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Talent, Skill, Desperation

It’s the clip making the rounds on the inspirational motivational TikTok / Instagram Reels / YouTube Shorts circuit. Leslie Jones in conversation with Laverne Cox:


Katt Williams was the one who told me this: “Once you get rid of your desperation, you’re going to blow up.” And I was like “Fuck you, I’m desperate because I’m broke.” He said, “No, no you’re not. You just don’t have no money. You have talent, though. And you need to start making decisions from your talent, not your desperation.” That’s why I it took me so long to make it. Because I was never supposed to make it when I was as good as I was.


Was I desperate for 40 years too? Yes I was.

It’s been rattling around in my skull for a week. It’s enticing. What would it look like to make decisions based on my talents, rather than my desperation? It sure as hell wouldn’t look like this past weekend. Crammed in a van, riding up and down from The Hamptons twice. Once to lug heavy equipment and bottles of liquor in 90 degree heat, once to put on a big smile and carry hors d'oeuvres among the likes of Bill O'Reilly.

When was the last time I made a decision based on my talent? What even is talent?

I turn back to Seth Godin when the T word pops up, I do a search for his distinction between talent and skill:

If you can learn it, it's a skill.

If it's important, but innate, it's a talent.

The thing is, almost everything that matters is a skill. If even one person is able to learn it, if even one person is able to use effort and training to get good at something, it's a skill.

Seth’s full (short) blog post here: link.

Was Katt Williams’ advice really about Leslie's hard-earned skills, innate talent, or both?

There are the skills Leslie developed over decades of refining her performance and material. But there's also the innate talent of her drive and determination (or are these skills to develop too?). Or are her talents her personality, sense of humor, real-life experience, and willingness to share openly?

So which is it? Seth tells me exactly where the line is, but it's still blurry to me.

Once again, I’m asking you Riley: What would it look like to make decisions based on your talent? Distilled to the innate: what was -- what is yours? To put it another way: Who are you? What are your innate talents and how can you use and continuously develop your skills to make decisions based on your talents?

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