The Difference Between Talent and Skill


If there is one thing that is apparent in today’s RC racing, it is that there are more fast and dedicated drivers than before, at least in 1:8th scale racing. The level of competition has increased dramatically, and that is good to see. Now I just wrote yesterday that I want to win, let’s take a look at what that will take.

Originally I started designing my own car because I wanted to get a job in the RC industry, that would last past my racing career. However, what motivated me was the thought that one day I could win. It would surely have been easier to do 10 years ago than now, I can tell you that much. I think at this point most people would say it’s impossible for me to win, because of two reasons, I don’t have the talent, and I don’t have the opportunity to focus on my racing. Both true statements, but I don’t think either one makes winning impossible. And that’s why I am still trying.

Talent and skill are different, and here is how I would define them, when it comes to RC:

Talent: This is evident when watching great drivers drive, specially when they have to adapt to a new situation. Talent is the “it” that some people have, it’s the perfectly timed jumps, the impressive corner speed, and the unlikely yet successful overtaking maneuvers. Talent is not something you can learn, you have it or you don’t, it is in-born, it is natural. Some people are immediately decent at certain activities, even if they have never done it before, others need to practice. That’s talent. We all have some talent, others just have more of it.

Skill: This is an ability that is built up by meaningful practice and repetition. At first you just rely on your talent, and when you practice you build up your skills. A lazy talented individual will eventually be beaten by a hard working less talented individual, because the hard working person is improving their skills, to make up for their lack of talent. But a hard working talented individual? That’s when you get someone dominating the scene.


How do you win?

I believe that if you don’t have enough talent, you can’t beat a talented hard working RC Racer consistently, it’s just not possible. The reason is that to win consistently you also need to win on your bad days, you need to adapt and adjust your driving when things aren’t quite right, and that is very hard to do. You can’t build up enough skill to do that. With talent you can adapt, with skill you have to have practiced and practiced each and every situation, and it is hard to adapt when you don’t have the massive built up experience of some new situation that you can rely on.

BUT, what you can do is you can beat them when everything goes right. When a hard working skilled, but less talented racer has a perfect setup, and a good day, they can beat anyone, maybe as long as the best talents aren’t having a perfect day too. And that’s what I am shooting for. I will never dominate, I will never win multiple races a year, but maybe, if I work hard, just maybe I can put it all together at least one time.

Think of it this way. Maifield, Cavalieri and Tebo are all extremely talented. How is this evident? No matter how hard you work, without talent you can’t basically be top 3 in every race you enter for 10 years. If you look at those three drivers, that’s pretty much how it has been. Insane results. Then you look at someone like Adam Drake, who works hard, and even according to himself lacks the same talent that some of his competitors possess. Drake has national titles, race wins, even against those three above, but no clear domination, not on the podium at every race. That’s because the skills are there, but the talent needed to adapt to less ideal situations in order to always be winning or close to it, isn’t.

So What Now?

Luckily for me RC is still somewhat underdeveloped, both in a business sense and racing sense. I should not be able to do what I am doing in the RC industry. There should be no way for me to compete with these companies, but I am. I can because most companies aren’t doing a very good job of marketing, sales and product development on the racing side of RC. I mean think about it, these companies have sales departments, marketing departments, multiple engineers in the R&D department, hell they even have a CEO. Now imagine one person does it all.  See what I mean?

Same goes for driving. I don’t think drivers are practicing enough, or smart enough. You look at Ty Tessmann or Robert Battle, and you can see their programs are solid. That’s why they are winning big now. But even there I think more can be done if you set your mind to it and think about ways to improve and practice even better and more effectively. Apart from them, to me it seems like most other top drivers seem to rely on talent a lot, and do some practice laps a few times a week. There is no deeper thought going into it. They are just that good.

Now that the White Edition LV is performing, and we have even more performance improvements in the pipeline, and now that the company is rolling along, requiring less input from me, due to streamlined practices, what I want to do is see if I can out smart, and out work the competition. It will require a perfect setup, a lot of studying both the car and driving, and dedication. It will require me being able to surround myself with the right people, and it will require some luck too I am sure. But we make our own luck. I will share what I learn, and my progress on here. There is a lot to learn from watching the best drivers on the track, and also a lot to gain from perfecting the setup of the car for oneself.

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10 thoughts on “The Difference Between Talent and Skill

  1. Nils says:

    Your are right so far, but I still miss two, maybe three, aspects of success that are very decisive, especially for hobby drivers in my opinion.

    First of all is mental strength. If you are not used to start in a half final etc. a lot of people get nervous. They are overwhelmed by their succees and want to make it right and finally fail.

    I think you need a lot of routine so that it is not a special issue for you to start in a high level final or the A-main. Professional drivers have the routine as they race every weekend …

    Second aspect is the material you need. If you get everything paid by a sponsoring company it is much easier to have succees. Especially you can change parts BEFORE they break! And you have always e. g. the right tire because of a complete stock the tire company offers. It’s absoultely not possible for the “normal” hobby drivers to invest the needed amounts of money.

    Third is the awareness that not the car, engine etc is ruling but your efforts to get the most out of this stuff. Comparing the results you can see that you can win with almost every car, every engine and tire etc. (of course not a RTR etc.) Otherwise, by always changing to the “best engine” etc. your are only chasing the succees but probably you will not get it as due to the permanent changes you can not improve the learning curve.

  2. […] “If there is one thing that is apparent in today’s RC racing, it is that there are more fast and dedicated drivers than before, at least in 1:8th scale racing. The level of competition has increased dramatically, and that is good to see. Now I just wrote yesterday that I want to win, let’s take a look at what that will take…. More […]

  3. Matt Mosieur says:

    I feel like this was written on construction paper with crayon.

  4. nino lee says:

    I’m working on getting sponsored now and opening my own shop any tips or pointers from you would be a great help I practice almost every day I have free. Thanks in advance

  5. Brian "The Dirt merchant" Kinwald says:

    You’re a joke and so is you car, fucking clown shoes.

    • Martin Nielsen says:

      To call someone clownshoes when you look like the doctor didn’t know what end to smack when you came out is a bit rich. But you are not actually Brian are you? He seems to be more of a class act than a butthurt ghetto whore you seem to be.

  6. […] skill is what I need to build up over the next few years. If you don’t know the difference, read about it here. Now that the season has began, with Nitro Challenge and Silver State, and a few smaller series […]

  7. […] which you either have or you don’t have, and skill, which you build by meaningful practice. Read about that here. Now I would like to explain the problem, when your skill begins to be sufficient to match the pace […]

  8. […] old post re-posted, as it’s relevant right […]

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