Submitted Date 12/02/2019

Your Hidden Talents?

Do you have hidden talents? By that, I mean talents that even you are unaware of? I suspect that most people do. I discovered several of mine entirely by accident.

I believe most of us have natural skills we do not recognize nor do our parents, friends or teachers.

When I was in high school the basic testing was about verbal and math skills. Even at the time, I felt that this was a poor way to judge and classify students. Today the SAT exams are still based on verbal and math.

When I was in high school I met a friend who was a good musician -- but his talent went beyond just being good. He once picked up a violin that he had never played before, strummed the strings for a few minutes and then soon was playing a tune with his fingers. That was one of 'those moments' when I realized that he and others had a musical intelligence that did not appear on the radar of the current school system.

Several years later in college, I was given a spatial test. I had to look at unfolded boxes and then decide which folded box an unfolded box would become. I looked at the test and could not believe that something so obvious and simple was considered a valid test. In any case, I quickly checked off my answers and handed it to the instructor. He went through my work and said I had a perfect score. Then he added that in twenty years no one had ever done the test so quickly or accurately. Apparently I had a special talent that I had not been aware of.

More than two decades later the American developmental psychologist Howard Gardener, after years of study, came up with his list of basic intelligences which are:

visual-spatial (artistic)
bodily-kinesthetic (sports)
interpersonal (emotional intelligence)
intrapersonal (introspective and self-reflective capacities)
naturalistic (not just nature but also an ability to classify)

Theory of multiple intelligence

Since the introduction of these categories, he has suggested that existential and moral intelligences might also be considered. By existential, he meant spiritual but also an intelligence that deals with life's meaning.

While still controversial, Gardener claimed that he isolated these intelligences by determining that they had a place in the brain and a number of other specific qualifications.

While psychologists and neurologists are still testing these ideas, they have taken hold in education. In fact, I used this concept when I was teaching photography to a mixed group of people from my community in Durham, North Carolina. I had Ph.D.'s, doctors, students, factory workers, housewives all in one class.

But I found that if I described the operations of a camera verbally, then graphically on a blackboard, then hands-on as they worked their camera, then through the experience of taking pictures, that just about everyone understood the concepts I was teaching. I used this method to explain how the camera aperture and f/stops worked, for example. But I saw that some descriptions worked better with some people than others, yet in the end, everyone understood.

In my own life, I never thought of myself as visual since I had a terrible time drawing. For some reason, the eye-hand thing just did not happen for me. But as the box test (mentioned above) and my later adoption of photography indicated, I had other spatial skills that were better than most.

So I have learned that a general category such as Gardener's visual-spatial intelligence might have several sub-categories. While I could not draw, I was quite good at abstract compositions and spatial arrangements such as designing posters and doing book layouts.

In another example, my piano teacher would ask his students to write down the specific notes he was playing and also the rhythm. I rarely got the note correctly, but almost always got the rhythm right. So again I appeared to have more talent in one area than in another.

And while my talents may have been hidden, I realize now, in hindsight, that there were a number of hints along the way. A couple of years before I took up photography with a passion, I had become enthralled with painting. I went through the art library at the college and looked at the work of hundreds of artists. And I made a number of abstract paintings as well. All of this should have indicated to me, that I had a strong visual sense that was trying to express itself.

And there was one more hint. My entry into thinking visually as an artist had initially come about when I thought about events in my childhood.

One thing that jumped out was that in eighth grade I had made a model of the Wright Brother's first airplane. I had to improvise as no one could tell me how to do it and I could not find very explicit drawings which meant I had to wing it, so to speak. Yet when I was finished with my model made of balsa wood strips and white tissue paper I had stretched over the balsa, I felt this rush of satisfaction. And that feeling was the signal that I had tapped into something important.

Later it was this childhood memory that triggered my initial attempts to work with spatial and visual elements.

If you want to find your own hidden talents, I suggest you think back and try to remember those times when you felt a rush of satisfaction. It could be working in a garden, or folding an origami figure or drumming along with a local band. It is that feeling that is a signal.

Spatial reasoning test


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  • Ashley Aker 2 years, 8 months ago

    What a fun read. I don't know if I want to take the box test, but I was wondering if there was a credible test to gauge all of the categories? I have been told I'm creative a lot in my life, and always feel like I don't see it. I enjoy writing, but to me, that's not creativity at work. I do get sudden bursts of energy, almost like a food craving to do something with my hands. In college I studied journalism there weren't very many art projects. I recall the professor wanted us to create a presentation on the computer for the class about certain journalists we were each featuring. I asked if instead, I could make a physical art project. He permitted my idea. I made a children's book, with colorful illustrations and direct points. I truly felt like the original assignment was a waste of time, and I wanted to make the project fun and a way to engage the class. It worked. I had strangers come up to me weeks after and mention how much they enjoyed my presentation. They even called me funny. Something I don't traditionally associate myself with. Going back to your more recent piece. Doing something based on instincts instead of logic might be riskier but much more rewarding. I appreciate the link to the box test and the piece overall. I believe people get started on a path and forget to learn things about themselves for fear of derailing from the path they started. I try to remember in order to fulfill myself I have to know myself. Thank you for sharing!