What Is Talent?

Jazz Guitar Player

What is talent all about? 

Why do some people have a head for numbers, while others struggle with math? How come some of us can learn a musical instrument without much practice? Growing up, my three brothers and I were naturally good at very different things. I was playing progressive rock lead guitar solos in junior high without much effort, the notes just rolled off my finger tips. I was jealous of my best friends who were natural athletes and even tried playing football until it was obvious that I sucked, in comparison. My youngest brother was drawing sketches of the inner works of car engines when he was 10 years old, and another brother was a math whiz.  

Female track athleteNo two brains are the same. Although we have the same stock set of cognitive thinking “gears” or modules, like we all have two arms and two legs, the strength or “size” of these gears vary pretty widely from one person to the next. For example, sprinters and long jumpers both have athletic builds, but when you zoom in to look at the length of their leg bones, hip width and the type of microscopic fibers in their leg muscles, there are measurable innate differences going on at the biological level that give each an “natural” advantage for their particular sport. The same goes with how our minds work.  

At a young age, my one brother was displaying very early signs of a raw, undeveloped potential to visualize spatial objects in his mind’s eye. His spatial ability has the horsepower of a V-8 race car engine, while my aptitude in this ability is more like a 2-cylinder moped. Over the years, my brother continually practiced his spatial ability because it was fun for him, it put him “in the zone” when he engaged it. He’s now a structural engineer for a company that makes highly specialized steel products and loves what he does.   

One way to follow your talents is to pay close attention to the activities and situations that put you in the zone. Usually people have multiple talents, they can find flow a number of ways. Career aptitude testing can accelerate this process. Discovering your unique blend of  aptitudes and personality traits can help sort out your combination of strengths, helping you to pin point what to study and where to focus your experimenting. Knowing your particular talent “ballpark” of well-suited career fields will save years pursuing dead ends, and lots of money too. 

Following is a sample list of some of the “hidden” cognitive talents that are measurable. This is an introduction to the aptitudes that are professionally tested with a sophisticated natural ability battery featured in our Careerfinder Classic and Plus programs. 

*Natural talents are scientifically measured by a series of specialized aptitude tests, a battery of these tests gives you a full aptitude profile of 15 talents and personality traits. Your overall pattern of talents will suggest specific career paths. Below is a partial sample of the ability battery of talents measured.

 Tribal™ Personality

About 75% of people are tribal, they feel at home as part of a group. If you identify strongly with a sports team or college sorority, you probably have a strong dose of the tribal trait.

Female tribe

Extroverted Tribal

Extroverted Tribal™ — outgoing tribal personality types are the most common type in the human species. Almost everything on TV, social media and in pop culture news features the latest trends that tribals tune into. The ‘in-crowd’ is an inborn mindset. Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip is the perfect avatar for this type. Former president George W. Bush (#43) perfectly embodies the extroverted tribal personality, as does former V.P. Joe Biden. The consummate generalists, 85% of Fortune 500 CEOs were frat boys in college. Their genius is centered on relationships, harnessing who they know is paramount to their success.

Introverted Tribal

Introverted Tribal™ — the more ingoing tribal personality type prefers to work alone most of the day with minimal people interaction. They play their part on a team, quietly behind the scenes. They prefer to follow rather than lead. Often comfortable in a support role in a large corporation or government agency, as well as computer programmers and engineers in big high tech companies like Google. Charlie Brown is the classic quiet tribal. Presidents George H.W. Bush (#41) and Gerald Ford both came off as an introverted tribals who carried the torch of their party.  

Maestro™ Personality 

About 25% of people are maestros, they are independent-minded mavericks who walk to the beat of a different drummer. If you feel like an outsider, rarely join groups, etc, and would rather not collaborate to get the job done, you’re probably a bit of a maestro.

Maestro violinist

Introverted Maestro

Introverted Maestro™ — the ingoing maestros are the rarest personality type in our species. We all know some of them as nerds and geeks, or brainy types. They are the born mavericks—the often misunderstood lone wolf. Interestingly, they usually don’t care. They like being different and prefer not to be team players. Linus of Peanuts is an introverted maestro. President Obama’s introverted maestro nature isn’t suited well for the constant hand-holding demanded by the very tribal U.S. Congress. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are in this club too.

Extroverted Maestro

Extroverted Maestro™ — the outgoing maestros among us are also pretty rare, but definitley more visible. They have a take charge, know-it-all demeanor that gets attention. Outspoken outsiders and change agents like Steve Jobs, who pioneered the memorable “Think Different” ad campaign. Many rise to leadership positions without even trying. Snoopy of Peanuts is an extroverted maestro. Former President Bill Clinton, a classic extroverted maestro, still captivates people with his knowledge and charismatic ability to communicate. President Ronald Reagan is in this club, as was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spatial/Non-spatial Talents

About 50% of men and 25% of women are innately strong in the spatial ability, the rest of us are either tangible or non-spatial . . .

3D imagination

Spatial Ability

Spatial Ability — a strong aptitude for thinking in 3D, the ability to transform and rotate a 2D image and visualize it (in your mind’s eye) in three dimensions without physically touching the object.

Tangible Ability

Tangible Ability — a moderate ability for 3D thinking

Non-spatial Ability

Non-spatial Ability — a strong aptitude for working with ideas, data and information, rather than physical things.

Problem Solving Talents

Everyone has all the problem solving talents, it’s a matter of degree. Typically, people are strong in just one of these abilities . . .

Diagnostic Reasoning

Diagnostic Reasoning™ — diagnostic reasoning is the “Sherlock Holmes” problem-solving ability to leap to accurate conclusions by seeing a relationship between bits of information that are not obviously related. Sometimes it’s referred to as “thinking without thinking” because it’s a talent that is lightning fast at sizing up situations.

Analytical Reasoning

Analytical Reasoning — analytical, logical reasoning is a problem-solving ability to quickly and accurately categorize, organize and synthesize given information and reach conclusions by a thorough step-wise analysis.

Idea Flow

Rate of Idea Flow™ — rate of idea flow is your mind’s speed of generating ideas. In simpler terms, it’s your brain’s talent for brainstorming ideas and/or concentrating. Picture Robin Williams (sadly missed) on a roll . . .

Personality Traits

Personality Type Metaphor

Everyone has all four personality traits, it’s a matter of degree . . .


Intuitive (N) — ability to see and understand the world largely in terms of what’s possible, seeker of inspiration, brilliant at combining ideas to dream up new stuff. Deep, poetic, head in the clouds; global-minded.


Sensor (S) — ability to see and understand the world largely in terms of what is, conventional, sensual, pleasure seeker, brilliant at getting things done. Literal, feet on the ground; local-minded.


Feeler (F) — decisions are more personal, based on inner likes and dislikes; subjective opinions and preferences, empathetic outlook. Concern for being tactful, caring.


Thinker (T) — decisions are more logical, based on external truths and objective evidence; level, fair-minded outlook. Concern for being precise, factual.

Discover Your Talent Profile

Your natural talent profile is like a career compass.  It’s your unique combination of aptitudes and personsality traits. The number of talent combinations is infinite. The mix and pattern of your inborn talents is largely hard-wired, so the road to success is to do what you do best and build on your natural strengths. For example, how is an extroverted maestro, spatial-intuitive-feeler with diagnostic reasoning and high idea flow different than a introverted tribal, spatial-sensing-thinker with low idea flow and analytical reasoning? Can you imagine a “Steve Jobs” type as a dentist? Believe me, I’ve seen the former masquerading as the later. Sheesh!

In our line of work, Pathfinders’ career test is superior, rated among the best of the best. Unlike skills and interests, it’s very difficult to accurately self-assess your inborn abilities. There are only a few organizations in the world who have the technology to professionally measure your natural talent profile.

Pathfinders is based in the Washington DC-area and has helped thousands of people worldwide discover their talents. Pathfinders’ senior career consultant, Anthony Spadafore, is a leader in the field of career aptitude testing and interpreting natural talent profiles.

Discover your natural talents: 

Learn more: contact Anthony Spadafore, coauthor of  Now What?, a top selling career choice guide book for young professionals.  

The terms Tribal™, Maestro™, Diagnostic Reasoning™, and Rate of Idea Flow™ are Rockport Institute trademarks, used with permission.

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