Friday, April 19, 2013


This post was spurred by an article about my son, Peter, who has been high lining for seven years. But these feelings can be triggered by watching anyone who does something amazing. Where you pause and marvel at their grace and apparent ease in doing something difficult. They do things that were beyond imagination a short time ago.

Too often, we use the words "blessed" or "gifted" to describe these people. I think that is a mistake, and drives self-defeating behavior. In my observation, these aren't gifts- they are the results of hard work + passion (often bordering on obsession) + other experiences (often related) they bring to bear. And imagination. Sure, some people have more genetic predilection than others, but I have lived long enough to see these comets burn out. They may get a head start, but they rarely keep their lead if they don't have these qualities. None of which are inherited, and all of which can be learned, or at least chosen.

But rather than focus on the "gifted," let's focus on how we react to them. Do they make us jealous and resentful? (I admit I have felt this way more than once.) Or competitive? Or grateful and humble? When you see them, do you give up, knowing that you will never be that good? Do they fire your competitive juices? Or do you try to learn from them, hoping that they can help you perform better, even if you never reach their heights?

Next time you find yourself thinking that someone is gifted (your friend, competitor, colleague or kid), think about how hard they must have worked to make it look so easy.  These talented people can inspire you to try harder, or provide the reality test that you may be better suited to other work.

The real gift of the "gifted" is that they can make you better, either at what they and you do, or at something entirely different. Perhaps, their gift will help you find the last piece of the puzzle that you need. The ease and power of an athlete, the use of color and space by an artist, the use of dissonance and improvisation by the musician, the surprising story of a writer.

So, what would you want to be gifted in? And how are you going to do that? Who should you read... watch... listen to... talk to? What is their gift to you? How will you use it?

And who might that help?

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