• David Unger, PhD

Talent



Is there a talent you wish you had in greater abundance? Would you like to be able to paint or sing or have the ability to play a sport at a major league level or sell out an arena? Many people have a talent they wished they could expand so that they could make a living at it or at least spend more time enjoying their talents with by themselves or with others.

If you took any of those abilities skill, ability or talent there would be those among us who have an abundance of it and others not so much. Some of us might invest a lot of time and energy to improve our talent and, as with most things; some would earn a good yield on that investment and others less so. Our abilities are not static; they develop and evolve with us. We may have seen some of our abilities already peak and others that are just rising.


If we could speak with people like Beyonce, LeBron James, Jennifer Lawrence, Banksy or anyone else who you think is at the top of their artistry, do you think there would be times they were perfectly satisfied with their performance and other times they were less so? Do you think they would want to improve and get better? Do you think that while they might acknowledge their mastery they would still speak to you about learning more and improving?


I am guessing even the best at something still see there is room to grow and at times they are not all that pleased with their performance. In those ways they are probably a lot like the rest of us. However good you are at something most people want to be even better or have a greater grasp of the breadth and depth of what they do. You have athletes who are “students of the game.” They study those that went before them and find within that exploration a greater understanding of their own artistry. They experiment and try new things. Some work well others maybe not so much.


When I was growing up my family used to go on road trips and as we drove we sang. I loved those sing-alongs. They were light spirited and I felt a connection with my family in ways that I did not usually feel. Not having a cell phone handy to record the event, it is left to my imagination to conjure up those moments. If I were able to watch and listen I would probably notice that the quality of our harmonies was something we alone would enjoy. Yet within that car there was no judgment. There was just the joy of singing together.


When I got to school and had a music class all that joy went away. I had a teacher who didn’t think much of my singing and wasn’t able to work with me to make it any better. In fact, he helped make it worse. He teased and shamed me in front of my classmates and in the process I became reluctant to sing out loud. Whatever level of talent I had, and it very well may have hovered at the low end of the spectrum, didn’t have opportunity to improve as I shut down my singing voice. Shame and embarrassment are hard obstacles for me to overcome. Yet ones that need not restrict my joy.


Years passed and it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I realized I no longer wanted to shut down my sing-along voice. So when those occasions occurred when I was at a concert or listening to music with friends I quietly started to open my mouth. I was shy, hesitant and worried somebody would say something about the quality of my voice. However pleasant/unpleasant it was to others, I knew the timber of it was weak and I could hear the notes come out in less than melodic ways.


I gave myself a pat on the back for reclaiming my desire to sing and noted to myself that while I had not gotten any praise for my singing I had not noticed any wincing. I had not told my friends about my fear of embarrassing myself and they neither supported me in my reclamation or were so disturbed as to say something. So I continued to sing and over time my voice has gotten louder if not better. I thought about taking a singing lesson, but realized that while my fear of criticism was sufficiently in check to allow me to sing in front of friends or out loud at a concert or in the car, I still had some work to do before I would allow myself to sit alone in a room with someone and have them coach me with my singing. As I write this I am not sure I have the will or desire to do that, but you never know.


I mention all this because I am sure there are creative talents or skills you have that at some point you may have felt were not good enough to pursue and/or share. I know embarrassment and shame can accompany your putting yourself out there. I also know regret and loneliness can be born out of the paths we do not allow ourselves to take.


I want to encourage you to invest your time and energy into those outlets that give you pleasure. Yes, your abilities may leave something to be desired, but so to do those abilities of the most talented among us. Don’t deprive yourself of the things you like to do just because you think you may not do them well enough. Do them as well as you can, and enjoy the time you spend with them. See if you can leave your judgmental critical self in the other room or at least let it reside in the background while you sing your song, paint your picture or dance your dance.


#talent #Beyonce #LeBron #JenniferLawrence #Banksy #singing #painting #creativity #talentshow

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