“As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we’ve been given.” – Mary Lou Retton
I think of a talented person as an artist, a musician, an actress, or an athlete. None of those apply to me. But the definition of talent is “natural aptitude or skill” and we all have these.
Setting modesty aside, I can cook, I have great analytical skills, and I’m a good listener. But I’m not a gourmet chef, and the benefits of being analytical or a good listener are hard to quantify.
I can write, but I’m not a literary giant. If I’m not the “best”, does that mean I shouldn’t write? Logically, the answer to this is “Of course I should write if I want to.” But too often I resist.
What stops me and others from using our talents?
Some of us don’t use our talents because we have been the victim of derisive comments. Have you heard of the poet and novelist Edith Wharton? She wrote, “My first attempt (at age of eleven) was a novel, which began, ‘Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Brown?’ said Mrs. Tomkins.’ If only I had known you were going to call, I should have tidied up the living room’. Timorously I submitted this to my mother, and never shall I forget the sudden drop of my creative frenzy when she returned it with the icy comment, ‘Drawing-rooms are always tidy.’ This was so crushing to a would-be novelist of manners that it shook me rudely out of my dream of writing fiction, and I turned to poetry instead.”
Luckily for us, Edith eventually did write novels. What if she had allowed that thoughtless comment to prevent her from writing? We might think Edith was overly sensitive, but aren’t we the same? One person makes a negative remark about our creations and we lose our confidence.
I recently planned a retreat with seven women for a local church, and we talked about using our talents for the retreat. One woman, Gloria, said she had no talents. However, as part of our formation as a team, we each told our life story and brought pictures. Gloria brought a photo album full of costumes she has created for Halloween and other events.
The rest of us said, “What do you mean you have no talents?” Gloria is the most talented seamstress and craftsperson that I know. She creates doll clothes and costumes for plays. But it took time before she recognized herself as talented.
Perhaps our talent is so much a part of us that we miss the obvious. If we cook every day, we might take it for granted and not recognize it as a talent.
One reason we minimize our talents is that the world might not recognize it. Someone who uses her talents in a visible career is likely to be noticed. An example is the very few costume designers who win Oscars for the costumes they created for a movie. But if you don’t have a great career or you are not the best, you still have talent. Some people are great volunteers. When something needs to be done, you can count on them. That is a talent.
We are all different and sometimes our job is simply a place we go to make money. We are there to make a buck and support ourselves and our family. That is fine! But we can still use our talents to better the world. Is there some place in our life where we can use our talents–perhaps at church, in our neighborhood, in the arts, or in a hobby?
Maybe you like to sing and you have a good voice–but you’re not Adele. Well folks, there’s only one Adele. Other singers can use their talent in their own way. What about singing in a church choir or performing in a local play or singing to your kids? Whether it’s dancing or crossword puzzles, you can find a use for your talents.
The picture above is the beautiful place setting that Gloria made for each of us retreat planners for an Advent tea. She sewed the place mats and created the floral accents and a centerpiece (not pictured) for our enjoyment. This made the rest of us feel special.
Gloria also used her talents at the retreat we were planning by creating bracelets and a beautiful Bible cover for each of the women. My sister Mary, who attended the retreat, said, “I can’t believe how talented Gloria is.” May those of us as modest as Gloria let that sink in.
The world is in sore need of our talents whether they are recognized by others or not. If you are not using your talents, it’s time to begin.
What are your talents? Are you using them to improve the world? If not, why not?
- If you need help overcoming resistance so you can use your talents, I recommend the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I will revisit it myself!