There’s an adage from the Pixar film “Ratatouille” that I particularly enjoy: “Anyone can cook,” says the world-class chef Gusteau. He was idolized by our vermin-turned-hero at the center of the tale (or tail, because he’s a rat. Get it?). He absolutely believes this and ends up becoming a world-class chef. So why bring this up? Well, I want to focus on what seems to be the slogan of the film: “Anyone can cook.” Is that actually true?
For anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be present during one of my attempts at preparing a meal, it is certainly not the case that anyone can cook. Yet I want to draw a parallel between this philosophy and attempting to become an artist. Can anyone become an actor, writer or painter, or is there some special talisman, some intangible brainwave handed down from God, or genetics, or the random shuffling of the cosmic lottery? Could any of us become artists if we so choose?
Are “great artists” born or made? There’s the occasional child prodigy where the answer clearly seems to be born, but demonstrating true talent at a relatively young age is somewhat rare. So at what point does someone graduate to the level of “artist?” Can this in fact be anyone if they’re willing to put the work in? Can anyone become a great artist in any field, or do only a select few pop out of the womb as Picassos and Van Goghs? To expand this train of thought even further: Can anyone become anything? Do we just need a little gumption?
I’m not sure if anyone can become anything – I for example am at a loss if I’m hoping to become the next Elon Musk. But I believe we’re all deeply motivated to pursue a particular type of life. Some may choose not to pursue this calling out of fear of failure, lack of financial means, being pulled in other directions, or simply being consumed by a multitude of practical concerns.
So while I’m not sure if we’re all geniuses of the same ilk and that all it would take is some mystic incantation to level the playing field, I’m sure we’ve all got interests that make us happy. If you enjoy doing something, and if it doesn’t feel like work to you, then you’re probably more than just a little talented at it. It’s a nice symbiosis – the seemingly random shuffling of the genetic lottery or whatever you’d like to call it does, in this case, seem to work for everyone.
Don’t worry so much if you’re “not getting it” or if you’re not successful right away. We’re all human, after all – this is about finding what you love, pursuing it, and then revising, revising, revising! This includes accepting constructive criticism when need be, and perhaps in some instances developing a mechanism for filtering out the criticism you might not need.
So maybe it’s not so much about natural talent, though it can be part of it. Perhaps it’s more of how devoted you are to your goal? Do you even have a goal? It’s like a relationship: are you willing to accept that this isn’t going to be a pleasure cruise the whole way through, and slog through the bad times as well as the good?
If the answer to that last question is “Yes”, then maybe you too can become as successful as the rat from Ratatouille. I don’t remember quite how that movie ended, but I’m willing to bet the rat felt pretty fulfilled.
(Credit for featured image: Gromovataya.)