And poof, one day the goddess of talent abandons us

Who are we when all of our gifts are stripped away? Is that person still worthy?

It’s tough to imagine when we’ve invested so much time working on ourselves.

Think about the sheer amount of time and energy spent.

We treat ourselves as the possessors of unique gifts. We carry the blueprint of them and notice their unfolding. We slowly emerge into the full flower of our gifts through practice and reflection. We apply our life energy toward the expression of them. And we deploy our gifts into the service of others to benefit the world.

But what if, one day, the goddess of talent abandons us? What if we can no longer do what we do?. What if the world evolves and certain gifts we possess are no longer required because computers have automated or eliminated them?

Encanto, the animated film about an extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains, has a wonderful song that goes like this:

The stars don’t shine, they burn. The constellations shift, and I think it’s time you learn, you’re more than just your gift.

The characters are asking a difficult question that most of us never think to ask.

Copywriting is a good example. Agency creatives would spend thousands of hours a year crafting advertising slogans and headlines and campaigns.

Now you can pay about thirty bucks a month for an artificial intelligence platform to do the work for you in a thousandth of the time. Simply enter your product’s name and a short description of how it works. Then press the generate button to get a dozen high converting copy variants personalized to you, based on an algorithm that’s integrated millions of proven advertising formulas.

Hell, for all you know, this very essay you’re could have been generated by a computer, rather than a creative human being who loves to write while taking his morning dump.

Point being, yes, our gifts rise from pools we cannot fathom. Yes, we need to accept the talents the world gives us without shame. And yes, we should find ways to use them to make a difference in every area of our lives.

But let us not cling to our gifts too tightly. In a world where they could be taken away from us at any time, we also owe it to ourselves to locate the worthiness that has nothing do with our talents.

Bezos famously gave a graduation speech that’s been reprinted countless times. He told a story about how it’s harder to be kind than clever. Here’s my favorite passage:

There’s a difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy, they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices. The question is, will you take pride in your gifts, or pride in your choices?

Now, I would argue it’s not an either/or, but a both/and. We can and should take pride in our gifts, and we can and should take pride in our choices. Here’s an example.

I’m proud of the choice I made at age thirty to relocate across the country with a woman I’d only known for six months. We didn’t know if our love was going to last. We didn’t know if we would like living in a big city. I was scared and vulnerable and uncertain about the whole thing.

But at that time in my life, everything was urging me to make a change. In my career, in my community, in my relationships, in everything. And so, when my girlfriend laid this idea in my lap, my answer was yes. My choice was change.

Not an easy choice to make, but one that changed the vector of my life for better and for always.

What’s interesting is, that moment had nothing to do with my gifts. Uprooting my life wasn’t about talent, it was about courage and risk. And that makes me proud. If the day comes when artificial intelligence completely obviates the need for my creative services as a writer, I can still rest easy knowing that no robot can automate my bravery.

You can’t take that away from me, because it’s who I am as a human being.

Which of your gifts might be seducing you? Are you holding on too tightly to any one of your talents?

And look, this is coming from someone who’s written books, songs, speeches and movies about taking your talents on the ride they deserve. Clearly the subject of human potential and personal giftedness is a passion of mine.

But remember, the world gets a different version of you when they peel away the talent. There are layers of courage and resilience and generosity underneath.

That alone is worthy. Your experience, your character, the way you make sense of and use it, that’s valuable too.

What if you didn’t have to work so hard for people to love you?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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