A Rocker’s Diary: Why Talent Can Be Your Greatest Undoing

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If there’s one thing I realised during my musical pursuits is that talent will only get you so far. Perhaps even in saying that I may be overstating talent’s place in overcoming every day obstacles. There are all manner of sayings and anecdotes that points to this. The much touted talent nurturing program forgets the actual crucial elements that make for productive people and those are the values that build character.

It’s a very good feeling when you come to realise that you are especially talented. Lots of people are talented. But there are those that have something a little extra – the outliers. I remember the first time I discovered I had a natural affinity for singing. That realisation came with the desire and conviction to form a band that would be successful. But immediately I set upon the task I was confronted with the bitter realities of practicing the art of music. The task never softened and in fact grew arduously insurmountable the closer I got to my goal. Aside from the internal battle I fought with my voices of treason that never ceased to shine light on aspects of my insufficiency there was the added tasks of the material world, Time, scarce resources and the cruelty and tyranny of other people. But the most important aspect that dragged us down more than anything were the basic hallmarks of commitment like time keeping, discipline, sacrifice and honesty. I must emphasize the power of the tongue because it is lies and insincerity that wreaked the greatest havoc in our musical enterrpise. You can as well add sloth and the seven deadly sins to that line up. In saying this I do not wish to project personal failures onto third parties or abstractions. My intention is quite the opposite. Based on the realisation that a man is composed of many elements, a great proportion of them hell bent on destroying him as exemplified in myths that contains a pantheon of gods or in Carl Jung’s Archetypes of the Unconscious. The saying “man is his own greatest enemy” rings true here. We are indeed the sum of our parts af whatever entities take precedence will determine the kind of people we are.

But as much as the talented may struggle to face up to their great gift because of their own doing, what really spits in Destiny’s face is that those it has scarcely equipped more often than not outlive those with a better ability. Some people will make extreme statements like “talent is a disability” and I agree with them. The place of talent in the arts is also specifically tragic because of the assumption from the public that this is all that one requires to succeed. Parents will therefore scoff at intentions that their children want to be musicians let alone rock musicians for the false belief that it does not require hard work and that therefore their children are simply opting for it in order to avoid hard work. Whether they exact that same belief on their children and it is why they ‘fail’ at the arts is a debate for another day. But it is also equally true that many do hold this false belief that music is the only way they can reap the fruits of labour by indulging in hedonism and not doing the actual work. The truth is that we don’t live in a primordial world that doesn’t involve personal sacrifice. Things don’t just materialize from thin air or by making a lesser sacrifice than required. Even God had to work to create the material world that we live in. There might have been room to ‘speak things into existence’ before the fall. Post fall in order to live out our aspirations then the sacrifice of work must come into play.

Time waits for no man. In that sense what rings true is that there is no space for complacency in the intermediate. Rest only comes when the work is good and when the work is finished.

Sometimes the talented are so inundated with their perceived greatness they may begin to think that this will get them through any task. Nine times out of ten this daytime fantasy is tragically shattered. It is often the case that when two teams face each other the least favored on paper endeavors to out work the more favored one. In a case where the most favored has esteemed itself above its opponent so much that it has lost focus it will find itself humiliated in the hands of its perceived inferior. Where one has made a greater sacrifice justice will always swing in its favor. I have seen so many times when I’ve neglected to keep time when coming for band practice, failed to devote my entire focus during practice sessions or when I didn’t set aside enough personal time for practice. I wasn’t much surprised when things we set out to achieve but executed half heartedly devolved into a hot mess and left a lasting negative impression. Since then I have purposes to pay more attention to the ritual significance of the promises I make to myself because it attracts the opportunity. When you fail to cultivate and intergrate your own words and they return to their genesis unperformed then judgment finds us naked and unprepared and life after that becomes a living hell. What I am trying to say is this; if you’ve set out to get whatever project on its feet whether it’s a new setlist, recording an album or going on tour then you need to take every task that will make that dream a reality with the required level of seriousness. Do whatever it takes.

The intervening period before that dream is actualised is like the living hell that preceded a failed project. You are beset by all sides resistance. That resistance might follow you even to the gates of the ‘promised land’. Isn’t it said that the night is darkest before the dawn’? And as one Zainab Sule has often remarked “Take your hustle seriously”. For those of a more Christian leaning I would remark “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and the rest shall be added unto you”. Remember also that the road to heaven is narrow and beset by all manner of minor explosions, ravenous beasts and unsettling sounds. But it is better to suffer temporary hell than to have hell as your final resting place.

If we are to nurture talent then it shouldn’t forget to integrate humility, consciousness, honesty and other crucial human virtues that will get you through a rainy day. Spiderman still has to save the day even when he’s run out of web fluid. A humble attitude also goes a long way because the fall of the mighty is very public and humiliating. But when less expectation is on your shoulders then even small wins come with much adulation.

Remember that the things we do in secret must come to light. If during the darkness we have only indulged in the fruits of labour rewarding the body before it has sacrificed itself at the alter of labor then when light emerges we will be judged to have failed and sentenced to live out ‘eternity’ in a hell of our own making.

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