This week we have been exploring how the yogic principle of non-stealing (asteya) can include recognizing and creatively utilizing our gifts and talents.
I worked for many years as a school teacher, and there is one problem with this whole “Yay, let’s all go play with the things we are good at” attitude that I think needs addressing. Sometimes people don’t like to do what they are good at. The self-help books all seem to want to overlook this point, but I know for a fact that sometimes I have seen a frustrated kid who says, “yeah, I am good at math, but it is too easy. I would much rather do something else, like play video games.” or “I always make A’s in history, but I hate history. I just tend to remember the numbers and names.”
This is something really important to pay attention to.
If you don’t like it, even if you can do really well without effort, that is not really the right direction to pursue. Malcolm Gladwell, in his groundbreaking research on talent and what it takes to master a profession or skill, actually postulated that this interest is critical. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on GPS, he said as much. Ron, from the Blog, Corsair, quoted Gladwell as saying: ”Talent is the desire to practice. Right? It is that you love something so much that you are willing to make an enormous sacrifice and an enormous commitment to that, whatever it is — task, game, sport, what have you.” You can hear Gladwell speak about the Beatles as an example of this here.
This week I have encouraged you to play to find out what you enjoy. If all the play in the world doesn’t bring you to something that you would practice in the face of discouragement, it isn’t the right fit. Keep looking. Should you decide to pursue that cool thing you have found, you will want to practice. How you practice determines a lot.
One of my favorite blogs is The Musician’s Way Blog by Gerald Klickstein. Now, I am not a musician, but the ideas on this site always seem to translate for me into my own practice of yoga. It is a site worth taking the time to explore. Yoga is far from being a performance art, at least as I practice it. Still, there is something about being a teacher that makes me conscious about how I approach the classroom as a sort of stage, especially in this era of mass media. If I don’t see my teaching as a sort of “entertainment” it doesn’t matter because some of my students will. The thing is, that it really could be in my studio that people find what they love. If I plan to teach or share what I do with others, then I should take what I do at least as seriously as a concert pianist. Or, it could be fun to. Check out Klickstein’s recommendations for how to practice:
Six ways to enjoy detailed practice:
1. bring meaning to every gesture
2.isolate problem spots in context
3.take pleasure in excellence
4. listen deeply
6. shift perspectives
You can see the full explanation here.
I immediately could see how these key principles applied to yoga, my own practice, and what I was doing with my yoga students. I can also imagine them as they could apply to astronomy, cooking, running, or connecting people to animals that need homes.
But what if you aren’t really going to put in that time? What if you just want to find something to be good at, that brings you joy? My point is this, if you don’t care enough about the work you do to take a little time to put added effort in, it doesn’t even matter if it is a natural-born talent. You will not likely position yourself to provide something of worth to others, and I think that sharing is where we get the most rewarding experiences. I am an introvert by nature, but it is still true for me. I may be a dreamer and a devoted lover of the arts, but if you cannot bring your paintings to a show, make it practical, what do you give? Maybe you don’t ever want to show your paintings formally, but you want to give them as gifts. It is the same thing. Sharing is sharing, and no one gives of their true talent carelessly. It just wouldn’t be natural. Personal satisfaction is something we enjoy, but it is ultimately just self-entertainment. This is not a problem or bad, but it is hardly a peak life experience. Until you make your gift available to others in a meaningful way, take a chance at really seeing what you can do with it if you put the extra effort in, you won’t really know how much it can give joy to others. Still, whether you actually do that much work or not, isn’t the point I’m making.
No one is going to know what your talent is unless you share it. That is all up to you. But what you want to do, to spend time on, is the clue to your key talent and your personal fulfillment. What we each choose to be our level of involvement t be is nobody else’s business. But not even finding what you bring to this world, that is something like a crime.
Have a great weekend!