Learn to Thrive at Work and in Life

As always, I’m posting my most recent Psychology Today blog to my “regular” blog so that all of you get a chance to read it.  I observed five key truths that can help you discover and develop your own unique talent(s) – no matter how old you are, no matter how silly you think your dreams are, and no matter how convinced you are that it’s “too late”.

In the last few months I’ve found myself riveted by talent shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent. And like the rest of the world, I found myself thrilled and overcome to tears by Susan Boyle’s incredible performance and story on Britain’s Got Talent.

I find these shows professionally as well as personally fascinating. I re-awakened my childhood fascination with dance in my late 20’s – that led to a totally new career (if you can call it that!) as a flamenco-dancing wellness expert/author/speaker.

Watching last night’s contestants, I observed five key truths that can help you discover and develop your own unique talent(s) – no matter how old you are, no matter how silly you think your dreams are, and no matter how convinced you are that it’s “too late”.

1) ENTHUSIASM: more important than extreme talent

Though I’ve had the surprising privilege of performing and even teacher, I always point out that I’m not even close to being a “great” dancer. I’m not even the best flamenco dancer in my hometown, nowhere near. Yet I’ve been told that the reason I’ve gotten the opportunities that I have is because of the passion and love for the art that comes out of me when I perform.

Ishaara, last night’s Bollywood group, is a perfect example of that. They don’t appear to be professional dancers, though perhaps some of them have taken classes. Almost anyone with coordination could learn the simple but very effective dance routine they put together. What brought the house down, and the crowd to their feet, was the energy and passion that poured from them as they danced. They love what they do, so much, that they make you love what they do, too. Put love and passion into your talents, however they may be expressed, and you will be amazed by how far it will take you.

Watch Ishaara dance

2) YOUR TIME IS NOW: It’s never too late

I collect stories of people who finally developed and expressed a talent late in life, and enjoyed much success and joy despite their unconventional timing. One AGT “never too late” hero is 43 year old Kari Callin, who has been singing since she was 3 years old and has dreamed of being a professional singer her entire life. Her obstacle? Callin was born with birth defects, a cleft lift and palate, and has surgical scars and facial features that mark her as different from more typically glamorous singing superstars. She told the audience how once, she’d gathered the courage to audition for a cruise ship job, and they didn’t even give her the chance to sing. To quote AGT judge Sharon Osbourne: “Forget the cruise ship, they’ll never be able to afford you now!”

Watch Kari Callin bring the house down

3) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED – and enjoy it!

I’ve observed that God seems to like to create fortuitous circumstances for the talents he gifted us with, often right under our noses. I never imagined, initially, that I would move to Mexico, and that there I would finally live out my dancing dreams. On America’s Got Talent, two randomly matched, introverted college roommates spent months living together without even really talking to each other. When they finally did, they found they both shared a passion for music and dance.They look like two average guys, but watch what happened when these two finally connected and collaborated. It’s just spectacular!

Watch Anthony & Matt

4) PERSIST: It will pay off.

When I heard that 16 year old contestant Mia Boostrum had come back again after failing to win the show last year, I prepared myself to be bored by the “comeback”, and the judges were equally skeptical. In the end, Mia proved that she really had dedicated herself to phenomenal improvement over the year that had passed. She was so good that it made me ask myself: when I look back over the last year, have I worked as hard as I could to develop my talents? What about you? For me, the answer is a clear no.

Mia’s performance


My pet peeve on America’s Got Talent is those annoying buzzers that trigger a giant red X. I agree that some acts are difficult to endure in their entirety, but just because a person gets a buzzer, or the crowd yells them off the stage (awful!), doesn’t mean they should give up on their dreams or talent. A lacklustre singer might just need some guidance and vocal training. A scarily-dressed entertainer might just need an image consultant. A “bad” dancer might just need to take some classes or practice a bit more. If you dream of doing something special, even if you’re not obviously talented at it, it’s probably worth it to explore it, even if just on a small scale.

What’s the next step for you, to explore and develop a talent that you’ve been given?


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