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Why Using Your Aptitudes Is Important

The author used his foreign language learning aptitude to become proficient in Chinese and then use it for a career with the government.

An Aptitude for Painting

A painter

A painter

Why Using Your Aptitudes Is Important

Using your aptitudes is very important for success in life.

Unfortunately, I wasted four and a half years in college before the U.S. Navy showed me what my learning aptitude was.

Just out of high school, I wanted to become a doctor. I was the top student grade-wise in my senior class but results on aptitude tests were telling a different story. My scores on the ACT and SAT were only average. I also did poorly on a standardized physics test taken in my senior year of high school.

When I registered for first-semester college courses, an academic advisor steered me away from signing up for honors English and chemistry courses. My ACT and SAT scores weren't high enough.

From 1962 until the end of 1966, it seemed like I was beating my head against a wall; trying to learn and get "A's" in science and humanities courses. I graduated with a B minus average and did even worse during one semester of graduate work in chemistry.

Then, in 1967, I joined the U.S. Navy. During one or two days of testing for placement in occupational specialties, the Navy discovered that I had an aptitude for learning foreign languages. After basic training, I was assigned to training in Chinese Mandarin. Later, I used Chinese language skills with the Navy and in a career with the federal government.

In this article, I first define aptitudes, talents, and skills. Next, I show how aptitudes can be discovered and measured. Finally, I explain how important it is to use your aptitudes for success in life.

Aptitude, Talent, and Skill

Aptitude is an inborn or acquired capacity for doing something.

Talent is a type of aptitude. It refers to an inborn or natural ability.

Skill is another type of aptitude. It refers to an ability coming from one's knowledge and practice to do something well.


Aptitudes are natural traits that help us accomplish tasks. These traits range from developed knowledge, learned or acquired abilities (skills,) talents, or attitudes necessary to do a task.


Talents are natural or inborn special abilities for doing something or learning to do things, easily and quickly.

Examples would be musical or artistic talent.

If a person can learn to play a musical instrument like a piano easily and quickly, he or she has talent.

Singing and dancing well are also talents.

Painters and persons who can draw or sketch well have artistic talent.

Having the gift of gab and being good at talking to people is also a talent.


A sculpture from rocks

A sculpture from rocks

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Skills refer to abilities coming from one's knowledge and practice to do something well. Skills can be learned and developed. Analytical and problem-solving skills judge our unique abilities and how well we can apply them to specific problems.


An Archer

An Archer

How Aptitudes Can Be Discovered and Measured

Everyone has special aptitudes that need to be discovered and measured.

Some of these aptitudes in the form of talents and skills can be discovered in grade and high school years.

Other talents and skills are found out later in life through military service aptitude skills tests or on-the-job training with government and private employers.

Talents and Skills Discovered in Grade and High School

Some sports, musical, and artistic talents are discovered in grade and high school.

When boys and girls try out for different sports, it is usually easy to see which high school football players are the best and have the talent to play such positions as the quarterback, receiver, and running back.

Art and music classes in grade and high school identify the students who can sing, dance, play musical instruments, and draw pictures very well.

High school students' knowledge and skills in mathematical reasoning, writing, and critical reading are discovered and measured by colleges on such tests as the SAT and ACT.

Talents and Skills Discovered After High School

Post-high school aptitudes and skills are discovered and measured by military services and through on-the-job training with government and private employers.

During the first few days of basic training, all recruits are given a battery of aptitude tests for various job skills.

One of the tests that I took in Navy basic training was the Modern Language Aptitude Test. This test is used to predict success in learning communication skills, especially speaking and listening, in a foreign language.

On-the-job training with government and private employers also identifies aptitude for certain skills. While learning how to teach English to the Taiwanese in Taiwan in the early 1970s, I found out that I had an aptitude for teaching English as a foreign language.

Importance of Using Aptitudes for Success in Life

Using aptitudes for learning knowledge and skills can save you time and money as well as increase happiness.

As a high school graduate, I had wanted to become a doctor without recognizing whether I had the learning aptitude for this skill. I consequently wasted four years of college and expenses trying to learn sciences and other courses for which I had no aptitude for learning.

The Navy finally uncovered my aptitude for learning foreign languages. This led to an eventual career as a Chinese translator and transcriber with the federal government.

My aptitude for teaching English as a foreign language was discovered while tutoring Taiwanese in small group classes in Taiwan. I further developed this teaching skill while taking education courses in the United States.

After retiring from federal service work, I used my teaching skills for seven years at a Thailand school in the Bangkok area.

With a college degree in chemistry, I could have gotten certified to teach high school chemistry. I probably, however, would not have been as happy and successful as being a translator and teaching English.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

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