There is an implicit cost that comes with the possession of talent of one sort or another: the inability to use that talent for more than one thing at a time.
The notion of Opportunity Cost, widely used throughout the world of economics and finance, is defined by Investopedia as:
The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.
In the realm of capital budgeting - which is a largely analogous to how a person decides which projects they will undertake - the opportunity cost, otherwise termed the ‘discount rate’, is the term on the denominator of the equation of the present value of the project. Thus, the higher the discount rate (opportunity cost), the lower the value any particular future benefits from the project become.
A relatively talented individual under normal circumstances is often confronted with a relatively good set of options, or potential projects. For instance, those who score highest in their tertiary entrance exams will be able to choose from any course in any university. Likewise, very good looking people are generally inundated with a plethora of potential suitors.
Therein arises the problem of the relatively talented. Because they are faced with a multitude of options, deciding which option is best becomes a hard task. When the opportunity cost of any action is so high, the relative value of one seemingly good option over another becomes marginal, and given the number of variables usually in play, it is hard to determine which course of action is actually best.
Imagine a genius like Leonardo da Vinci. If he were alive today, he probably would have been sent to a special school for the especially gifted, and put on the fast track to the inevitable PhD in mathematics. Would he have been happy with that? Seeing as left to his own devices he ended up a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, it is plausible that he would have felt some angst over his wide-ranging talents within being so narrowly applied.
He doesn't look too happy
For the relatively untalented, the path of action is normally much more straightforward. As with increasing the relative returns on a project by reducing the discount rate, those with a low opportunity cost often know when they are presented with a good deal: a well-paid job v minimum wage/unemployment, a trip abroad v no holiday at all, anybody v isolation. Beggars can’t be choosers.
So, if instead of taking what you can get, you find yourself asking if you’re getting all you can take, welcome, friend of The Spear, to the land of the relatively talented.