Why don’t people use their talents?

I’ve noticed something strange.

I have several friends who have special talents, but they don’t seem to pursue them. Some not at all, and others half-heartedly. Or they think of these skills and abilities as just hobbies and don’t take them seriously.

I see these people as successful — if they would only develop those talents.

I don’t know why I’m surprised, though. I myself have done exactly the same thing at times, and this is a theme that I’ve explored in this blog in different ways, and also in my book. It seems to be a pretty common phenomenon.

On occasion I’ve talked to some of these folks and tried to convince them that they could do something really worthwhile with their talents. Sometimes they’ve said, “Yes, you’re right,” but then have done nothing. As Ben Franklin said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

But what on earth would make anyone just shove their talents under the rug and not want to pursue and develop them? Writer Steve Pressfield calls it “Resistance.” (See his book, The War of Art). I know in my own life that there seemed to be a million distractions, some of them legitimate (like raising my daughters), that kept me from devoting myself to my music as much as I could have, but check out what Pressfield has to say about that: “Tolstoy had thirteen kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer and won the Tour de France three years and counting.”

Apparently there really are no excuses. So I figure the best I can do to help my friends see what a precious thing they’ve got in their hands is to develop my own talents and abilities the best I can and not be a slacker. If you’re familiar with the story in the Bible about the man who buried his talent in the ground, you’ll know what I mean. (Matthew 25:14-30)


Filed under individuality, work

18 responses to “Why don’t people use their talents?

  1. I think the thing with talent is that there has to be desire and satisfaction in doing it as well. I have been told I had a talent for doing radio news/anchoring. I had the right voice and good writing and interactive skills. I am glad I did it for a while. But, in spite of people’s comments that I was SO good at it, I just didn’t want to. It didn’t satisfy me and I didn’t have the heart’s motivation to be even better at it, to devote time and thought to it. So, I do think we don’t want to bury our talents, but I don’t think we have to use them all at all times. We have to feel the love for them that makes them really “sing” and satisfy.

    • Sharon Strong

      Good points, Laura. I also think that as we continue to pray, our talents can be used in ways that will bring satisfaction. See, now you are writing a blog! There’s that one. Now, who says you won’t be lecturing one day, or recording articles for mp3s for church or even your website! I’m sure there is always a place for our talents… For example, I love to sew, and haven’t been able to find time for myself for many years, except to make items for patients’ or nurses’ use at our facility. But how I love those moments, even if it isn’t sewing for myself….! But I totally know what you mean. It’s all about timing and being open to new ideas…!

      • Yes, Sharon, I agree with you. I don’t think your talents necessarily disappear. As we yield more to the divine will rather than human will, new uses of our talents emerge at the right time and the right way. My journalism degree didn’t make me a career reporter, but it did cultivate my writing and communication skills (and talents) which feel very much utilized in the writing I have done and continue to do in my practice. We’ll see what tomorrow brings! I do agree with Amy, though, too, that we can’t allow fear or timidity to keep us from loving our talents and allowing them to fly free for the world to see!

  2. Thanks for reminding me of that, Laura. I’ve done things like that too –where people have said, “Wow, you’re so GOOD at this!” but it really wasn’t my thing. I do believe that everyone has a “thing,” though, and sometimes they resist that thing for reasons only they can fathom.

  3. Rhonda Youngblood

    Well, I have in the past reasoned that if it weren’t for the old 9-5, or just that I did not know where to begin. Also from where we are in our lives it is certainly a “leap of faith,” to put it lightly. But what you have done in this write-up brings things to the surface again and actually presents the question of, “Why not?”. Thank you!

  4. Oh yes, Giving out lots of love and encouragement to everyone is very important. I am a creative arts teacher and the director of a non profit organization. I am always coming in contact with those “very talented” people Many of those people seem to have a fear of something that is holding them back. For instance, fear of failure, of being in the limelight, that they are not good enough, that they lack the courage and strength to be dedicated to something. It could be any number of scales covering up their true individuality and identity. Encouragement and practice is wonderful and of course prayer and spiritual discernment bring it all to fruition. Thank you for you blog Amy. Wonderful thought provoking ideas. love, pam

    • What a great job you have Pam…and you’re certainly the right person for it! Thanks for seeing through all those things that would impede people and helping them to overcome them!

  5. Gordon Myers

    What you had to say about “distractions” speaks to me. I feel like I have been given some talents with music as well, but it’s difficult to find time to really develop them, between a full-time job, a desire to jog every other day, a Sunday School class, reading the Bible daily, studying the Christian Science Bible lesson daily, being on a church board, being on another organization’s board, praying for others when asked to, praying for myself… the list goes on.

    For a couple of years now I’ve had some drafts and fragments of original songs I’ve been writing that I would like to finish up and polish. But I find it’s very difficult to “scatter ones fire” as they say and still be satisfied with the result. Not to mention the fact that songs need lyrics (the kind I want to write, anyway), and try as I might, I am not a singer. I have some friends who are singers who I might like to ask for their help on, but then having to schedule things with others makes it even more difficult to really develop those talents.

    So… I hope this comment doesn’t come off as boastful; all I really meant to say is that I would love to develop some of my own talents (music in particular), but the demands/priorities of daily life limit that! “One cannot scatter his fire, and at the same time hit the mark.”

  6. Nevertheless, Gordon, if you’re really serious about writing songs (i.e. you have the burning desire), you’ll find a way to do it. Resistance, it seems, is always yanking at us, but when you stop and think about it, is it really impossible to find a half hour (or even fifteen minutes!) to sit down and work on a tune or a lyric? Oh, and another thing, you don’t need to be a singer to do this.

    • I think that is the key…. to chop it up to bite-size pieces and keep doing it every day/week/year. Like a drop hitting every day on a rock eventually makes a hole all the way through…

      Great big hugs from Portugal,

  7. i just read this after google searching “reasons why people dont use talents” im searching beacuse i once did paintings and can no longer seem to do them. i personally do not find encouragement or inspriation of any kind in death or heart break. i think this is my main problem source. i also belive these are the two biggest reasons others do similar things. you may not know the hardships people dont speak of. even a close friend might not reveal every detail of themselves. not to sound to negative but i get really tired of some of the stuff people do and try to pass off as “epic” if epic were that common, it wouldnt be considered so. i think its an awesome thing for some people to keep there creations strictly hobbies. not every single kid that shoots hoops in the streets makes it to the nba. some play just for the love of the game. anyway if you wanted to show your music a little more attention and have some fun with it i would suggest creating a soundcloud account if you do not already have one. just an idea.

  8. My son always quit stuff when he got to the point of really excelling. I asked him why and he said, “I get bored once I got good, and I want to try something else.”

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