Talent

The seventh gift is Talent.

TALENT

May you discover your own special abilities
and contribute them toward a better world.

While traveling throughout the United States on my book tour, I met with thousands of third grade students.  After reading The Twelve Gifts of Birth, I asked the children to tell me about their gift of talent. Without fail, in every classroom, hands shot up and boys and girls exclaimed examples of art, athletes, and academics.

“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 all the places I visited, only one child said, “I don’t have talent.”

In fact, that little girl in Anchorage, Alaska yelled, “I do NOT have talent! I do NOT have talent!”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

She answered, “My mom says I’m good for nothing and she knows. My mom is smart.”

How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have talent”?  Have you ever said it yourself?

I think that most of us have a limited – and limiting – view of talent.

Our way of seeing may not be as limited as that girl in Anchorage who insisted that she had no talent, but like all the other children I spoke with, many of us tend to confine talent to art, athletics, and academics.

Individually, as well as collectively in society, we could all benefit enormously by recognizing that every child – and adult – is “gifted and talented.”

To start, we could use a fresh, new way of looking at talent.  Perhaps a new word would help. We could use the expression talentry when we look for talent in ourselves and others. From a broader perspective, talentry is the “mix of abilities and interests that exist in every human’s makeup.” Like fingerprints, snowflakes, and trees, each of us is a one-of-a-kind creation.  One of our jobs in life is to discover our authentic interests and natural abilities.  Another job is to decide what we will do with our unique expression of talentry.  Every day, by using or not using our talent, we are making some impact in the world, affecting ourselves and others.

The gift of joy can lead us in a lifelong discovery of talent.  Joy provides clues.  “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell said.  Pay attention to what you love, what makes you happy.

“What do you love to do? What makes you happy?” I asked all those children, after they named what they first recognized as their talents.  I wanted to stretch their understanding of talent.

And then I got 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 can find four-leaf clovers

I can make people laugh.

I know sign language.

I love my dog.

For me, their answers demonstrate that talent is more than exemplary skill in art, athletics and academics and that all children – and adults – are “gifted and talented,” not just those who are labeled as such.  Their answers strengthen my conviction that we need to expand and nourish our talentry, not minimize or deny it.

We may not have heard we are “good for nothing.”  But many of us have heard: we are not good enough.  We may have said it to ourselves. I know that I have.  Far too many times.

Even Albert Einstein said, “I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.”

But, it doesn’t serve us – or the world – to be small, as Marianne Williamson said.

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?…There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking….We are all meant to shine….we are all meant to manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us…it’s in everyone.”

The challenges we face today are greater than they were during 1999-2000, when I discussed talent with all those third-graders who are now adults.  It is critical that they – and we – all see ourselves as talented, fabulous, powerful, inventive, creative, able.

Remember Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz?  He thought he wasn’t “smart.”  Although he wasn’t brainy – he didn’t even have a brain – he was a caring, natural leader and solved many of his little group’s problems along their journey on the yellow-brick road.  Each of us can make the world a better place!  No contribution is unimportant.  As Mother Teresa once said, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”

 

For reflection, journaling and discussion:

1. How do you presently perceive and define “talent?”
2. Do you consider yourself to “have talent?”
3. Consider exploring your interests and special abilities in light of “talentry.”
4.What everyday activities come easily to you?  What brings you joy?
5.What did you love to do when you were a child?
6.What things on this list recognition and/or excitement in you?

 

Taking care of animals

Singing

Running

Doing math

Helping others

Reading

Listening to others

Jumping

Skipping

Riding a bicycle

Drawing pictures

Painting

Creating stories

Playing ball

Dancing

Using imagination

Telling stories

Telling jokes

Making people laugh

Playing a musical instrument

Playing sports

Speaking more than one language

Whistling

Finding four-leaf clovers

Putting puzzles together

Taking tests

Finding things that are hidden

Growing plants and flowers

Yodeling

Juggling

Solving problems

Cooking

Helping people understand each other

Recognizing stars and plants

Spelling

Memorizing

Designing clothes

Building things

Sign language

Gymnastics

Art

Debating

A “Talent Tree” can assist you in this process because a tree is a perfect symbol of “talentry.” The trunk represents who we are in our entirety.  The branches represent our many abilities and interests.  The blooms illustrate how we contribute our personality traits and skills in the world. Consider making your own “Talent Tree.” Add to it whenever you notice a new or forgotten interest or ability.