Unused Talents

May 18, 2023

Something that is held in high regard in our house is reading. The affection for reading has been driven by my wife, Michelle. In addition to loving to read herself (she read 85 books last year), she is the assistant librarian for our school system. She spends countless hours outside of school researching books and making mental notes about books that she believes children will love. Notice I said children? That doesn’t mean just our own children. Don’t get me wrong, she puts a ton of effort into stoking our children’s love of reading, but she also thinks about children who aren’t living in our house. I’ve seen her run into a parent and child in the grocery store and recommend a book that she thought would challenge them. I’ve seen other times in which she specifically acquires a book because it might be something that sparks the interest of a child who hasn’t yet embraced the joy of reading. She even randomly shows up with books for me, just in case I had run out. Because reading is so highly valued in our house, I send her signs, memes, or phrases that she might be able to incorporate into the library decorations at the school. One of the quotes I came across last week is the inspiration for this week’s thoughts. The quote is from Mark Twain and reads, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

That quote has played over and over in my head this week. While it pertains to reading, the subject is highly interchangeable. You give up any advantage from a skill or talent you have been blessed with if you choose not to use it. While there are probably many reasons why a person might let their God-given skills or talents go unused, I think most talents go unused due to a lack of confidence.

This past weekend, my daughter was lamenting about her tennis game. She’s afraid to unleash full power on her serve because there’s a chance that she’ll miss, and her friends might laugh at her. I’ve never personally been a teenage girl, but from what I can tell, confidence can be hard to come by. My wife and I each worked to talk through the lack of confidence in different ways. Michelle worked to build her up in a way that gently builds confidence. Since I generally live with the confidence of a 4-year-old in a Batman shirt, connecting in that way is difficult for me, so my counsel was to choose where to fail. I explained that if you are going to fail 80 times before it becomes natural, you can fail privately by practicing on your own time. Translation: putting extra time into developing a skill on your own can make you confident enough to share your gift.

Sometimes the world needs you to fail publicly. In 1960, Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding created bubble wrap as a new trendy textured wallpaper. Considering the number of walls you’ve seen covered in bubble wrap, it won’t come as a surprise that the idea was a failure. Next, it was tried as housing insulation. Again, it failed. Finally, IBM used it to wrap computers during shipping, and success was found. Their willingness to persist with talent and failure has saved countless Amazon deliveries from certain destruction.

That brings me to this week’s challenge. Be willing to share your gifts even if it means some failure. We all need your abilities, and we may even need your failure. You were created with God-given talents and your family, our company, and your community need your talent. 

Please share boldly and don’t let that ability go unused!

Have an amazing day!