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On Letting Go and Letting In

Joseph Campbell Quote

I’m really not sure how to start this post. There’s a voice that is trying to convince me to delete it this very moment. My Inner Critic whispers to me in his most lovingly insidious voice, “No one wants to hear about your problems and fears. No one likes someone who is weak and vulnerable and struggles with life and career. No one wants to hire a man who is emotional, fights off self-doubt, bears his soul to the world and is an idealist at heart (besides, you’ll just get chewed up by hungry, focused, competitive, driven professionals that organizations want anyway). So, shut up and stop being such a damned martyr.” Yes, this is what that voice sounds like in my head. He’s a true bastard.

There was a point not too long ago when I would have ceded to this voice. It’s why I didn’t blog for months. It’s why I allowed myself to stay quiet and unassuming. Yet, I recognize now this was the lie of depression. Problem is, when you live with a voice for so long, you hear it softly lulling you into the supposed safety of smallness and inadequacy, it becomes a tough relationship to sever. And that’s where I am right now…trying to be at peace with this voice while allowing for other voices of purpose, confidence, humor, and compassion to emerge, as well.

My past few years have seen their share of ups and downs. They’ve also been full of heartbreaking struggle and it’s largely because I have clung so tightly to my past with its burdens, fears, guilt, and emotional anchors. I’ve lied about what I want from life and ignored my true self fearing the ridicule and judgment of others, particularly in my career. I didn’t want to be seen as weird, incompetent, unprofessional. I chased after work that didn’t fit my strengths, that didn’t excite my passions, that didn’t fill me with purpose but they were in-demand jobs that held the promise of money and prestige. Alas, these jobs didn’t last long and I fear these recent professional missteps – though I learned much in the experiences – could serve as my own scarlet letter in the future.

However, I am also waking up to recognize that all of this I have gone through has been preparation for something much bigger and much more important. I don’t yet know what this is…but I know as I approach 40 it is about emerging into a truer form of my self, one that this world needs right now. It’s about letting go of the past and unmet expectations and letting in the possibility of new beginnings. It’s about meeting whatever comes next with an excitement and a belief that what is emerging has the ability to be a force for good. It means choosing to live a heartful life and commit to work that truly matters. It means being free to be weirdly and soulfully me…and resting secure in the notion that while I may not fit every organization’s ideal model of employee, there are some organizations that are looking for all I bring to the party.

I hope that if you are finding yourself in a similar state of emerging as we move toward 2014, that together we can embrace the life that is waiting for us. If I can help you in your journey, reach out and let me know what you need. We’re all in this together.

Love, Chris

P.S., Special thanks to Licia Berry for inspiring this post.

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Hidden Talents Part 2: Identifying Your Talent and Strengths

How do I know whether I have a talent?
This is a case not of if you have a talent, but what your talent is. I wholeheartedly believe that we’re all endowed with something unique within us that can be put to use, something that connects us to our own distinct purpose for being. Our primary challenge is figuring out what that is. If you’re still searching – regardless of your age – it’s okay. Some of our talents are well hidden from our view. To help, there are countless assessments and resources out there you can turn to that will help you. Two books to consider are:

Is Your Genius At Work? by Dick Richards. Dick works from a model that we all have one unique genius that is an exceptional power that just comes naturally to us. His book is a wonderful guide for discovering our talent and how to apply it in our life and work.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Once you complete the web-based assessment, you can return to the book for ideas on how to bring your five strengths into daily action. The real key to the assessment and book is taking the strengths and compiling them into a unique concept of who you are and what you can do that no one else can.

Just don’t fall into the trap of considering each resource the end-all, ultimate source of insight about you and your talent. Instead, take each one and combine them all to form a story. This may take some help from others around you.

Make the most of your talent…practice it.
If you do happen to pick up StrengthsFinder, you’ll discover that Rath uses an equation that ties talents and strengths together:

talent x investment = strength
Talent: a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving.
Investment: time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base.
Strength: the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance.

When you do figure out your talent, that’s just the first step. The next step is develop and fine-tune it. Here’s an example to help illustrate how this equation works. Say you have a passion for the cello and practice your heart out for years. But no one is going to confuse you for Yo Yo Ma or even a symphony-level performer. There’s nothing wrong with this, but recognize that cello playing will never be a strength regardless of how hard you practice. The reason is that you lack the talent. But let’s say you have incredible talent, but don’t bother to put in the effort to hone it. You’re simply wasting your talent because you don’t make the investment necessary to make it a strength.

In the end, it takes the ability to recognize your talent and invest the time and effort to make it a true strength.

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