I thought about this for a second, then asked him, "Do you believe in talent?"
No, he said. He doesn't. "It's all practice. Talent is just another word for lots of practice." This was coming from a guy who, by my measure, is a talented artist and makes his living drawing. But there he was, disavowing his own talent.
I've seen this question asked a few places, and it seems that the people who defend talent the most vocally are amateurs or earlier in their journey. I don't mean that in a disparaging way, but most of the professionals I know put much more stock in hard work, in grinding it out day in and day out, than they do in pure talent.
Here's what I think: maybe talent is just another word for being born with certain attributes that support a certain endeavor. You know. A kid shoots up to 7'2" when he's 18 and goes into the NBA. His height isn't talent, but it makes it possible for him to play ball. Or a student has an excellent memory for 3D shapes and texture ... a possible sculptor hidden in the mix? A kid is born with perfect pitch. Or an excellent memory. If you choose to press these attributes into the pursuit of a certain profession, viola! You're talented.
If it even exists at all, I think what we call talent is merely the key to entry. At some point in any artistic endeavor, pretty much everybody you meet is going to have talent, or whatever passes for it. I can pretty much guarantee there's nobody on the New York Times best-seller list who isn't an accomplished and highly skilled writer. So like my artist friend said, it really does come down to hard work ... and talent is beside the point, an afterthought.