How can talent and tragedy be possibly connected? I was not sure if I could write on this topic but nevertheless I persevered.

The topic seems tricky one but then what’s the fun in simple discussions? An essay should always be able to touch areas considered difficult to write or discuss.

Let’s deviate for a minute and first look at how Aristotle defines tragedy ““A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; inappropriate and pleasurable language; in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.”

What is not mentioned in this definition but what Aristotle firmly believed was that tragedy should only befall on the kings, the princes or the mighty. Aristotle believed that among the six elements of tragedy plot and character were the most important. He also believed that the protagonist should be able to instill a sense of pity and fear in the audience. In simpler words the greater the character, the greater the tragic fall and the greater the tragedy.

Arthur Miller tried to defy this rule in “The death of a salesman” by making the protagonist in his tragedy an ordinary salesman but that never appealed, well not to me at least.

Fast forward to today, there is no denying the fact that many traits can be acquired and developed to make them impeccable. Some people are born talented at something i.e. being better at one or more skills. I believe everyone has a gift but many fail to realize it. Therefore who come to realize and exhibit it seem to be the only ones with such in born skills. This is where the problem starts for these talented kids, well for most of them.

The students who are good at studies, music, arts or any popular sport become rather easily identifiable as these skills are mostly on display during the school times. Their performance is often praised and they are rewarded by school as well as parents. Many will give their examples to others. In the school years particular till grade 9 it is relatively easier to be talented and score well while not working that hard. This is because the competition hasn’t gotten tough as yet.

During this period of time such kids develop a conviction that they are talented; much more than everyone else around. At that time they have a strong reason to back this hypothesis as they are not working very hard but still outperforming others. From the outside too they are being showered with praises. Little do they know that hard work or perseverance will be an ultimately critical factor in the long run if they need to be successful. The tragic downfall thus starts.

I personally believe that hard work will beat talent in the long run; much more like a marathon or a 5 or 10 km race. The talented ones are more likely to come up successful in the 100 meter sprint but as the goal becomes tougher, more hard work will be needed. Patience and perseverance will be most important now. Life is not a 100 meter race, at least not the most of it.

As time passes the going gets tough and the tough will get going. By tough I mean the hardworking ones. Those relying on mere talent will begin to sink slowly whereas the hard working will begin to rise to the occasion. What follows will be incomprehensible for the talented kid and their parents. They will most likely fail to understand what went wrong or where did they take a wrong turn.They will not be able to make out why something that has helped them to be successful so far is not working anymore.

The kids will soon have entered an important part of their lives where they will be making tough decision about choosing the university they will be going to, not to forget the good grades they will be needing to secure admission in top rated universities, be it here in Pakistan or abroad.With absence of hard work, they will not be able to do well in tough exams on just talent. Many of them will end up getting admission in the average universities. Everyone knows that such institutions are mushrooming in Pakistan like anything, imparting second class education and producing platitudinous graduates who fail to find jobs. The climax of this tragedy will beaverage, over consumed and under achieved life till death.

I am currently interacting with a boy who did his A-levels in reasonably good grades which seem to be good enough for him to get admission in a top tier business school provided he did well in SATs. Unfortunately he did not prepare well for it as he believed he was excellent in math but little did he know that such tests require loads of practice and have certain tricks and techniques which one needs to learn to stand a strong chance of a high score.

Luckily for him he can re-appear in SATs again after good preparation and he can get in to the course and university he likes though he will lose one year of education. But this is not such a big price to pay, especially in the longer run. I have been working hard to help him shift gears from mere Talent mode to convincing him that the formula of success is made of hard work and talent where only hard work has multiplier effect, meaning if there is zero hard work no matter how talented you are you will not be able to succeed and the eventual total will be zero. On the surface I seem to have convinced him but the results are yet to be seen. The process has been slow but satisfying.

This boy was lucky, he got a second chance and a qualified expert was there to help him out and put him wise. What about those students who are unable to get any such advice? Such talents may be doomed and unfortunately this would be a fitting depiction of Aristotle’s tragedy. A talent lost forever.

There is a huge difference between ‘failing’ and ‘being failed’. I firmly believe that we are failing our children terribly by not instilling a spirit of hard work and commitment. The schools and the government is doing absolutely nothing to make sure students are provided professional advice on this. No such student should be allowed to suffer and go through this alone. Expert advice should be made available. By expert advice I do not mean redundant teachers of some subject being dumped in the student advisory or career counseling departments.

Imagine if such talented children start working hard, they would be impossible to beat. Have you ever wondered why we have not produced scientists or for that matter noble laureates, except a very few? We need to look internally and see where we are failing such kids and should do everything within our leverage to be able to condemn this tragedy. We can’t just seek joy in Edhi or Dr Abdul Salam anymore, we need to create more of them, we have the talent, what we are lacking is the hard work and discipline.

My advice to parents and teachers is that they should not heap too much praise on talented students. It is possible to shift gears of such kids from mere talent tonne that includes hard work. Once it is done the student will be unbeatable with a winning combination of talent and hard work. This will take time and require patience. I don’t expect parents or the kids alone to go through this process on their own as it can be complicated.  It is paramount that such kids be reminded time and again of the significance of hard work. They must be involved in activities where their talent amounts to nothing and they have to do very basic work that takes time. Such activities have to be designed once the expert understands the student’s mind and habits. One-shoe-fit-all will not work here.

The earlier this process starts the better. But it is never too late.