Many of us hold a limited and limiting definition of talent, believing talent to mean special skill in art, athletics and academics. This narrow understanding can restrict learning ability, performance, and happiness in all aspects of life.
During 1999-2000, I visited classrooms in a variety of school settings throughout America, where I read my book, The Twelve Gifts of Birth. I then engaged the children in discussion about their inner resources of strength, compassion, beauty, and other human capacities, including the gift of talent.
Everywhere I went, I asked children to tell me about their gift of talent. In every classroom, hands shot up, and I got answers like, “I can draw. I can sing. I’m good at baseball. I’m good at swimming. I’m good at math. I’m good at spelling.”
In nearly every classroom, there were a few students who hesitated to name a talent or did not did claim one at all.
Next, I asked, “What do you love to do? What makes you happy?”
Then, every child showed eagerness and enthusiasm. And, I heard answers like, “I’m good at taking care of my baby brother; I can make people laugh; I’m good at putting puzzles together; I like to look at the stars; I know sign language; I love my dog; I can twirl my tongue; I can put my legs behind my head!”
These answers demonstrate that, by approaching talent in a broader way and asking about likes and abilities, children readily begin to see the notion of talent in a broader way and they see themselves as “talented,” which usually leads to an increased sense of value, self-worth, and potential for learning.
Whenever I lead this expanded activity, I observe what appears to be heightened happiness and a greater sense of respect for self and others.
So, I’m suggesting three ideas to help expand the limited, common view of talent that is prevalent in our culture:
1. Let’s start using a new word: Talentry. The word talent is well established as primarily related to the 3 A’s… academics, athletics, and the arts. It is probably easier to use a new word than to try to expand the meaning of an existing one. Talentry could be that word, meaning “the mix of abilities and interests that exist in any and every human’s makeup.”
2. I invite you to make a Talent Tree. Start with a blank “Talent Tree” for yourself and one for each person doing this activity, if you are doing this with others. You can draw your own trees with a simple trunk and straight lines for branches. Use the one provided here as an example. The idea is to fill in the branches, one-by-one, with aspects of a person’s own, unique talentry. Brainstorm. What comes easy? What brings joy? What do you love to do? What do you care about? These are the clues for aspects of one’s talentry. Note everything that comes up. Have fun with this. The purpose is to expand appreciation of all our traits, not judge anything as “unimportant.” Nothing is too small in this quest. The sample “Talent Tree” in process here is meant to be a guide.
3. Fill in as many branches as you can. Then, be on the look-out. Make it a game. Continue to add all those seemingly small qualities and interests to your Talent Tree.
I believe that when we all get this expanded view of talent … when we see that every person has and IS a unique expression of talentry … we will all begin to experience more reverence and joy in our hearts as well as greater success in the world.