Mozart vs Salieri Talent or Hard Work

mozart_and_salieriI was browsing through YouTube when I came across a clip from the movie Amadeus where Mozart plays a piece written by Salieri without any effort and then improves it within seconds. In the comment section below, someone mentioned how talent is better than hard work.

A number of other people immediately lambasted the original poster saying that talent was nothing more than a lot of hard work. I thought I’d examine the idea here today.

Let me relate a personal story. I was a pretty decent athlete as a young fellow. I had excellent hand-eye coordination, was moderately strong, and had decent foot speed. I loved sports and dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. In sixth grade I was playing flag football with some other kids and doing quite well when a talented athlete took the field. He literally ran circles around me. No matter how I tried I was unable to grab his flag. He was faster, quicker, and plain better. Not by a little either.

It was then the realization dawned upon me that I was not nearly as good as I imagined. I suppose this happens to almost everyone as they progress in their chosen field; athletics, music, sciences, writing, or anything else. As you get better so too does the competition. Hard work can only take you so far in this world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate of hard work. The superstars of the world combine both hard work and talent. Hard work will get you many places in life that talent alone will not. Plenty of talented people don’t work hard and fail to succeed. I’m just pointing out the reality of talent. You know it when you see it and you can’t get there by hard work.

What’s the lesson in all this? I think it’s important to understand your limitations. It’s fantastic to reach your maximum potential through hard work, study, and practice but it’s also good to recognize there are things beyond you. Understand these things you will never achieve, playing shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, are not personal failures. I just didn’t have enough talent to play major league baseball. That’s reality.

If I had worked harder I certainly could have done more with my athletic talent but I moved on to other things. I like to think I’m a pretty good writer and I work hard at that. I study the structure of good writing. I practice my craft regularly. I hope that I will enjoy success. That’s a good model to follow in life.

Do the things you enjoy doing. Work hard at them. Study and understand the best way to perform these things. But understand sometimes someone else is just better than you. And that’s ok. And so are you.

Tom Liberman

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