Talent and the Tools

“Your website looks great, do you use Dream weaver?”

I get that question sometimes and it always used to bother me. But I don’t get annoyed anymore. Instead, I quote the following story:

::::

A photographer was invited to a dinner and he took along some photographs to show the hostess. She looked at the photos and commented, “These are very good! You must have a good camera!

He didn’t make any comment at that time, but as he was leaving to go home he said, “That was a really delicious meal. You must have some very good pots!

Bike::::

Lance Armstrong, in his book It’s Not About the Bike, wrote a whole page describing some neat features of his cutting-edge bike. That description alone would make a bike enthusiast like me quiver. But he concluded it saying (paraphrased) – “But at the end, it’s not about the bike!


::::Planning software

I worked for 3 years as a project planner. People’s standard question was: “Do you need to know Primavera and Microsoft Projects to become a planner?” (those are the two leading project management software.) I wish I could say “Yes”. A planner, like Isaac Asimov’s Hari Seldon, accumulates current data, examines macro/micro factors and uses historical behavior to predict the future. I wish it was as simple as clicking some “Tools > Plan Now!” button.

::::

I thought of the following people while I was composing this post. They (I think) get lots of comments about their ‘art’. Care to tell me:

° Nita, Prax, Bob – If online research is one mouse click away, why don’t we find blogs that are comprehensively researched as yours? Do you think that research is an art and online resources are mere tools? Taking it one step further, how much do you think have certain tools helped you become a journalist, stock market specialist and an astrophysicist respectively?
° Rambodoc – How much of today’s medical marvel is attributed to the surgeon’s instruments? (I desisted from using the word ‘tool’ – some readily available fodder for your twists that would occur anyway :P )
° Shantanu – About software tools and Dilbert’s talent! You are also welcome to add a story about chefs and foods!

::::
Priyank playing Sitar
For a long time, I thought that I needed a brand new Sitar from Kolkata and only then I could play some awesome music. Fortunately, few months back I met some guru who plays the Sarod. He picked up my Sitar and played something beautiful casually.
“Wow! I didn’t know you played the Sitar too!” I said.
“No, ofcourse I don’t…. But I know the basics of music! :)

I regret not meeting him before. But hey, its never too late :)


::::

To end this non-travel post, I leave you with a quote from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If you are a wizard you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is a strongest affinity between wizard and wand… An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.

::::
Question to the reader: I think that it doesn’t really matter what tool you choose to express your talent. If you are not the right person (by birth or by training), the tool won’t make you one. What do you think? Any stories?

51 thoughts on “Talent and the Tools

  1. Well this seems to be a deeply researched post
    atleast researched from true to life experiences… and from ur reflections

    I expect more such thoughtful posts from u

    the whole debate reminds me of this
    During the space race back in the 1960′s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen”. Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market. The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.They used a pencil.

    Though im flattered and think that both u and rowling do make sense, I think im still relatively inexperienced in life, to answer ur question, and would leave it to nita or rambodoc who have seen more life than me
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  2. Id also like to pose a question
    why are some people that know flattery to the extent that they make it a fine art – sometimes much more successful in life than even the most deserving candidates ?

  3. Prax:
    Thanks for the responses. You are too humble. And uh, I will try more such ‘thoughtful’ posts although its not my cup of tea glass of wine.

    Why do those people succeed more? Probably because we take things on their face value. Probably because we are attracted to a nicely packaged good. Or maybe because they are always visible, we feel they are right.

  4. Wow, I like this side of you, very insightful to say the least.
    Thanks for the mention. I am an astrophysicist in heart only, but that’s what it is all about isn’t it? I believe if we truly believe in something we will excel at it, once we put our minds to it, the mind is an amazing thing, having said that, you have to have the basic talent to start with, and I’ve found in my life experiences that the stuff you truly believe in and have a passion for,you have the talent in that area.

    You talked about two of my other favorite recreational activities, biking and music. I have some great guitars and they enhance my guitar playing, on the other hand I have an awesome mountain bike with Deore XTR components which is light and easy to use, but it still doesn’t make it easy for me to climb steep hills cause I suck at that,like Lance said, ” it’s not about the bike”, if you are good at something the tool will enhance, if you suck at something the tool is just that, a tool.

  5. Bob:
    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond here dear astrophysicist ;-) If you are great at something, the tool will enhance, if you suck at it, the tool is just a tool. That is my take away.

    PS: You have a lovely bike!

  6. Priyank, a very good post and a thoughtful one too. It reminds me of an interview that Poonam took of me for Being A Blogger and in that she asked me what tools you use for blogging. I said my brain and many people mistook it for arrogance. Actually I am the most humble person, about everything. I was simply telling the truth. It’s my brain. Also I take hours to research some of my posts and for that I require my brain, to sift and collate data. The tool is my brain, not the internet or the resources. Because everyone has the resources handy and then why don’t they research? Because at times it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack and if I can find that needle, it’s because I am looking in the right place. It’s my brain which is doing the work. That’s the truth. Anyone can just pick up one article and quote from it and write his views, but finding several sources, linking them and writing is a lot of hard work. Hard work which is done by my brain! :)

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  7. Nita:
    How arrogant…! Believe me or not, when people asked me which software I used to design my site, I always replied that it was in my head. I couldn’t communicate this without sounding arrogant either. So I know exactly what you mean :)

    Searching for a needle in a haystack and then analyzing such needles to weave a story – certainly the online resources help, but I am sure you have this talent regardless. The online features might help you from spending hours and hours reading newspapers, magazines, journals and what not.

    Thanks for adding your response.
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  8. Aaah…!
    finally, something different from travel !
    it’s been real long that you wrote your usual blogs.
    and as a rule, your one travel post should finish before you start on another. : )
    one day Peru, another day back to Holy land
    thak jaati hoon mai yahan vahan bhagte bhagte

    already looking forward to Russia trip posts.
    please be short (dont hate me)

    back to this one, I agree with Bob, if you have the passion/talent for something, the tool would enhance that talent else a bike is just a bike.

    and like prax, i too wonder at times, why some people with not so great talent or tool, still succeed more than some talended people who keep working hard but still not get recognition. Luck ? Attitude ?

  9. Good post Puku and break from your hectic traveling posts. I like them also but I miss to see this side of you at all.

    Their r so many examples in our everyday things. Construction workers and people who build walls from briks and cement (what are they called in English?) [गवंडी] also use different new equipments. I think the job becomes easy due to modern tools.

    Tell me – what is wrong with dreamweaver? If you have the talent to design in your brain you can use any software to make it real. so why not use the best of softwares available? it will be save time and you can do more work :)

  10. I can’t recall the guys name – but several years back he submitted a few photos to major publications and won some awards.

    Turns out he took them all with a disposable Barbie camera he picked up from a convenience store. The guy was a pro but wanted to make a point.

    Ever since I heard that story its stuck with me and I think its the user not the tool that makes the difference.

  11. Raji
    :) Yes, finally something different and I can tell you how relieved I am! Committing to a whole series is too much of a responsibility, and I don’t think I will take it anymore. The reason for hurry is to finish Israel stories before my upcoming trip. I don’t promise to be short, but I do promise not to bombard…lol Thanks for hanging there!

    It’s indeed sad to see undeserving people getting rewarded. I could never figure out why. The karma theory seems unfair at times.

    I am sorry that the comment form played tricks with you.

  12. Ash:
    Thankyou, I am enjoying the break too. A गवंडी is called Mason in English, and I totally see what you are hinting. Isn’t it the same story? I will write it below:

    Ash’s dad employed a mason to build a room in their backyard. The mason was their friend since he was the one who built their house too. Ash’s dad suggested that he should buy new tools for his work. But the mason said that he tried the new tools but couldn’t use them. He preferred to stick to his traditional and very basic ones.

    Dreamweaver – Well nothing is wrong in using it and I am not anti-Dream weaver or anti-Front page or something. These are great software and they have many easy to use features. The only problem with WYSIWYG design tools is that they lack precision and control. And I am overly obsessed with pixel precision when it comes to my website. Secondly, the undertone in the implied question was that of attributing the whole design to a software, as if the human contribution is trivial or substitutable. That was my point :)

  13. Matt:
    haha, no I don’t use dreamweaver. I use some other text editor to design the theme for this site. Yes this is wordpress site (which is only a back-end, as you know), but the theme (front-end) is completely designed in house :)

  14. Priyank playing the Sitar is lovely picture.
    Interesting post, and here’s my two cents worth:

    Let’s take examples of 2 young kids having to submit a school project in a definite time. Child 1, with limited creative talent and little knowledge but with access to internet, may submit a “good” school project report while Child 2 may NOT be able to submit a “better” report (in comparison). In this scenario the tool helped.
    But….
    If Child 2 is talented, and really puts his talent, together with his knowledge, hard work, determination and earnest efforts to good use, he may end up submitting the “best” report in the whole class.

    So, just as you say, the tool doesn’t “really” matter to express talent but natural talent does. But then again talent can only take one so far since one can be unsuccessful if say, one is talented but lazy. Other factors such as aptitude, hardwork, determination, perseverance etc are sure to help along the way.

    I can think of another category of people whom I admire much. It is those who do not seem to put in much efforts (or so it seems to me) but are able to do wonderful stuff. I call them geniuses, and there are quite a few celebrated artists whom I admire that fall in this category.

  15. Celine:
    You sound like a teacher, thanks for the case study!

    I agree that using tools enhances productivity. Be it Word v/s Wordstar or Excel v/s Lotus 123, things have moved to make our jobs faster, efficient and beautiful. We no longer have to reinvent the wheels – for example programming on a notepad v/s doing that on a programmers text editor. Few years back they introduced new swimsuits for swimmers – it looks like an ugly fish costume, but it speeds you up by a micro-second. You are right, a tool can be used in the right way to give that extra edge.

    But there will be geniuses like Michael Phelps who have an advantage anyway :)

  16. oops .. i would have asked same q priyank…

    Your website looks great, do you use Dream weaver? ;)

    i will not dare now to ask it now !! ;)

    though. A mechanic must have all his needing tools with him .. and that too properly arranged .. so that he find right tool in minimum time….

    otherwise repairing your bike will took more time ;) .. and i dont wish that ;)

  17. Priyank, I am a trained journalist so I do not think I have any special talent. If I didn’t have this ability after working for years as a journalist, I must be an idiot! :) However I have realised that people don’t see it that way. However tomorrow if my novel is a best seller I will let you say I have a special talent. I am technically zero so I cannot think of any tools beyond brain, computer, keyboard. A little bit camera.
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  18. Nice thoughts. Priyank.
    As far as surgery is concerned, it is like Sachin Tendulkar’s bat: if we wield it, would it give us runs?
    My old boss used to say: “It is not the instrument that makes the surgery safe, it is the surgeon who makes the instrument safe!”
    No twists…..

  19. kiran:
    haha, you make me laugh with that comparison.

    I started blogging when there was no wordpress. It made life extremely difficult. Conceptualizing a blog-post still takes the same amount of time, just that the delivery is faster now.

  20. Hi Priyank,

    Do you use Dream Weaver? :-) (Aa bail mujhe maar)

    Well for any output – in any field be it music, photography, journalism, cooking, painting and many others – to be great you need the following

    Talent (inborn or acquired), passion, knowledge, deep insight, training, practice, patience, appropriate tools and enduring committment amongst others.

    Top class output requires all the above mentioned inputs, the only change being their proportion.

    To conclude, I am quite convinced that you have all the required qualities and we look forward to high quality stuff from you. (Not that you did not churn it out earlier). :-)

  21. Prax and Nita:
    Let us share a virtual glass of wine. To eternal youth!
    Priyank:
    Why do I have to register my name every time? You should have a ‘remember me’ box, no?

  22. Hmm. So do you use dreamweaver?
    Couldn’t resist that question :)

    I agree that the tools don’t matter but more so the ability to create what was intended.
    But I guess tools improve efficiency so that the ability can be better utilized.

  23. well, evybdy said evthng alrdy…n I agree wth all of em…Shakespeare-Kalidas ddnt need a w/processor or graphx to do wht thy hve done neway, n MFH duznt use sftware to ‘enhance’/'embellish’ his work…liked ur ans to Prax, the othr view cd be, that these pple probbly do hve smthng aftr all? like xceptionl skills at relating to people n making them ‘feel’ right? In tht case it becomes a talent wth them u see wht I m trying to say here?…whn u do write abt Russia , wd like to see smthng like anothr ‘bagel’ story, Pri, what you saw, nt geog/encyclop stylised version p ;-) …title used well, stylish presentation, enjoyed the animated discussn, Mavin and KR’s resp (made me laugh aloud). thx.

  24. Prax:
    Personally, I find people who market themselves to be very phony, shallow and probably incompetent. Talented individuals can usually be identified easily. However often (consider job applications for example) the individual is not accessible to us and our judgment is left to what is ‘shown’ to us. In such case, the best marketed one will win! (although its still pretty evident if someone is lying on the resume)

  25. Trisha:
    Hey, I’m happy to be at your service, didn’t know you would enjoy it so much! I usually write bagel stories (and personalize the travelogs) just that they are small snippets.

    My friend told me yesterday that he thinks that talent is useless. The only useful skill is to know some tips and tricks and you are set. My answer to him was the same – maybe identifying such tricks is a talent (why doesn’t everyone do it) – some people do have exceptional people skills and they can usually get ahead even with lower talent. Happens so many times in professional environments.

  26. Hmm…thought-provoking post! Seems to have provoked more than one person here, I can see from the comments! :)

    Without doubt, talent is a pre-requisite. A tool can only enhance it or speed up the mundane so you can focus on the core.

    Since I see things from Dogbert’s perspective, Dilbert obviously has no talent whatsoever! :)

  27. Priyank, I believe that if you really like something it does not seem like work. And we tend to do it better, so definitely it i not the camera … or the sitar or the violin … enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  28. Its lovely to see such thoughtful blogs. Research, I think, is a tool to help add to to what is being said. Its fantastic to read lovely posts like this one, and if you did research before putting it up, thats fine too!
    And again, like we talked, those thoughts are yours – and that is what us readers are interested in. The research – most of us are OK at that :-)

  29. Vaarun:
    Thanks for elaborating. I didn’t research anything, just some stories came together from my readings.

    You mention the research point which is very true. Exactly the same reason for which I invited the 3 blogger friends to write.

  30. I agree: it’s not about the tools but the talent.

    Photography is a perfect example. You can have the best camera and be in a beautiful place but still miss the point.

  31. Of course, one needs tools… But the basics are important.

    It depends on how much you want to achieve in what time which is the primary reasons for using tools.

    One can use log books to calculate, or a calculator or a computer…. but we do use computers because it makes it faster, easier and “almost” perfect :)

  32. Mahesh:
    Welcome to my website, and its nice to see your comment.

    Someone in this comment thread said the same thing. Tools will only speed up the mundane tasks. Imagine walking around with a log table!

    Hope to read your thoughts on other posts too ;-)

  33. It was the bird, the bird, lol, I didn’t do anything…..lol. Kidding aside Priyank this is excellent post, so thoughtful, and so true, and how in the world I missed it…well never too late, appreciate you letting me know – I love the story about the photographer and the food. I will keep that in mind….Thanks again my friend. Anna :)

  34. AAishapath!! I was writing a very similar post today. Thank god I didn’t complete it. It would have looked stupid before this post :) :)
    I wish everyone will understand someday that basics are basics of everything.
    My experience is shared by many geeks out there: Whenever I come across a new software, it takes very less time for me to learn it. And others think I am very *talented* or *geek* or something similar. But they forget that there are basics involved. Most of softwares follow some standards of UI, don’t they? So I just use them and get praised for my genius learning skills :D

    • arey basskya! Do that post, I’m sure you’ll make it very lively and humorous unlike this one :) And I know what you are saying, happens with me too!

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