What is talent without hard work?

Talent is often misunderstood. It can be seen as a gift that is to be admired and cherished. I would argue that talent is meaningless without a lot of hard work. Rushkin argued that “quality is never an accident, but the result of intelligent effort” and Matthew Syed in his excellent book Bounce suggests that it is purposeful practice that drives excellence and success. Malcolm Gladwell goes further to suggest in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of sustained work in a particular field to reach that high level of success.

This Friday was our annual House Talent Competition. I have to say, and I know I am biased, that the calibre of the performances was outstanding. I was not the only one in the Assembly Hall taken back by the incredible quality of the singing voices, the inner confidence of the performers and their sheer joy when they received tumultuous applause. But I also know that many of those performers had worked tirelessly at their performance to ensure it was perfect on the day. We witnessed three exceptional gymnasts perform incredible feats of agility, strength and courage. For the last week these gymnasts have been coming into school, early, before anyone else was in school, to practise their routine.

We heard sublime voices sing show-stopping tunes. I know many of them practise every night and have done so for many years to make their sound seem effortless and pitch perfect. It was no wonder that I saw the judges shaking their heads as they had to select the winners from such a long list of talented, hard-working performers. One said to me “This is one talented school, the depth of talent is incredible and the singing voices are superb”. I could not agree more but I would also say this is a school that values and praises hard work and effort, for without it talent is squandered. As Gladwell says “Practice isn’t the thing you do when you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” At Bedford Girls’ School we rejoice in the girls’ talent but we rejoice in their hard work more!

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