good fortune.
More on this in part three…..
Imagine Grapes. Imagine how the same species of Grape have created Table Wines and Brandy for centuries. And imagine us. We all have these subtle differences between each other. How we thrive in Sport, Careers, Arts, Life depends on many things. Talent is only one thing. We cultivate many different things at the same time.
Something I used to always notice when I played Gaelic Football was how players that tended to get to County Minor Level (U18 regional teams) usually had support behind them. When I say support I mean they either had a parent following her or him everywhere, coaching them and taking on their commitment with them. I would say this is so important that County teams look for this in players as a means of assessing their character.
Let's look at musicians now. Some of the most talented musicians are the ones who have built up the neuroplasticity and the familiarity with notes and music. She/He will find an escape in the intensity and endless satisfaction of it all. Music is so consuming. For some, the escape is craved due to their home situation or their struggles in life. For others, it is a course they have been encouraged to take on and love. In both situations, Nurturing a love of Music helps greatly.
How about a Dairy Farmer? Does the Farmer Father look at his Son and say “Now Son, you are going to wake at 5am every day of your life for 45 years to milk Cows. Here are the keys to the parlour”. It doesn’t exactly happen that way. First, from a young age, the Son accepts the lifestyle of Dairy farming. Second, the identity as a Dairy Farmer is ingrained in him. Lastly, it is of course nurtured. This is what tends to happen in a family who are in the Circus or in a Food Business or Musicians. The money isn’t as important as the passion and the lifestyle and the identity of it all. This is why sons of Millionaire business owners get handed the reins - they too put in the 50/60 hours a week because they have been cultivated like the Grapes in the Vineyard.
So personally, the energy I feel when I play music is different to the next person. Which is a good thing. I didn’t wake up with any talent. Many of the musical mistakes I have made had nothing to do with music when I delved into them. Should I have been advised and nurtured more of course it would have made a massive impact on me and I would have made less mistakes. But how I process the world has a lot to do with my environment. Like… There is an irony in why I am releasing an Album and Documentary about Ballsgrove. I didn’t always stay there because my musical friends weren’t from there. Music took me away from Ballsgrove. But the sense of right and wrong, the formative experiences, the big mistakes and the learning all happened in Ballsgrove. So I was a product of that environment from a young age. In part two I want to talk about barriers that dub people as untalented. Stay tuned, Seán
You say something to yourself. You decide you feel a certain way about something. You decide how to communicate to others about it. Sometimes you hold back a bit. Sometimes you don't. You set boundaries to know not to go too far. You craft!
Turning up every day is a way to stay in touch with who you are. You have family, friends, work, passions. You knock in with each thing. Don't underplay the power of discipline. Of goal setting. Of Turning Up!
Associating any creative pursuit with Immaturity, Laziness or Stubbornness is a mark of a dead generation on the face of the living. The dead generation who believed education was the new god. Who believed trades were a right of passage. Who believed Governments would look after us.
The now widely accepted importance of Ethic and Attitude above everything have contradicted the toxic myth that hard work gets you everywhere. It doesn't. But, in every case, showing up is a must. Knocking in with all of your parts is a must. Surrounding yourself with people who accept what makes you tick is a must. Being your best self is a must.
The eternal "rung up on the ladder" is a bloody smoke screen. We don't live in a sect. We just hamper ourselves with inferiority complexes. And in an effort to show people our siege minded optics we sometimes come across as populist or crass. Maybe it's just being anxious to come across well to everyone? Because you care? And that's good. Showing up assures you that it is good. And slowly, you can accept who you are, where you belong and what you want to become.
Keep showing up 😊
Firstly, sorry if you have had trouble accessing my website lately. It was offline due to an issue with the service provider. This is my first blog post in 6 months.
Tolerance is a virtue. Think of a child learning to ride a bike. You can pretend you aren't watching when you really are. You have to. You have a sense of duty and care. But you tolerate them finding their own way to do it.
Now I don't play Golf, but what about somebody who wants learn how to play Golf. A late comer. You see this new Golfer improve. When this new Golfer says something wrong about Golf, the Bad Apple in the Clubhouse dismisses and lampoons them. The question now is - can this cause much harm? Well, if you think about the golf courses, the golf shops, the restaurants etc then yes, there is harm done. Especially if the new Golfer has lost his zest and his confidence. Then the bad apple is malignant, isn't it?
Look at a fresh box of Apples. Some people will only see the spotty rotten one at the top. Is it human nature? I wonder.
For me it starts with who made us fixate on the Bad Apple. What makes folks always see the glass as half empty?
Breaking that chain of negativity is a Stoic challenge. I believe this can stifle every community, village, town and city that wants to thrive. So I've taken the challenge to ignore all the bad apples... Will you?