The other day I saw an article being shared on social media that stated that talent is a “myth”. The author, one of those marketing and sales gurus you see often in online business journalism, argued that with hard work, anybody can do anything. And those who insist otherwise are probably just using the idea of talent as an excuse to not try.
The idea that we are all blank slates who can do anything and be anyone is something deeply ingrained at this point, something which seems to stem from the American individualistic idea of the “self-made” man.
This idea is also pushed hard in almost all media for children. “You can be anything” is the mantra of nearly every movie or television show aimed at little kids, a message that will lead to an inevitable letdown if a child really lets himself absorb it.
That’s why Monsters University is such a breath of fresh air. On the one hand, this prequel to the wildly inventive Monsters, Inc., is much less inventive or memorable than the first movie. But on the other, it provides a message that is well-nigh impossible to find these day: you can’t be anything.
In Monsters University, the diminutive green monster Mike Wazowski wants to go to the famed school of his childhood idol. Mike is determined to become a “scarer”, a frightening monster who can excel at making children scream. The problem is, he’s small and comical looking. His new roommate, James “Sully” Sullivan, is a brawny, inherently frightening student lazily coasting on his natural abilities.
Without spoiling the plot, the two learn separate but equally important lessons. Mike learns that he has to seek out what he is actually good at, then work hard to make those talents shine. Sully has to learn that his natural ability must to be honed by discipline. Both of them learn that abilities and talents are different for different people, and that that’s okay.
This is important for kids to know. It’s okay if you don’t have athletic prowess, or a natural affinity for teaching others, or musical skill. It’s okay if you’ll never be tall, or have perfect eyesight, or have a metabolism that keeps you thin at all times. What is important is that you find out who you are, what you are good at, what you enjoy, and that you develop your talents and work hard at them while trying to become the best person you (not someone else) can be.
Image from Monsters University © Disney/Pixar