Every drummer’s “ten best” list contains the name Buddy Rich. From seasoned pro to beginner, Buddy is universally recognized as the master. Why? What made Buddy so good? The answer is talent.


Talent is natural ability. It is separate from, and paramount to, knowledge, character, and discipline. A popular and enduring principle concerning talent is summarized by the claim: “Anything is achievable so long as one works at it enough.” This woo-woo gobbledygook philosophy is utter nonsense.

The result of “working at it” is experience and experience cannot generate talent. It’s true that experience can develop talent. But it’s equally true that talent must exist before development can occur. Any philosophy or guiding principle that treats talent as a product, instead of a prerequisite, will lead to an infinity of headaches. Speaking of which…

The German mathematician named Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor removed the headache of infinity from the philosopher’s mind and placed it firmly in the mathematician’s mind. Buddy Rich does the same thing to drummers. Even after years of experience, the distance between the talent of every other drummer in the world, to the talent of Buddy Rich, is a headache inducing infinity.

Talent’s power is not limited to individual pursuits. An organization (every organization) either has the talent to succeed or it doesn’t. This is particularly true among elite company.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls. The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants have each won four Super Bowls. The Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, and San Diego Chargers have never won a Super Bowl, though each played in the Super Bowl at least once. The Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars have never played in a Super Bowl.

This disparity does not mean the Detroit Lions have less experience than the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, the Detroit Lions were founded in 1930, three years before the Pittsburgh Steelers. Disparity in Super Bowl victories indicates a disparity in talent.

What’s true in the NFL is true in every pursuit. Talent is natural ability that is separate from, and paramount to, knowledge, character, and discipline. Nothing can change this reality.

Written by Matt Manna
Nov 12, 2015 • 3EA64262(R01)
Graphic © Mauro Saivezzo • Fotolia.com

Note: Some claim the New England Patriots won four Super Bowls with talent only slightly above average. This claim is shortsighted. Coaching, like everything else, is a talent.