Yesterday I read an article which stated that ‘when it comes to violin there are a lot of things that are more important than talent‘.

I must confess that I was taken aback.
Not as much by the call itself but by the very fact that someone would actually make a call like that.
Compare apples and oranges, that is.

OK, both these two can be found in the same department of the grocery store and are somewhat similarly shaped so…

The whole thing made me wonder ‘how is it that we compare things’?

Simply. We choose a standard and then measure the things we want to compare against that standard.
According to our interest in the matter, of course.

That’s why a comparison is not only easier but also less contestable when that standard is actually measurable.
A dimension, for instance. Nobody in his right mind will ever contest a proposition like ‘this orange is larger than this apple’.
Or an evident feature shared by the items being compared. ‘Apples are usually smoother than oranges’.

5989177-comparing-apples-to-oranges-isolated-on-white-stock-photo

In these cases, when the items are easily comparable – sometimes even against the current mantra, we can say that the characteristics used to compare them are ‘parallel’ to each other.

parralel

Here we can, easily and undoubtedly, determine that one is ‘taller’ than the other.

parralel 2

Or we can make that call by measuring the intensity with which a characteristic shared by both categories manifests itself: “Apples are usually smoother than oranges”.

But what if the things we are trying to compare are defined by characteristics which are perpendicular to each other?

Like length and width, for instance.
In fact this particular case is relatively simple. Here we can determine whether one is longer than the other, wider than the other or if the area covered by one is bigger than that covered by the other.
And, for each case, it would be relatively simple to determine which of the two characteristics is more important. According to each individual situation and to our interest in the matter.
After all it doesn’t make much sense to buy a very long and narrow strip of fabric if you want to make a shirt nor to buy a square shaped cloth  if you need some ribbon.

Things are more delicate though if the characteristics are ‘perpendicular’ only in a figurative manner of speaking. For instance talent and dedication. Or opportunity and diligence. In both these situations it’s extremely hard  to make a call as to which member of the pair is the more important. Simply because without any of them the other is utterly useless. Despite our moral biases. Like ‘dedication is more important than talent’. Or ‘Lady Luck will never fail to smile to the really diligent’.

I’m not implying here that preparing yourself for life, like learning and training, is useless. Quite the contrary.
I’m simply saying that you need first to determine what you are really good at.
It doesn’t make much sense to put a lot of effort into something simply because someone tells you that you’ll become better at it if you work really hard.

Yes, the harder you work at something the better you’ll become at it. But what about spending the same amount of effort at something you are talented for?

So go find out what you are really good at.
If you are diligent enough in your search you’ll eventually find out something that you enjoy doing and others find useful.

And that, my friend, is the real happiness.

Or, in Csikszentmihalyi‘s terms, it would mean that you’d have reached the state of ‘Flow‘.