Skill as a Function of Interest

This was originally posted on my blog.
I’ve long grappled with the idea that some people are inherently better or worse at certain skills than others. Some people believe it, but it feels wrong. I want to believe that everyone is equal, but that doesn’t seem to be true. For example, I had a much easier time picking up programming than any sort of social or musical talent. For others, the experience has been the opposite.
Lately, I’ve come to a different conclusion. I wasn’t born a programmer any more than I was, for example, a musician. The key difference was that I continued to write code enthusiastically even when I wasn’t any good. Even the simplest progress was exciting for me, which wasn’t true of other skills. That excitement fueled me to continue practicing programming even when it was hard.
I believe that skill is a direct function of practice, and engaged practice is a direct function of interest. If, in an alternate universe, I had spent 5,000 hours practicing music (like I have with programming), I would probably be pretty good. But I can’t practice that much because I don’t have the interest to sustain it.
In a way, this is the most beautiful insight of all. The only challenges you can’t overcome are the ones you don’t want to overcome. I take comfort in that.