There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Talent

How many times have you heard someone you know say "Oh, such wasted talent!" when referring to someone who chooses not to use their talents to go far in life or make money with it?  Back when I first got married, all I heard from my husband was about how his brother wasted his artistic talent because his brother is a great artist but never did anything with it.  In fact, I think his brother gave up creating art all together.  And it always bothered me that someone else gets to say whether you're a success or a failure based upon what they think you should be doing with your life.  As though your life is anyone else's business but yours.  But I never really understood why it bothered me so much, until now.  

In order to move from the ordinary to the extraordinary with our talents, we need to have drive.  Talent alone will not get you anywhere.  Drive is that obsessive need to accomplish something in life.  It could be anything: business, art, music, writing, etc.  What makes drive happen in the first place is need.  "I have a need for this".  That need could be money, or it could be fame, or a need to express an emotion or something similar, or a need to prove something to someone or ourselves, or even just an OCD-like obsession that makes us feel that we need to do something (Hollis Sigler, the artist, felt an obsessive need to paint every single day or else she'd not feel whole).  Drive is what takes us from hobby to profession, from good to great, from side hustle to master.  So, if we want to get somewhere in life with a certain talent, we need to have drive.  

Without it, we will stall.  

But I am here to pose the idea that maybe it's not stalling as much as it's about completion.  Maybe, just maybe, we took that talent as far as we wanted to take it in our lives and our "quitting" is actually us just finishing out that cycle.  Maybe we need to replace the word "quit" with "finish"? 

I started playing the violin in 1988 in middle school.  I graduated from high school in 1995 and had been playing the violin the entire time.  After high school, I still played here and there, and as an adult, I joined our college orchestra, even though I wasn't going to college anymore.  I went to one practice and realized just how much I freaking hated it, and never went back (the funny part was that my orchestra partner was our middle school band teacher!).  From then on, I bought violins, sold them, rebought them, sold them again, and this continued until a few months ago when I think I sold my last violin (it was black and shiny!).  And I have zero drive to want to buy another.  I think I played that last one, either never or only once.  I am not sure.  The point is, I keep buying them because I think I should.  I am a violinist after all.  I have talent for it.  I know how to do it.  So I am supposed to not "wasting my talent", right?  

Wrong.  I honestly never realized it until now, but I think I kind of hate playing the violin.  I can do it.  I can even do it well.  But I do not enjoy it.  Which is why I bought and sold so many throughout the years, because I never played them.  I'd buy a violin, not play it, sell it, then think somtehing is missing in my life by not having one and rebuy another.  And the cycle continued.  But here's the thing: I am not a violinist.  I am a person who can play the violin.  And if you tell someone that, they will instantly whip out a violin from goodness knows where and ask you to play it.  And they expect you to play like an angel.  So I stopped telling people I can play the violin, because I am not an on-demand kind of person, I need sheet music.  It's ridiculous when you have talent for something the kind of expectations that come along with that.  "Oh, you're a writer, have you written anything I've ever read?"  Because somehow every single writer is on the bestseller list and out of the thousands and thousands of stories written out there, yes, ma'am, you've read one of mine!  Sure.  Good grief.  

Having talent doesn't mean you need to be a virtuoso at it.  Having talent doesn't mean you should be accomplished in a way that other people approve of.  

And having talent doesn't mean you need to be doing anything with it at all.  

Just because you are good at something doesn't mean you love doing it.  And just because you're good at something doesn't mean you need to share it with others in a way that proves you are accomplished at it.  You may love it, but you are allowed to keep it private.  

My mother is obsessed with my son going to cooking school.  No reason.  She idolizes his ability to cook because he's one of her golden children.  My older son can cook, too, and yet all she says to him or about him that he's doing it wrong or makes a mess or will burn things.  But she places these expectations on my youngest kid and I think both the way she acts are ridiculous.  So, she says it again the car the other day and I say "The fastest way to make someone hate what they love doing is to make them do it for a job.  Do you know how stressful it is to work in a kitchen??"  She didn't understand what I was saying (of course she didn't, she lives in a fantasy land), but my point was clear.  If my son loves cooking?  Then why ruin it by having him do it for a job?  And he has zero drive to want to be a chef.  Zero.  So her arbitrary idea that he should be a chef comes from her vision for him, not from him at all.  Which I can say is where most of these ideas for other people's lives come from.  

When someone says "Wow, that person has wasted their talent by not going further with it...", that comes from them.  It has zero to do with the actual person they are talking about.  Of course, that person would go far if they had the drive to do so.  But they don't.  So why place a label of "failure" on them, just because you see it that way?  What you think has nothing to do with their actual life.  

The same can be said for your own ideas of failure on yourself.  Where are those ideas coming from?  The idea that you should have done something you obviously did not have the drive to do?  Oh, from other people, that's who.

Not having a drive to do something does not a failure make.  To me, the real failure is doing something you do not love just because you think you should be doing it.  "I have to be a doctor because my parents paid for medical school and everyone has high hopes for me to be a doctor and I am really good at it.  But the truth is, I hate it."  Maybe in the beginning you thought you liked it.  But staying doing something you hate just because you think you have to is not actual success.  Success comes from a life well-lived.  A life that makes you happy.  Even if you're poor for your entire life.  Who cares?  If you are happy, you have succeeded.  Even if others don't think so.  

Just because we have talent for doing something doesn't mean we want to do it.  I read this a long time ago and wrote this down on my phone (a quote which I elaborated on): "If you wanted to it, you would have.  There are no missed opportunities in life.  If we really wanted to do something we would have chosen to do it.  It's as simple as that."  We ache for these things we missed out on, but we missed out on them for a reason.  Real reasons, even if we're not sure why.  Deep down, we just didn't want it for our lives.  And that's okay.  Could have.  Would have.  Should have.  Nope.  No such things.  We did.  We didn't.  We move forward and make new choices.  That's it.  If we really regret not doing something, we can do it in the future if we like.  But ask yourself, do you really want it?  Or do you think just think you should want it based on the fact that the world tells us we should?  "You were so good at that, why did you quit?"  Because it wasn't right for you back then, that's why.  And maybe it's right for you now, or maybe it will never be right for you.  But letting someone else (or yourself) pressure you or guilt you into doing something just because you're good at it or once was good at it, that's not right.  You have to choose things based on what you want for your life, not what others want for you.  

I kept choosing violin because I thought I had to.  I thought "Well, all that time I spent learning this instrument was a waste if I end up never playing it again."  So, I kept buying new violins, trying to force myself back into that box of "violinist".  But it wasn't a waste of time.  It was something I truly enjoyed doing and it was right for me back when I played.  But today?  Not so much.  I just do not have an ounce of drive or need to play it.  I used to, but now I have so many other things I'd rather be doing.  And that's okay.  

And my brother-in-law?  He was an artist and may be one day again, but for now, he's building his own roleplaying game that he hopes to get published.  How cool is that?  Our tastes and hobbies and things change as we age.  And what we did when we were younger, may not be what want to do today.  I mean, the world is freaking huge, and the possibilities are endless.  So why box ourselves in when we can be expansive rather than keep playing small?  I mean, if you have drive to want to do something, then by all means, be expansive by expanding that thing you do.  But if we don't have drive, then that thing becomes a box that keeps us trapped.  So, set yourself free.  And do something you do have drive for.  Even if nobody else can see it or understand it.  This is your life.  You only get one.  So make it be one you can look back on and be happy.  

Most days, my drive is to just be in the moment and experience life as it comes.  It's calming and wonderful and beautiful, even if it sucks at times.  But that's where my drive is.  No, go figure out yours.  

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