Aaron’s written quite a personal, but academic, post and there’s one thing he said that really struck a chord with me:

“By Hardy’s suggestion, the responsible thing for me to do would be to cultivate and use my talents in that field, to spend my life being a great programmer.”

Personally I have struggled massively with the dilemma of talent vs desire. If I can throw off the shackles of English-influenced modesty for a moment, there are some things that I am simply SHIT HOT at. Naturally talented, if you will. And, as one’s parents will tell you, you shouldn’t waste talent. You’re meant to grab onto it, nurture it, grow it, focus on it. You’re meant to take that talent and make something great of yourself, by improving and improving until it isn’t just talent, but true ability.

Bollocks to that.

The problem, you see is that having a talent for something does not necessarily mean that you have a corresponding desire to develop that talent. What you are GOOD at doing does not always match what you WANT to do. Or, more precisely, what you are BEST at does not necessarily match what you might want to do with your life.

Case in point: If you want to look back at my school years and see what I was really really good at, I think all those of you who know me as a geek would be VERY surprised. My great talents were in the arts — specifically languages and history. Both my Latin and History teachers had high hopes that I would go on to study their subject, become a professor, write some incredible dissertation thanking them for inspiring me.

They did inspire me. And I was naturally good at those subjects. But the matching desire to turn that talent into something more was missing in me. I didn’t want to become an academic. I didn’t want to spend my life looking back at the past, without every finding anything practical for the future. However powerful and useful my innate ability might have been, I was always doomed to wither and die had I chosen that path. It just wasn’t right for me.

I had other options. I was good at Physics, at Maths, I loved computers. I loved writing, the theatre, cinema. When I moved to England I had narrowed it down to two things: a Computer Science degree vs going to film school. I chose geekery, not least because it offered a better chance of staying out of debt at the end of my degree. Granted, I have talent here too. I’m lucky enough to have the options.

But you know what? Talent starts you on the road, gives you the option of an easy start on that path. Desire keeps you going, keeps you learning, makes you want to get up in the morning and learn more, get better, be useful and deliver and deliver and deliver. If you have only talent, you will fall by the wayside when that is no longer enough. If you have desire, you will overcome anything, however hard it may be.

So yes, choosing desire may not always be the easiest thing to do. It may seem a waste to leave those natural talents behind and strike out in a new direction. But at least you’ll feel alive.