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“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”  ―Erma Bombeck

I often ask people to tell me what their personal talent is and if they’re putting it to work. The most common first reaction is a look of bemused resignation. They’ll say things like “Mine is insignificant,” or “I’m not sure I have any,” and then go ahead to compare themselves with people they know to have ‘real’ talent.

The most surprising response I have heard, however, is from a young man who sought to meet me not so long ago.

“Talent?” he asked with a flinch. “Mine is completely useless.”

The statement stung.

Is there such a thing as a completely useless talent?

On an online forum, people were asked what interesting but useless talents they possess. One person revealed an ability to mirror write, so that whatever she writes can only be read when it is viewed in a mirror. Another disclosed an ability to repeat fluently even the most difficult tongue twisters, while yet another proudly revealed a talent for barking, quite convincingly, like a dog! Yet someone else chimed in to let the world know about their talent solving Rubik’s cubes.  

It’s amazing how people discover that they can do some unusual things. It might make you wonder what you are able to do that you’ve never thought of, or had the opportunity to discover. Even more puzzling is whether the seemingly peculiar talents have any purpose. Odd as some talents may seem, even more strange would be a person without any talent whatsoever.

But then, everyone has potential. And that includes you. The common phrase ‘God-given potential’ rightly suggests that potential is innate. We are all born with it. It’s a wonderful gift that comes inside each ‘package,’ free of charge or merit. Just like we all have fingerprints, everyone has potential expressed in at least one personal, unique talent or ability. Some have more than one.

Let’s take a quick journey back in time – when you were ten, or twelve. When you believed that you’d make a unique mark in the world using your personal talent. Back then, you weren’t distanced from your talent. And though you may not have called it ‘talent’, you knew it and sought it out.

Take a deep breath.

Between then and now, how did your childish clarity fade? When did you start listening to the world around you, and ignoring the voice within? How did you start becoming suspicious of your talent, and mindful of the ‘need’ to keep it under tight leash?

And there’s no such thing as a useless talent. Perhaps just a talent whose purpose you have not yet discovered.

Here’s my appeal to you: find your way back onto your talent path – the place where you can give your best, and where you have the best to give.

Chase your talent, develop it, enjoy it, and be proud of it. Know that if you hone it long enough, it will not only make you outstanding, it will also be the means by which you contribute something special to the world.   I hope you flourish.

Copyright ©2020 David Waweru · Photo Credit: Gabriel Sanchez on Unsplash

David Waweru

Author David Waweru

Writer, entrepreneur, trainer and consultant. Founder of Booktalk Africa and Will to Win Global. Member of the UNESCO Expert Facility on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Director at the Sports, Arts and Culture Sector Board, Kenya Private Sector Alliance.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Sammy Kerre says:

    Hi bro Dave, I was just reflecting on this and it hit me that the “loss” of talent we experienced is primarily from two sources: 1. pressure from our parents to do something “employable.” 2. socio-academic pressure to perform in school which leads us to neglect all the other things the academic system is unsupportive of.

    • David Waweru says:

      Hi Sammy,

      So true. Most of us grew up believing that the sum total of life consisted of “go to school, get good grades, enter college, graduate, get a good job, blah blah blah.” And the tragedy of the education system is that it tends to bury our children’s potential with so much load that they hardly get the time to play and be kids, let alone the space to discover their true potential. I think that home and school have played a bigger role suppressing creativity than encouraging it.

      A more supportive home and school environment would instead give greater focus on the nurture of every child’s potential – we become our best when we play to our strengths.


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