“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions, but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to great titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society – the farmers, mechanics and laborers – who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors for themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.”

Andrew Jackson


The future is always dependent upon the development of talent. I don’t care if this is business, philanthropy, education, science, humanities or simply society in total, if you want to be better tomorrow than you are today as a civilization, you need to cultivate talent. When society loses its ability to cultivate talent the implications filter across society and all its trappings. First and foremost, the worst consequence is missed potential. Researchers called this “the lost Einsteins” or the talented overlooked (typically found in minorities and poverty/less fortunate) and it costs countries multiplicative-level potential innovation and thinking.

This came to mind when someone tossed out the infamous “merit based” system for talent.

Simplistically, a merit based concept is the eugenics application of talent. A horrible idea. It sure sounds good, but it isn’t. Talent is not a race. It is a tricky concept, one which is not always a measurable thing and even when measured one could argue the highest scoring do not always offer the highest talent. Regardless of your belief, as a society we suck at cultivating talent. We tend to to give the mediocre wealthy disproportionate advantages from the non-mediocre less-than-wealthy. We tend to dismiss the importance of some foundational young age talent optimization stepping stones like daily nutrition, home security and positive support network as integral to future talent optimization. We tend to treat talent as a race meaning that when we assess ‘talent’ we always view those who are ‘ahead’ as the ones who have the most talent. Basically, we tend to not only not cultivate talent, but in some ways don’t even assess the talent well.

And maybe, while this is certainly a societal issue, the core issue is us – people.

What I mean by this is that I sometimes believe one of the hardest things you can learn in your career is that your best is not particularly special, i.e, your ‘talent’ may be a bit closer to average than you feel comfortable with. This is the realization, a Life fact, that your talent, in reality, is matched by a shitload of people. Learning that your best is relatively easily matched by a shitload of people. Basically not understanding that your own talent could have been matched by 1000’s of other people if it had been recognized and cultivated somewhere in the past. Whenever asked about this (because a bunch of people feel uncomfortable when I say this) I bring up the Janis Joplin documentary: Little Girl Blue.

“… at 27 i realized there are a lot of people with talent, the difference is ambition.”

Janis Joplin

Talent is talent.

Smarts are smarts.

And expertise is almost always relative.

At any given point in Life and your career you can look around you and if you are self-aware you will note you are rarely the most talented, rarely the smartest one in the room and rarely the only expert. You realize that even on your best day you may not actually be the best. I imagine that is a tough thing to get your head wrapped around. Okay. Let me say it is a tough thing to wrap your head around.

It’s not that you truly want to be the most talented, the smartest or the most expert, most of us don’t really care, you just want to feel that at some point you are smart, talented and an expert at something.

Which leads me back to cultivating talent.

I would argue if someone cannot recognize their own talent is not that special, they will inevitably suck at cultivating talent. Why? Because you will only seek out the ones who have figured out how to run the ‘talent race’ well up to that point and attempt to capture them – no cultivate, just capture. Cultivating talent is not, and never has been, about just the best of the best. It has always been about maximizing each person’s potential (because everyone has some talent). Cultivating is not comparing the blooming flowers, but rather simply attempt to have all seeds bloom the best they can bloom and planting seeds of talent. Stewarding the transition from generation-to-generation transition is all about cultivating rather than capturing. We have a responsibility to the future to cultivate talent. Ponder.

Written by Bruce