Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

The difference between ability and talent

When you look at some of your favourite sports stars like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Ronaldo, Messi or Lebron James, you would agree that they have ability and are talented. But is there a difference between ability and talent?

Working with the brightest young footballers in this country, I have seen players who have the ability, however they don’t use their talent to get where they want to go.

A better way of putting it is, ability is a quality you see, while talent is something you don’t see.


For example, take 28-time Olympic medallist Michael Phelps who had the ability to be a great swimmer with his 6ft 4inch body and size 14 feet (those things were like flippers). His talent lies in his hard work and determination to push himself every day. He trained six-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week. The majority of this time was spent in the pool, swimming a colossal distance of 80km each week, which is more than 13km each training day.

I also like to read about how humble Phelps was and how he didn’t let his superstar status effect what he was aiming for and never forgot who he was and those who helped him along the way.

So when it comes to talent, we all have it. But it’s whether or not we chose to use and develop it.

Everyone is born with the ability to work hard, make sacrifices, be a great team-mate and bounce back from failures. The problem accrues when we rely on ability alone. Even worse when we blame the lack of ability we have.

I have seen it first-hand when some young footballer who has so much ability, way more than everyone else on the team, but doesn’t chose to use and develop his other talents which will make him/her a great player.

Yes, they might have all the ability but fall short on team work, discipline, hard work or willingness to learn. Maybe it is the influence of others who tell them that they are the best they have seen, or you should be starting in front of that person because you’re a better footballer.


The same can be said when you look at it from thinking you lack ability. You might not have size 14 feet but you could be a great swimmer if you unleash your talent of hard work and dedication.


I have seen examples of this time and time again where players become full-time footballers, not just for their ability, but more-so because of the their talent for hard work, resilience, learning from failure and never giving up.

You don’t have to be a potential sports star to follow this theory. Think about your own health and life goals. You may or may not have all the ability but it’s unleashing your inner talent and qualities which will help you reach your goals.

You may not have the ability to lift heavy weights or run for any considerable distance, but you may have the talent to not miss a gym session or morning run and push yourself each time you train or be disciplined to follow a programme. This will result in increasing your ability to lift heavier weights and run further than you have ran before.

Remember lack or too much ability is not what is holding you back. Find your inner talent and develop it along with your ability to be the best version of whatever you want to be.

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