Skill vs Talent? What’s your preference?

Skill vs talent? It’s a question many are lost for an answer.. “LOST?” I am not lost! And neither am I out of reach. It’s just that our paths never cross frequently”. That was my response to my former workmate at Barclaycard, who as if on cue to quench his curiosity about my whereabouts, proceeded to ask me the all-to-familiar–question that follows every Kenyan conversation…”So then, what do you do nowadays”? I’m sure so many encounter this question frequently. If not – you’re either lying or do not have Kenyan friends.

I’m stuck between following my skill

This can be a very irritating question to those who are seeking employment or in between jobs. But also it can give you a chance to outline your credentials if you an attachment to a particular organization or managing a successful business. That question made me think VERY HARD about what I should tell my former colleague. Do I tell him about what I do in my young and upcoming events management business or do I tell him that I am now a budding author and a music recording artist? Do I share with him that I’m stuck between following my skill as he knew me before or do I tell him that I am deeply engrossed with actualizing my talent?

That question brought to my attention the “twins” that have captured and arrested my mind, invaded my life – TALENT and SKILL. I really wondered what to answer…

My symbol of success

Indeed in my early childhood my dad did not help me either. He would drop me in school and give me the most common advice that every father would say to inspire his young child – ‘Go and work hard. One day you will become like me!” And so I ENVISIONED him as my symbol of success; a skilled bank manager by profession.

Nonetheless, in the quiet of my own room, I would unwind and listen to my favourite music by R.KELLY. And I would be caught up in my own utopia of musical ecstasy. I would pop in my headphones and one of the twins – TALENT would join me in signing “I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky”

I was once very startled because my dad had caught me unawares singing out loud and he removed my headphones from my ears and asked me – “is that you singing? Wow! you should also pursue a music career” – leaving me in limbo and it is for this very reason that later in life, I ended up working at a bank in the morning and also sing in karaoke shows in the same evening. Are you leaving your kids in limbo? Think about it…?

Those twins – TALENT and SKILL – had brought me to a crossroad and they needed to be expressed. And they were both clamoring for my attention. The question my friend asked me made me further investigate the qualities of the twins and I truly found out much…

1. The first thing that I learnt is that “SKILL IS A LEARNED ABILITY.”

It is one that can be acquired and in essence, it is man-made. Oxford dictionary defines skill as a “learned ability. Skill improvement is possible, with practice,work, and effort”. For example – Nelson Mandela was a skilled and eloquent lawyer by profession who used the same to fight for the rights of his people. But what people generally do not know is that he was also an avid painter whose paintings are displayed at the Nelson Mandela Children Fund foundation. So the big question is – did Nelson Mandela have skills or talent?


God divinely and uniquely gives talent to everyone of us; man, woman, boy and girl. You can never deny your talent. But as you think about your talent, remember Jackson Browne ha od this to say about talent “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates; plenty of movement but with no definite direction” Talent requires discipline to find its home. Talent fuels dreams and creates possibilities. This reminds me of Gilead Millo, the former Israel deputy ambassador to Kenya, left his diplomatic job to pursue a musical career. He was even on one stage with our very own Nameless who is an illustrious architect himself by profession. These two are a fantastic example of the use of discipline to nurture talent. Discipline is the key that brings out talent.

3. The last thing that I learnt is that “THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TALENT AND SKILL IS HARDWORK”

“We all admire talent, but we pay for skill”. You will agree with me , ,in fact I will bet you my last shilling that you will pay handsomely to go and see R. Kelly live in concert should he visit, but you will all tap me on the back and encourage me by saying “Kuria, keep singing and practicing, one day you will be like R. Kelly” . Hard work is the difference! Consistency in hard work makes all the difference.

It would be great to embrace both the twins

I here humbly submit to you that, I do not recall what I answered my former colleague from Barclaycard, but it would be great to embrace both the twins and give a powerful response whenever someone asks you that familiar question. Ensure the children you are raising develop their talents and hone their skills. And please remember that the twins collaborate: TALENT gets you the interview, but it is SKILL that gets you the promotion. TALENT draws attention but SKILL keeps the attention. They are in a marriage for indeed TALENT relies on SKILL to find its lasting purpose. So go out there, and harness your TALENT and sharpen your SKILL.

George Kuria is a Sales and Marketing professional who seeks to actualize his talents in public speaking and music. He is a partner at The R.E.A.C.T., an events management company –
George has previously worked for Barclaycard and Haco Tiger Brands and is a member of Early Birds Toastmasters Club.
You can reach him on +254722243171/+254731000471 or georgekuria@

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