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S2 Episode 74: Innate Talent


In this episode Emmet and Mikael discuss innate talent but also discuss Handstand Extravaganza which Mikael just attended.

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S2E74 – Innate Talent

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Transcript of Episode 74: Innate Talent

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstandcast with me, Emmett Lewis and my glorious co-host Mikael Kristiansen. How is it going, Mikael?

MK: You should know I’m sitting in the same room as you for once.

EL: I know. Are you blown by surprise?

MK: What the hell is going on the screen?

EL: I wanted to – we’ve got – Anyway, tonight on the show, we have Mikael in the studio with me. He is visiting Ireland, so we’re on this and I’m playing for our amusement and to see if we can keep a straight face, people falling off milk crates.

MK: Isn’t that that stupid shit that people…. Oh my god, it was like a Tik Tok challenge. I just seen it’s a thing. But I didn’t know what it was. People getting wrecked.

EL: Yeah, it’s just basically people hurting themselves for our amusement. Oh, look, they just pulled a split across them.

MK: Really big pieces, Jesus Christ.

EL: Oh, that goes back to the waist. That’s coming for me. All right. This was the – 

MK: Oh yeah! Okay! Yeah, it didn’t take long to get fucking distracted. Yeah. Well, so yeah, I am in Ireland and I arrived, was it yesterday?

EL: Yeah, you arrived last night. We picked you up in the mist from like the side of the road randomly.

MK: Yeah, so Emmet has basically moved into like the countryside, so I jump off the bus. That’s just some like random place. There wasn’t even the proper bus stop and I’m just standing there. It’s just one empty car on the side of the road. I’m like, Hmm. Interesting. So, when am I getting stabbed to death with like, scissors.

EL: Won’t be scissors. You’re in the countryside, so you know it’s going to be pitchforks. So like a hedge trimmer or something? 

MK: Yeah, true. Yeah, no, proper Irish, uh, resistance weapons. But yeah, so we are now here and uh, yeah, what’s going on? You asked me how it’s going. Well, I’m only thinking about the T-Rex that I’m going to fold. I found a new crease pattern today, which is absolutely absurd. So, I’m thinking about the papers that I’m going to get and everything that’s going to happen. But, yeah, can’t complain, just came from the Handstand Extravaganza

EL: Was going to ask you to give us a bit of a review and a chat about what went down there. 

MK: Review 10 out of 10. Not very bad, but it was really cool actually. I had a really blast of a time. It’s organized by a Samuel. I’m not going to try to say his last name because I don’t actually remember and I’ll probably butcher it, Italian. So, it’s a kind of convention happening in Sicily, in Italy. Beautiful place. A ton of people basically gathering to do handstands like a little bit similar to kind of juggling conventions or acro conventions and so on. But yeah, centering fully around handstands. So yeah, we were a bunch of teachers. It was me. It was Mao Hara. It was a Elaine Briant I think she is a bouncer that graduated Doc and she was officially turned into a superhero that saved us from the storm when we lived at the house. So, I created a gigantic backstory of her being Thunder Girl because she closed some windows and well, yeah, and Joey Martino from Portugal. And then there was a Mongolian contortionist named Bhaska. I’m not going to try her last name because I can’t remember that either.

I’ll probably butcher that one, too. Yeah, but yeah. So just about eighty people in total doing handstands, practicing in, close to the beach. Wonderful location, just really great energy. And it was actually very nice to just re-experience this kind of excitement about doing this thing, which is I kind of – I still have some excitement, but not that type. Not that like, intense. Oh, this is new. This is amazing kind of vibe. But it ended up like actually really beautiful and really nice to just, like, be there and hang out for a long time. And in the end, like, I didn’t really feel that much as a teacher, and it was more just like I made a bunch of friends. That’s just so much more rewarding than being like, “Oh yeah, you’re this guy that can do things.” And then everyone is like – it just becomes this weird hierarchy. And that melted away very quickly, and it was really fucking nice.

EL: Yeah, I think this is kind of some of the events that it’s great to see this type of event coming into the handstand community because we do workshops, we do seminars and other stuff, and they’re kind of based on a topic like we are there to transmit and teach knowledge, whereas these style of conventions they happen in the juggling world where, they have done for a very long time. Where it’s like, you go in, there will legitimately be the best people that has ever been in a certain topic, discipline or something, teaching workshops. And then afterwards, they’re just hanging out, getting drunk at the bar or not drinking or passing things or learning of someone else who is, you know. 

This kind of space for that kind of teaching format, I think, which is kind of just very nice. Where it’s like, one for teachers because like Mikael says, you can just go hang out and you know, it’s not on a pedestal. Obviously, you’re there to teach as well a little, but at the same time, it’s like everyone is there to learn. This is kind of like a step forward. I do hope to see much more of these events sort of, popping up over the next few years.

MK: I also think it’s really good in terms of – because in many of these kind of, I guess, like the teacher-student, uh, sort of relationship, it does have an unevenness to a degree of it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, yeah, you are learning from someone who knows something and then you want to hear what that person has to say. But also, being able to kind of blur those lines and make them disappear, I think is really important because in the end, we’re just people who are interested in the same topic, and that’s really what this convention really conveyed. What it became naturally. And that’s what I found the nicest is like, it just, was that kind of environment. And I think it’s also important since like, I mean, within also what we do and what people do, it becomes our business. It becomes our profession and a way to make a living. And like within here, you kind of, you’re changing a little bit of the environment and like in any kind of like guru-esque vibes would just kind of fade away and just a bunch of people enjoying themselves. And it was just really fucking nice. And you had, like some of the musicians from this really awesome band called the Freestyle Orchestra. They were also doing handstands. They were actually pretty damn capable physical people. One guy doing straps. A couple of them being capable at fire. Every one of them doing handstands and stuff. So, it was like, damn, all these people with all these various interests to just become really interesting to meet them, as people. 

And then you see like, oh yeah, some people, some guy is a computer scientist and another one is like studying very other kind of nerdy things. And yeah, like getting to actually know people was just such a kind of blast there. So I’m very kind of exhausted, but like really kind of hungover in that kind of like, holy fuck, I’ve just been in that amazing place and just need to process everything. And like, you’re already nostalgic on day one, and then that’s when you know, this was a special time. So, yeah, now here in Ireland with you and Albus Dumbledog. That’s been an introduction of the day.

EL: Arrives in late at night and our dog, he’s a young dog and you probably know your dog kind of goes a bit nuts before bedtime. So, Mikael arrived right into the dog going nuts. And yeah, he was pretty well behaved like, yeah, dog problem number one: A lot of times your puppy can’t control his bladder when he meets new people and gets excited and wants to jump up on them while peeing on them. Thankfully, we got past that. 

MK: Yeah, you’ve got better. 

EL: We’ve got better. It’s gone for a month or two. It’s definitely one of these things they don’t tell you about dogs. It’s just kind of like it’s a surprise. This is going to happen. And then as I go, “Oh, your dog is very friendly.” That’s great and then people want to pet him. But oh no, your dog is now peeing on that lady’s shoes. Speaking of which, I’m not sure I should say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Our dog peed on another dog’s face. 

MK: On who?

EL: So, we were like, this is a funny thing. We were like, we were just, uh, if people have been listening to our podcast, we were just finishing wrapping up on some of Project X and we were just hanging out doing a bit of parkour oddly enough in Dún Laoghaire, a part of Dublin, we also had Albus with us and we were making friends with some of the dogs and some more. Yeah, some big, fluffy kind of weird dog comes along and they make friends. They kind of start sniffing and certainly going to play. And then, the owner of the dog goes like, oh, he’s about to hump, and she’s distracted, waiting for a dog to start humping Albus because he’s like a bit bigger. He’s probably a year and a half older, so he’s like a little bit bigger than Albus. But then, while she was distracted, Albus just like cocks his leg and peed on the dog’s face and then the dog tried to hump him. So, then I think like, you know, there was something there, you know, both into weird shit. Yeah. Alternative lifestyles. You know, it’s fine. If they’re into it, it, there’s not a problem. I won’t judge my baby. That’s Albus fun lately.

MK: Again, we have topics don’t we?

EL: Do we have a topic tonight? I think we should just do a pure ramble.

MK: If it is, then we could just continue rambling.

EL: No, no, no. We have a topic which we decided on years ago and forged ahead. We’re going to talk a bit about innate talent this evening, and I think it’s one of these things is like, it’s — 

MK: …Elephant in the room yeah.

EL: Yeah, it’s one of those things where it’s like, obviously there is people who are just genetically better at things or have something that lends some or predisposes them to better things. It’s like you’re just not going to find a five-foot basketball player in the NBA. Or if you do, they will be a freak in some way, shape or form.

MK: Then they’ll have another insane talent.

EL: Yeah, that kind of thing. I know there is like their husband in the past, but as an average there is an average kind of phenotype that goes towards a success in a skill. But then at the same time, I do think the innate talent thing also just gets used as an excuse or a way to dismiss someone, I suppose, or dismiss someone’s achievements.

MK: Yeah, yeah, it does. And I guess on the other side, too, there is a large or I think as a culture, a lot of people don’t like the idea of talent because we’re very committed to the idea of equality and that people are capable of the same things, which I do think there is a lot of value to. And as an on average, yes, that is a that is a good starting point because again, you don’t know exactly who will get good and you might have people who just find some sort of another kind of entry point, even that then circumvents the entire regular way of doing it, quote unquote. And that then kind of maybe can be seen as their talent and whatnot. But I do think it’s a really important topic to talk about because it exists. And it’s better to just assume that, yeah, it happens that some people are prodigies at things or learn things faster than others, and we cannot exactly know why. And I’ve seen that many, many, many, many, many times through all my training years, people training like with you could basically just mathematically in terms of the days they have been involved in it versus me, they have spent less than half the time of training than I have, and they are way ahead. It happens. It is a completely normal thing and you’d see this on low level and mid-level and very high level. And yeah, like it will be a factor. And usually, it’s a factor that like starts mattering much more on kind of towards the end of the spectrum. At the same time, it’s one that we shouldn’t kind of bother ourselves emotionally with too much, I think, because it isn’t a good direction to take in terms of practicalities. But we also need to remember it. Well, it is a part of the equation, basically.

EL: Yeah, it is just like, this is the kind of thing. It’s like talent can display itself in very different ways as well, which is what we have to think about. It’s like I’ve had people who have had people on the talent spectrum of all levels where, like, I’ve had someone, say, the most talented person I’ve trained. Their initial progress in their initial hands-on training was not great. Their talent only showed when we got to the advanced level techniques, and then they kind of took off ahead. Whereas the same time you’ve had people or I’ve had people where like, no discernible physical strength, background or flexibility thing come in. And then, learn a handstand and like a nice straight handstand in six weeks and 10 weeks. And that kind of thing of like two, you know, 15, 20 seconds and a minute follows very quickly, you know, oh, this person is very talented, but then their progress flatlines around there. And then, you know, in a year’s time, there’s not a link because there’s that kind of thing of like sometimes innate talent just lets it…It’s like a cheat code for a video game. It just lets you finish the game faster or you’re still playing the same game. You still get the same end point where sometimes, talent allows you to go beyond the specs of the game, and that’s where things get a bit interesting.

MK: Yeah, it’s true because it can both lead you to great lengths within what you do, but it can also just make you like, “Oh, well, this  actually wasn’t that interesting.” And you know, by the time you achieve something the kind of struggle versus reward calculation basically doesn’t give you enough. And I think this is a very important one. I don’t remember who it was that said so, but I remember reading something at some point that like a very fundamental component of what makes people enjoy or stay invested in interesting things is problem solving and a complicated problem that requires more of your focus, more your determination to solve is something that will in general be rewarded better. And of course, there is a neurological basis to that. But the fact that like if they are easy to solve, then it might not be as interesting in a way to actually solve them. And I think I’ve seen that in a couple of times with myself. 

That or, for example, if I look at origami, which is just something I’ve done for such a long time. I don’t really have a reference point of not being able to fold pretty well. I barely ever fail a model. I might not fold them as the absolute optimal they could be folded, but I rarely, rarely fail. I just take it for granted, like even the T-Rex thing. I take it for granted that it is going to work. I get surprised if it doesn’t, just because of the insane folding for 30 years, so my fingers don’t have memory of not being able to do it.

I think talent can also show itself in that way. Just something that you have done for so long that it becomes a little bit taken for granted. And that is not to say that, like I have a specific predisposition to paper folding or that kind of problem solving. But in that case, I’ve done something for so long that the effects become similar. Like if you start at 20 years old with origami and you’re just like, you solve everything really quick and within two years, you’re doing mega complex stuff that I know people that have been like that, like 19 year olds that just started a few years ago and they are already designing mental things. It happens. But like with origami, for example, I, of course, I find it nice and rewarding when I do things, but it isn’t the same. It is kind of like, “Oh yeah, that was nice.” And then I put it down and I’m done because I kind of knew it would work in the first place. Yeah. And it sounds stupid and sounds a bit arrogant when I say it like this, but it really just becomes this kind of thing that, oh yeah, I have done this for such a long time that, you know, you will solve the problems that you encounter on the way most of the time. 

EL: When I see you do origami, I’d almost compare it to like making a sweater with knitting or something. It’s like, you know all the stitches. You know the pattern. It’s just something you do. 

MK: It’s funny, when people were talking, because we were talking about origami at the convention. I would actually describe it like that. Yeah, it’s something you do. Yeah, it takes a long time, but it’s just something you just sit down and then you puzzle with it and then it works while hand balancing for me, yes, I learned it reasonably quickly. But then I started gearing myself towards stuff, which was very challenging for me. And I spent a long time on it and then that kind of becomes a large part of the obsession sort of.

EL: And there’s definitely like that kind of thing with, uh, I said I was going to get this phrase into this podcast. So, I’m going to use it now. The grind set. 

MK: Yes. 

EL: I think like this is the kind of thing like there can be an innate degree of talent by being sheer just pig headed and stubborn and just sticking with something. And that’s definitely like one of the things I’ve seen over the years of just like people who are  talented, not because they have any physical capability beyond sort of an average person or they have, you know, flexibility or anything. It’s just because, like they can literally just turn up day in day out. And chip away at the problem of learning to go to hand stands all the way up. 

MK: You just go.

EL: A good example of this actually is Ulrich. You know, obviously when he first started training with you. And kind of I’ve always kept going and it’s just like, it’s just a matter of you just kept going. You just keep going. And it just keeps getting better and it chips away at it. And like, you know, when he started, when I first seen him, his straddle was like forty-five degrees. Now his lines are really nice. His back has gotten really, you know? He just kind of chipped away at it. And that’s kind of interesting. Whereas you look at him now, people like, “Oh, he’d be very talented on his hands and things.” Well, he literally just has a grind set. I’ve seen other people like that. And it’s just like, you know, in multiple other different disciplines like other stuff like juggling.

MK: It’s actually an interesting comparison if you compare flexibility wise me and him, like, I perhaps had it a little bit too easy on being just about flexible enough to get away with things. And having other strengths, which led me to kind of neglect flexibility. And he was like, “No, I’m going to fucking get good at this.” And he stuck with it to this day through all of the years. And I kind of constantly just find excuses to not strike.

EL: It’s because you haven’t got a grind set up, my friend.

MK: Exactly. My grind set is I’ve invested my skill points or too many of my skill points on other things. And now it takes too long to level up. Goddammit, I need some respect points. Helgi, Can you get me some orbs of regret, please?

EL: Orbs of infinite splits. 

MK: I’ll trade you, I don’t know, let’s say fifty, if you give me fifty orbs of regret for like an exhalt or something, that’s a good deal. Anyway, over to talent again. I think that, yeah, in terms of this cultural thing around talent that it can be hard to talk about sometimes because of this, this wish, perhaps of people being equal. And again, it’s a very good starting point. Just because we won, we cannot know and two, it’s better to allow people to try from a common ground and then let people make the decisions themselves on whether or not they would want to go further and not depending on, “Oh yeah, you are inherently good enough and you’re allowed to continue.” I assume that happens a lot in sports since sports does have to have kind of a cut off that comes into competition and winning and stuff like that. But in terms of like the personal practice and enjoyment of such like the talent is perhaps I think for the actual enjoyment, I think it is less relevant to a large degree because I know people who are practicing on levels which are like even not as far as they might even be able to push it. But they’re content and they like what they do where they’re at. And I think that’s fine. And then you have the others again who just have these omega talents. And then as they reach kind of the peak and there starts to be less to achieve, like, let’s say, just in athletic achievement, like you reached kind of the big move that you always wanted. And it wasn’t that hard and you feel proud and you feel achievement and all that. But then like, where are you supposed to go next? Because you can only get worse in a sense, unless you spend all that grinding to keep and to keep and to keep. But you know that to the next level, there is going to be like six billion experience points. So, you’re not going to bother. And then I think it easily happens that, “Yeah, okay I got there. I was cool, but like, let’s let’s see if there are other things around here that might be interesting to do as well.” Rather than only following down this one specific path in a sense.

EL: Yeah, I think that kind of somewhat describes the burnout phenomenon that a lot of people experience with a skill. It’s kind of one of these things I’ve noticed as well, like I’ve been coaching a very long time at that stage. I tend to see that people have like a three-year limit with most things before they change to something else. And it is kind of like there is only so long you can hold your interest. And obviously, like when you’re in, I say, a sporting situation because there were more structured training environment when you start kind at like twelve and thirteen, and kind of work your way up. Well, every week, like three or four years, you’re changing school and team, so you’re getting a new kind of boost, I suppose. But then eventually kind of what happens is especially in specialized activities is if they specialize too young, then people experience burnout when they get to about 18 to 20. And then coming back from burnout can be a rare thing. This is the kind of thing like there could be very talented athletes, would be lost. So, they’ll have some kind of level of achievement. Most people when they hit college like scholarship level, where, yeah, they could push to the next level or maybe not. Maybe that’s just their hard limit. It’s just like college level, you know, using sort of American university terms. Here it is and won’t be able to go pro. But then it’s like, “Oh, I’ve just, you know, I spent all this time doing this, and now we just have to cruise and get through it, and then you have to do the thing again.”

MK: Yeah, I was thinking of that also after I mean, we mentioned the Simone Biles thing in a previous podcast. But I listened to actually another podcast when I was driving about a Norwegian gymnast talking about everything she was going through and stuff. And I was really thinking about that when I was introduced with Simone and stuff. And she was just saying this, that like, of course, all the insane beating that her body has and like the coaches when they first saw when she was a kid. They just saw that like, she just gets it like this, this child is just understanding something in the air that most kids don’t get this age. But the fact that like, imagine all that training, all of that insane like, we have both pressure and work that you do and then you’re like, you’re about 20, like, wow, what, she’s twenty four? And like, it totally makes sense in a sense. Like that she would sort of stop at this point. I mean, she knows that she’s one of the biggest talents of all time, but like, imagine the extra sacrifice for her now, if she would want to like go for another Olympics, which is kind of, that’s the peak achievement. That is the one thing that she can kind of like, prove herself again on. And there is, of course, she could kind of do a comeback and win, but like the margins are so small. It’s so hard. And she would have to train for another four years just to do that. And she needs to stay uninjured and perhaps even get better and all that. And it’s just like, it’s funny to think about that, like within what we’re doing now. Of course, it’s not even close level wise to anything that that she’s ever done. But at the same time, like, okay, I’m thirty-seven and I still feel I can push it a bit and she’s like, okay, I’m twenty-four, and it’s like, this is it, it’s starting to be over for that like peak, peak, peak, peak, level. 

And I think it’s also important to remember that it is at both those levels where you will see the largest kind of cut-off where talent starts dictating. I think I mentioned it before on the podcast as well. What Yuval Ayalon once said to me when he was competing against Vitaly Scherbo in like in back in like old school or older gymnastic days. And he said, like, yeah, we all had probably the same amount of training hours in the gym because like we were all professionals and competing, but like no one stood a chance. Yeah, he just came there, came there, cracked his neck and won the entire thing, whereas everyone else was kind of prepping and trying as hard as they could. And then you just have someone who just has it. And I think that in hand balancing and like, if you bring it back to the talents that are required or not required, but things that would help you in a sense.

I mean, we need to talk about things such as like, yes, good strength to weight ratio. Are you light? Are you small, etcetera? Like these things start mattering and you’ll see that like in sport acro, for example, all those people crush all hand balancers in terms of raw technical skill. And if you are a high-level sport acrobat, you’re likely chosen for that role because of your body structure being small. So, it means you have less weight to lift. And there is also where it annoys me and where I’m happy that hand balancing doesn’t need to have this kind of sport approach where there are these very slim criteria where you either need to be the best in a certain way or you have nothing to give because then you’re basically you’re cutting out like ninety percent ninety-five percent of people because, oh yeah, you just don’t have to have the body type, you just go home. So, it’s really important to remember that this only starts happening towards those very peak skills that very few are even going to bother training for. And I think that’s the big deal. Ninety-nine percent of people would be happy at a level which is way lower than like what those mega monsters that have, like all of the optimal proportions, training time and all that. 

EL: It’s also like this kind of thing like talent is good and all, but the issue with talent is like to really make talent work is you actually need a team of people behind someone to actually get the talent together. If we look at, you know, we don’t really have this in hand balance, we do a bit like in circus skills, like there is a team of people in circus school who will take this raw, talented person who can like, let’s say, hand balance talent, applied to circus, can possibly do a one arm, and then take them through that whole journey and turn them to a circus artist. And then, oh, maybe they’re talented by circus? Maybe not. But it’s the same thing in sports. Like, you know, you’ve identified a potential child prodigy at a certain sport. They will be corralled and disciplined in certain ways. They will have, depending on the sports infrastructure of your country, obviously, but they will kind of have coaches, senior level coaches, national coaches, personal coach, access to physios, access to sports psychologists, access to specialist coaches, funding. All these kinds of things that it takes to actually make that talent, to reach its potential. 

That’s the kind of thing I always find interesting is like, we always kind of ascribe, you know, “Oh, Usain Bolt is talented.” Obviously, he’s very talented and the fastest thing has ever been. But the whole Jamaican sports infrastructure is basically geared towards track and field. If he was born in say Ireland, which you know, we have good middle distance running and stuff, but we don’t have good sprinting infrastructure. We have coaches and we have things but it’s not a big sport over here compared to some of the other sports. So, you’d have this person who could run very fast at his age, but he probably wouldn’t be the fastest man that’s ever been. 

MK: Yeah. 

EL: That’s kind of one of the interesting things I find about talent as well is just like, oh, you know, the fish out of water idea as well. You could have someone who is like the greatest build to do handstands ever and they could be the best that’s ever been, but instead they wanted to play chess. And then it’s like, well, then and then just not that good a chess, because the hand-balanced mind doesn’t go to the chess, whatever. I’m speaking nonsense, obviously, but…

MK: It’s interesting what you said there with, uh yeah. I started immediately associating to the Norwegian skiing teams. Cross country and stuff. Because there’s many, not all points in history, but like during several years, it has basically been said, there was a Polish female champion who said that there’s very little point competing in cross-country skiing for women because like the Norwegian Championships has a much higher level than the World Championships, she said. Because all the competitors, are absolute mutants, because Norway has such good infrastructure for skiing. So, you get so many high level talents out there because everyone skis from when they’re small and then it’s funneled into or the people that are good gets funneled into competing and then the funding is good and so on and so on. And you’d have this on both kind of the male and female fronts where you just have like ridiculous levels. It comes a lot down to the fact that it is possible to cultivate those talents than to the ultimate degree. And yeah, it’s kind of a difficult word because it means many things. It can mean this kind of fast learner that starts quickly and gets to a mid-level quickly. It can mean the one that starts and learns quickly all the way. It can mean the one that you talked about that’s just kind of average for a while and ramps to the moon and back just very quickly at a certain point. So, all of these things make it kind of hard to define, but it is important still to remember that mostly most people can access most things, uh, given time and perseverance.

I’m really kind of, how to say, I’m so utterly bored by this classic cliche that you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want. It’s a cliché because there’s a lot of truth to it. Like to the biggest degree you have the ability at least to shape from where you are at and forwards. And I think ultimately what also matters in terms of their perseverance and keeping your interest, keeping your kind of passion for it and so on has a lot to do with just the kind of enjoyment factor to which I am not going to lie. I’m not going to say that enjoying it only has to do with enjoying it. Like, of course, achievement will impact that. Like if you feel that you’re constantly in uphill battle, it’s going to get annoying after a while like that, getting that kind of payoff or that kind of reward for it as the problem-solving thing you talked about. Like, if that just seems to be too far in between, it’s going to be rough to continue for some people. And it’s true. It’s it’s not fair and that sucks. But again, with the proper knowledge, with the proper focus, I think that, like most of those factors, can be mitigated, at least to the degree that like we’re able to get somewhere. 

EL: I think this is kind of worth touching on one of the things. How we could make the assumption rather than say, “I’m talented and you’re not talented or I have a talent” that everybody has a talent. Or an area in hand balance that they’re actually very good at. But how do we keep them interested long enough to actually explore that talent because we can look and say like, oh, let’s say my fantasy was to do switch gear and just do a four-minute switch gear. And I was super bendy, super bendy on my back. So, my talent would actually be contortion. But I want the switch gear. And then how do we get to the point where I was like, well, you get a bit of a taste of the switch gear, but then is your talent actually in this direction? Like, that kind of thing is quite interesting because it’s like, you know, as far as I’m concerned with most people with an average frame, I’m very confident saying, with an average frame and enough timing, training and enough kind of strength and dietary interventions, we can get most people to like a figa kind of level of one-arms.

MK: Yeah, I think so.

EL: You know, some people are very quick. Some people take longer. But, you know, I think it can be got there, which is a very high level, for most people. And that would be  a very impressive level to an audience. But then it’s like, oh, what’s my superpower? That’s what I always like to ask people. It’s like, “What do you want your superpower to be? What is it, really?” It’s kind of, what area do you think you excel in, or do you want to excel in? This is the other thing. It’s like, oh, once I’ve learned like to play the scales, you know, then what? What sort of music do I want to make? And that kind of thing can be very interesting because it’s like, someone could appear talented by, I don’t know, let’s say they can’t do high level skills but they can string loads of very interesting shapes together that maybe aren’t focused on strength and other stuff. But then it’s, you know, they have a talent for expressing themselves on their hands.

MK: Yeah, it makes me think of, yeah, makes me think of the guy I was training with in circus school Kim. I mean, he was he was very good on handstands. Like him and I were basically equal level for almost all of circus school or all of it, really. But his level of interest and talent… He had a hilarious, kind of expressive clowney, weird side that he he went all out on and kind of left his handstands behind to a large degree. He still performs a bit of it, but like his talent was just like blowing off into these absurd dimensions that you can never even think of and actually making very interesting and funny performative material from it. And that was really cool to see that like he combined a lot of the handstand stuff into that. But I think he saw, I mean, because he was a very talented hand balancer. But I did think that also he saw that like his interest was kind of in another direction. And it is an interesting discussion there because like this, you might be talented at something but interested in another.

It makes me think of my first core coach, Corey, when he was taken to E.N.C. doing straps because he had been a gymnast like so, obviously he would make a kick ass straps but he wasn’t interested in straps. He wants to do hand balancing, so he’s going fighting the school to be allowed to do hand balancing. And he became a good hand balancer, but like he could probably have been a better straps artist if kind of following what was his best predisposition. But it’s also that thing that look, you might see that, okay, yeah, I do have some difficulties learning this thing or like it might be kind of I’m choosing the hard path again, perhaps because of this problem solving and because of your grindset. Maybe you’re just like, fuck you, I don’t want to follow this time. I just want to do this thing, even though it’s hard for me. And that can pay off very, very much. But it can also …

EL: It can pay off and keep you interested long enough.

MK: Yeah, exactly it can. And it can also be a hard, hard journey. I mean, thinking back on kind of my power move days of breaking, I wish I could know what those would be like if I had some actual methodology because I think a lot of it was stopped by just being a kid who didn’t know jack shit about actually training, didn’t like, didn’t stretch, these power moves and I didn’t stretch like an idiot. But we were kids. We had no idea, even though we understood, yeah, it’s good to have splits, you didn’t actually bother doing it. So, but at the same time, like I kind of like I felt I never got to where I wanted with even though like I put an insane amount of energy on it. And it was kind of always like a little bit of a thorn in my side like, okay dummy, I didn’t actually get to where I was, but then you kind of, of course, also make peace with it as you get older and like, I got other things that I was more interested or kept my interest or kind of shifted it, and then hand balancing became kind of a thing where it maybe basically intersected between what I was kind of good at and what I liked doing. And like I remember, there was this one thing I used to think about when I was 14. Um, and that like, it just struck me now, that like I like um. I’d rather kind of spend my, fuck I actually forgot what I was going to say, because I remembered another quote and then like they both confused in my mind. Forget about it! Very long set up for nothing. Brilliant.

EL: Sounds like most of this podcast. Yeah, very long set up. 

MK: Yeah, exactly. And then it just ends up with a non conclusion. And some maybes. And possibly. And yeah, thanks for listening to the podcast. 

EL: Let’s quickly look at some milk crate challenges. She’s on the beach and she’s flown.

MK: So, this thing, okay, they actually oh my fuck. But it’s okay. So is this like the thing? I’ve seen the memes about this, but I didn’t know it was like an actual thing that people like pissed themselves over. Yeah, okay. Yeah, they’re okay. He wasn’t eating it, though, but okay, he got wrecked. 

MK: Yeah, this is a proposal before we go on to the podcast. There’s a quick one minute interlude I was watching milk crate challenges. Imagine like your talent wasn’t actually hand balance, but it was milk crate talent challenge. Like, this is the kind of thing just going back to weird talent and other stuff. It’s like, if we think of the history and the origins of circus, sideshow and other stuff, it was someone discovered I had a weird talent and the people were willing to pay 25 cents to look at it. 

MK: Yeah, that’s true. 

EL: Like that kind of thing of like Mr. Munch to the guy who can eat everything. And he would just eat a plane and people would watch or pay to watch him eat metal and small children and other stuff and have you ever seen these guys who can stick metal to their skin? And they say, they claim it was kind of running in the family, and they originally were saying they were able to control magnetism. But then it turns out they just have, like very sticky sweat. That was very like viscous, but they can stick things to themselves, like irons and ironing boards and other shit and like, this is their talent and they’re like, put on this planet to charge us twenty five cents to look at it. This is going back to the old days of sideshows when it’s twenty-five cents to look at it. It’s probably more than that now. It’s probably like a euro or something and like this kind of thing. 

But then people would be like they’d be able to find these weird things they could do and make something of it. I think that’s kind of like, very cool. It’s like, obviously, we’re into hand balancing things, but like, there’s these innate weird talents, and I kind of like, yeah, I kind of like just whenever I host renegade shows and other stuff, I always have a section on the show where I invite people up to show us their weird body thing, and I just want to see weird things people’s bodies can do.

And, you know, it’s just completely open stage. And like some of the like things people have shown are just unreal. Someone who had one hundred and eighty degrees of internal rotation of their hip. So, they can sit down and rotate their hip. I think their boat legs. 

MK: I like it. 

EL: You know, this kind of thing is like, Oh, this talent like back in the day. Look at the man with the backward legs 25 cents. I know obviously it’s a genetic component, but like it’s no less valid than like my oxygen. Whatever absorbs the oxygen from my lungs can do it faster so I can run further than anyone else. It’s literally that same kind of like talent all that person needs instead of like a coach in a sport to work on. They just need like a P.T. Barnum type figure like me who come along and go like, See the man with the backward legs and kind of call it out and holler it off and get the people in. And it’s just like that. It’s like talent like you can have a talent, but then you also need someone to shout about you having talent because otherwise you just get on your thing. Yeah, and that’s kind of the thing is like, it’s very rare that people will come to me and say, I’m very talented at this, but other people will tell me this person is very talented on it and it’s true. 

MK: It’s always like talent is usually dictated by the others. Yeah, rather than by yourself. That’s actually a good point. It’s rare that you kind of even view what you can do as talent. Yeah, it’s just like, “Oh yeah, I just do this thing.” And then I think, like others, I think particularly depending on whether or not what you can do is kind of considered to be socially valuable in any given for like, okay, yeah, you’re like, check out, you’re very flexible, for example, because like that is that is something that is desirable in some in some capacity.

EL: Yeah, yeah. I think that point I didn’t actually think I was going to get to the point, but I’m going to point to talented being dictated by others is kind of interesting because from someone’s lived experience of just doing something, I just done it and I got better.

MK: Exactly. That’s like what I said with the origami thing. I just did it and then I got better and then, okay, yeah, you don’t even consider it.

EL: And then it’s like, you know, it can be a humble thing where people just got like, oh, just I just don’t know. I just do my thing and I got better. And then the, you know, there could be the humblebrag of like, “Oh, you know, blah blah blah.” You know, it’s maybe not even a humble brag, but there is kind of like, you know, people who don’t recognize that they’re talented or unwilling to take it when they’re like legitimately the best has ever been at something or were at the top. So that’s kind of it. But then there’s also people who are like, take that praise and become egotistical. And the other ones who kind of like, oh, you know, it’s one of the things you always hear about, like a lot of the top champions and the top sportsmen and everything is like, they always kept it humble. They always kept it real. They didn’t let it go to their head. Yeah, it’s one of the dangers, like in rock music. If you let it go to your head, then your music ends up shit.

MK: Yeah, yeah. And of course, there is a sad correlation there also between being really fucking good at things and then just kind of like becoming cocky from it. And I think that kind of is perhaps a phase that many who get really good kind of go through. And hopefully most people kind of exit that and kind of chill the fuck out because at the end of the day, you just being good at something it doesn’t last actually. Like when I was in the convention, like Mao said, something Mao had said, something really fucking good. We were discussing, like really hard tricks and stuff. And he said, like, yeah, but you know, I don’t even consider that I own this trick. I’m just renting it, he said. I was like, bam! That is some shit right there. That is fucking true. You’re just renting it. It’s a good way of doing it. And I’m much more kind of humble perspective, even from someone amazingly good as he is. So, I think remembering that…

EL: You’re just here to rent stuff. Yeah. Yes. The economy at the moment.

MK: It’s an extremely millennial thing. You’re only here to rent for fucking ever. Well, you’re never going to afford buying anything.

EL: You will never own anything, and you will be happy because you enjoy paying rent. Your talent is only rented. 

MK: Exactly. And like, it’s subliminally communicated through every YouTube video you love renting. Just like, what was that movie? Have you seen it? Have you seen They Live?

EL: They Live? Oh, yeah, yeah.

MK: I like that one. Like, they put on the glasses and then they see that like on all the posters of commercials in the city it just says, “Obey, obey, obey” instead of actual commercials. 

EL: Yeah, that’s a pretty good movie. 

MK: Yeah, it’s pretty good. Like, that’s the best thing about the movie is that fucking fighting scene in the parking lot, which lasts way too long and has nothing to do with the plot. Priceless.

EL: Uh, yeah, I think a good ending. All of that. Yeah, it’s good to have Mikael in person.

MK: By the way, one of my proper talents is like the extreme resilience I have to all those shitty movies. I can just take it.

EL: Yeah, that’s literally a talent. You’re a talented movie watcher.

MK: Yeah, or like, I have a high pain tolerance.

EL: High pain tolerance it could come in handy in other ways. Sign up for dating with Mikael and find out. Okay, roll the credits before this gets grimmer.


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