I watched as the famous actor, Will Smith, explained to Oprah Winfrey that he was still “searching for his place in the world”. And I thought to myself: Why would such a successful, talented person still feel unfulfilled? And then he said it!
“… serve higher goals, I just feel that all of the blessings that I have… there’s no way that God intended that just for acting”.
That was so profound in that it answered my question. Here was a man serving his talents to the world but did not know why he was doing so. He was still searching for the higher purpose.
The greatest sense of fulfillment comes from contribution. We feel good about ourselves when we help others to solve their problems. It is therefore a natural thing for us to wonder where our place in the world is. In other words, what problems are we here to solve? That sure does sound like a mission. We all have our individual missions to accomplish in the world, and we have been well equipped to do just that.
That equipment could be summed into three major components – Gifts, Talents and Skills. And these components must all come together to accomplish the mission and to simultaneously bring us fulfillment. Let us take a closer look at them individually.
Everyone has a gift and this is closely tied to their mission. As the name indicates, it is something to be given away; something to be served to others to make their lives better by solving some of their problems.
Gifts are non-physical. They cannot be touched with physical hands –they are intangible and therefore spiritual. They are an expression of our uniqueness –our calling. Think about Steve Jobs’ unique ability to transform complex problems into extremely simple solutions, in the form of devices that make everyone’s lives easier; Oprah Winfrey’s unique ability to turn simple conversations into Aha! Moments that everyone gleans a life lesson from; and Warren Buffet’s unique ability to bring back a company and even the world economy from the brink of collapse. Only these people could do these things the way they were done.
Once we are able to rule out the ever misleading word “coincidence” from the circumstances of our birth and where we are currently placed, we will see that there are problems that need to be solved. And some of them irritate us so much that they are begging for our attention. We may very well be called to serve our gift in that area and help solve the problems.
Talents are unusual natural abilities to do some things well, especially in artistic areas. These abilities can also be developed by training. They dwell in our souls (the combination of the mind/intellect, will and emotions) and are usually more than one in number.
Talents are not Gifts in that giving them away is not the only way to use them. They can be used for ourselves alone and not shared with others, if we so choose. I sing to make myself happy sometimes, I write to express my emotions in a healthy way other times.
However, they can be seen as channels through which our Gifts are served to the world; transcending the spiritual, through to the physical.
A very talented musician, Miriam Makeba, was born in apartheid South Africa. Through her songs, she brought world attention to the anti-apartheid struggle. She had a unique way of bringing the attention of the relevant people to a problem. And she expressed this unique gift through her talent of singing.
Of course this brought her a lot trouble from the South African government, even to the point of revoking her citizenship and making her ‘stateless’. But, true to its nature, her gift made a lot of room for her in the world, leading to her having nine passports and honorary citizenships in ten countries –a citizen of the world indeed!
She served her gift through her talent and therefore contributed to solving the apartheid problem in such a unique way that got the world involved.
Unlike the other two which come by intuition, skills come by tuition. They are learnt through training. We can learn a lot of skills in our lifetime, most of which we simply trade for an income. However, the best skills are not learnt, they are developed.
Talents are already natural, intuitive abilities. And they can be developed, through training, into skills. When our talents are honed into skill-sets, we are better equipped to carry out our mission by serving our gifts in the most efficient ways we can.
A good singing voice will not take you very far unless it is developed into a world-class one. Same thing applies to writing, dancing and all the other talents that we may possess.
This is the way the world works. Everyone wants to be served good quality, and most are willing to pay handsomely for it. A skill is what is demanded because a skillful person is the most qualified to solve a problem; they are professionals!
Skills are the closest of the three to being physical. They usually involve using the body, in the most efficient way, to express what is in the mind. And so we have to train with those parts of our bodies, to be capable of delivering high quality. And since high quality is the goal, it only makes sense to take the easiest route to it; through developing our already given talents into skills, by training.
In addition to developing our talents into skills, there are other (soft) skills we need to acquire to help us serve our gifts better. These are very important ones such as communication skills, people skills, problem-solving skills and leadership skills. They may most likely be picked up along the way of following our talents to serve our gifts, but they are certainly essential to accomplishing our mission.
Bringing Them All Together
To attain fulfillment therefore, these three have to be ‘twisted’ together into a fistful that will punch a dent into the world: Your gift, which is the creativity in you to serve the world by solving some of its problems; your talents, which are the outlets through which you serve your gifts; and your skills, which make sure that you are the best at solving those problems.
It appears that Will Smith might just have been serving us the wrong thing –his talent, and not his gift. To serve higher goals, we must make the shift from merely serving our talents to serving our gifts through our talents, which have been skillfully developed.