By Donnie McKinney c 2005, 2007
Over the past thirty years, I have studied hundreds of highly successful people. I’m not just talking about those who are rich and famous, though most of them are. I’m talking about people who are happy, successful and fulfilled in life. All of them have one common trait. They all simply did what they loved to do.
Each human being is born into this life with his or her own unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities. Those unique, natural talents are the core of who we are. Those talents never change. They don’t go away. It doesn’t matter if you’re born into a dysfunctional family or with a silver spoon in your mouth. You never lose those talents, but you can surely lose sight of them as you discovered in the section where we talked about human conditioning.
You’re at an age in which you can change your whole life by simply taking some time to figure out what your own unique, natural talents are and by building your life around them. Now is the time to experience lots of different things, to see which ones excite you and make you happy. As you start detecting your talents, you can plan your education around them. It’s kind of neat to go into college actually knowing why you’re there. Most college students don’t. College isn’t a chore when you’re learning things you want to know.
My friend Todd made me take his Z3 and drive it around for the afternoon one day recently. He knew I was having withdrawal symptoms since my Saab convertible rolled into the pond.
That's a whole 'nuther story. Anyway, when I brought his car back, we sat and talked a while. Todd spent four years getting "brainwashed" in my high school Sunday school class when he was a teen, and we've been friends ever since. He's a good example of someone who is doing those few things right in life, those things that make you happy, successful and fulfilled.
He discovered his natural talents in college. He discovered that he had a natural talent for understanding computer graphics. He did so well at it that Murray State University asked him to become a professor while he was still in school. He began to design 3-D images and write instruction manuals.
He started his own company a few years ago and now clients; such as, Pepsi Cola, Country Music Television, and Dippin’ Dots. His company designed the drop-down menu page on this site for me. Its a thriving company. Soon you’ll be seeing the new canisters from Pepsi that he designed. He’s published two books in his spare time. He has a great wife, a nice home, and, oh yeah, that Z3 convertible that he wanted. He’s only twenty-nine years old as I'm writing this.
Todd told me he doesn’t ever have to “work” because he’s doing what he loves to do all of the time. I asked Todd what he thought the main concept was that teens need to get from this study. He didn’t hesitate and said,
“All they need to know is to do what they love to do.”
That's a pretty simple concept, isn't it. Just do what you love to do. Happiness, success and fulfillment in life come automatically when you do that. It's your choice!
Most of you don't know Todd, but maybe you'll recognize this next guy. He learned the same lesson, and he's enjoying doing what he loves to do, too. He knew at a young age what his mission in life was. He didn't give up until he got there.
By Donnie McKinney c 2003, 2005
Stevie was the student guest for the month from Heath High School. I was looking for an amp, some microphones and speakers to donate to our church, and his dad ran a music store. We had arranged to go pick out some equipment after the Rotary meeting, and Stevie was going to make enough commission to buy some tires for his car. Part of the deal was that he had to “try out” the equipment by doing a concert at our church.
All through the meeting, he looked distracted. When we got into my convertible to head out to his dad’s store, I just asked him, “What’s bothering you? You’ve been spaced out ever since you got here.” He said that he was just confused. Stevie was a very talented singer. He said his family all wanted him to become a country music star. But he said, “What I really love to do is write and sing Christian music.”
In 1981, country music was big. His family knew that he had the talent to become rich and famous, and that he could be a millionaire quickly. Back then, though, Christian music hardly existed as an industry. No one made any money in it. It was easy to understand their thinking.
I gave Stevie my standard speech about identifying your unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities and doing what you love to do. I told him about the hundreds of highly successful people I had studied and how they all had one common trait – they did what they loved to do. They didn’t worry about money. They didn’t listen to other people. They just used their God-given talents and abilities and did what they loved to do.
The secret to being happy, successful and fulfilled in life is to identify your own natural, unique God-given talents, what you love to do, and do it.
I told Stevie, “Don’t tell your parents I said this, but don’t listen to anyone. You’re extremely lucky to know what your unique natural talent is at your young age. Most people don’t find that out until much later in life. Some never do. Just do what you love to do. Don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about fame. Just do it, and don’t ever give up.” That’s pretty simple.
Stevie probably doesn’t even remember our conversation, but he is a perfect example of simply doing what you love to do and becoming immensely successful in the process. The last I heard, Steven Curtis Chapman has had two platinum CD's and seven gold records. He's been awarded five Grammies and fifty-one Dove Awards. He's even hosted the Dove Awards on television. He’s been named the #1 Christian music writer and singer in the world.
It didn’t happen overnight. Stevie paid his dues. He was poor but happy. He never gave up. He just did what he loved to do. Now he lives on an estate with his own lake in Brentwood, Tennessee. He became “rich and famous” in an industry that didn’t pay. He simply did what he loved to do. He did it by living the “real me” that his natural, unique God-given talents and abilities guided him to do. You can, too. It’s your choice.
Living Life to the Fullest
Think of three well-known people that you admire. Think about the life journey that they have lived. Think about the excellence that they have achieved in their lives. Do you expect this level of excellence in your life? Not everyone who discovers his natural talents and does what he loves to do is going to be #1 in his field. There’s only one person who can be #1 in Christian music. Not everyone can become President of the United States. However, reaching excellence in your life journey will mean reaching a level of mastery with the aptitudes God has given you. This is not only a possibility but also an expectation!
The story of the talents in Matthew 25 illustrates what this means. We can see each individual’s achievement in Jesus’ parable of the nobleman who distributed his wealth among three servants before he took a trip. Each was given an amount of money commensurate with his ability to manage it. When he returned, he didn’t give the big prize to the man who made the most money. All who invested wisely were rewarded. The one who buried his talents was punished. The servant who doubled the five talents was given the same reward as the one who wisely invested the two talents he had been given. They both did their best with the talents that they were given. That’s what God expects from us. We might compare the one who ended up with the ten talents to the guy we admire who became #1 in his field. The servant with the two talents is more like the rest of us. Both lived the way God intended and used their talents to the best of their ability.
The best thing about being young is that if you had it to do over, you’d still have time. You’re in the unique position of not having to worry about doing it over. You can do it right the first time. Remember what Art Linkletter said, “Life is not a rehearsal. This is it.” Your unused talents give you no advantage over the person who has no talents at all.
The great pianist Paderewski was an interesting character. Until he was twenty-four years old, his teachers told him he that would never be a concert pianist. But he was. Then he abandoned his career for three years to become the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. He moved to the United States, and ended up being buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
This story takes place during the time that he was doing concerts. Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to one of Paderewski's concerts. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose, and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE."
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.
That's the way it is when God becomes a part of our lives. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't exactly graceful, flowing music. By combining our God-given talents with the hand of the Master, our life's work truly can be beautiful.
Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.
Are you content playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" by yourself? It's your choice.
Depression or Excitement?
What happens in your life when you identify your unique, natural talents and use them? You excel, because you are doing what you have a natural talent for doing, and your self-confidence builds. Your adrenaline flows. You’re creative. You’re enthusiastic. You get “in flow” and don’t know that time has passed because you are so engrossed in what you’re doing.
Conversely, I’ve found that the further you drift away from your own natural talents, the more unhappy and depressed you are. A depressed and suicidal teen (and the number is astounding) has let the fictitious and erroneous thought patterns he has developed, with the help of other people and events, keep him from knowing who the “real me” is. He is so confused that he cannot see any way he could ever be happy. The starting point is simply to go back to the “core” of your own unique, natural, God-given talents to build from that basis. Once you do that, you will look up one day and be surprised to find that you are happy.
Obviously, the key is to start out, right now, identifying your unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities to build your life around what God intended for you. Live life more abundantly, as God promised.
Will He win?
Hardy Greaves asked, "Will he win?"
Bagger Vance replied, "He'll win if he finds his authentic swing."
The movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance was more about life than golf. Bagger Vance knew what was important in life. Matt Damon played Rannulph Junuh, a local golf celebrity who had lost his ability to play due to an incident that occurred in the army during World War I. Hardy Greaves was a ten-year-old fan who narrated the story. Will Smith played the mysterious Bagger Vance, who appeared out of nowhere to bring Junuh back to himself.
Bagger Vance went on to say, "Inside each and every one of us is our one true, authentic swing. Something we was born with. Something that ours and ours alone. Something that can't be learned . . . something that got to be remembered."
Have you "remembered" your one, true, authentic swing? Every human being has his or her own unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities. When you use your natural talents, you excel. When you're doing what you love to do and what comes naturally, your adrenaline flows. You're creative. You're enthusiastic. You lose track of time. Finding the “real you” is a key to being happy in life.
Every human being has his or her own unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities. When you discover and use your natural talents, you find that you excel and are happy, successful and fulfilled in life.
Do you want to be happy, successful and fulfilled in life? One of the keys is finding your unique, natural, God-given talents and using them. Enthusiasm comes naturally when you're doing what you love to do. Excellence becomes routine. Happiness is a by-product. It's your choice.
Here's an example of someone else you'll know who is doing what he loves to do. The purpose of these examples is to help your mind "click" and relate what these people have done to what you need to do in your own life. It's really simple. You just have to take responsibility for your own life and make the decision to figure out what your own natural, unique God-given talents are and then DO IT!
The Guitar Player
When I heard that Keanu Reeves was coming to nearby Murray State University with his band, Dogstar, I had to go and watch him. I have to admit that two guitar players and a drummer playing loud rock music won’t normally get me out of the house on a Friday night. But, I was curious.
I had read that Keanu had turned down $12 million for doing Speed 2 at least partly because it would interfere with his band's tour schedule. That impressed me. I believe that each person has unique, natural, God-given talents and abilities, and something that they love to do. Studying highly successful people over the past thirty years has convinced me that one of the keys to happiness, success, and fulfillment in life is finding that thing that you love to do and doing it.
Keanu quit school when he was seventeen to go to Hollywood. The first movie I remember seeing him in was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I loved it. It was obvious that he started recognizing his natural talents at an early age. Keanu Reeves says that he's filling a void that movie acting can't completely satisfy. "I love to perform. It has some immediacy to it," Keanu says. When you can do what you love to do and not worry about money, then you, too, will have discovered a secret to being happy in life. Maybe it's a good idea to begin noticing those things in which you lose yourself - what you love to do.
One of the clues to finding your unique, natural talents is to notice those times when you get "in flow," as Dr. Joyce Brothers calls it. Try to remember a time when you were doing something and then suddenly realized that you had completely lost track of the time. As I sat there among the small audience of three hundred or more screaming fans, I watched Keanu play his bass guitar. He seemed oblivious to the noise. He didn't say anything at all. I was watching a guy who was "in flow."
Notice when you get "in flow." That's one of the clues to happiness in your life. You'll learn that "things" don't bring happiness. I'm pretty sure a few hundred tickets at eight bucks a pop didn't even pay Dogstar's expenses to come to Murray, Kentucky. He wasn't doing it for the money. He was doing what he loved to do.
You may be offered $12 million to do your thing someday, or you may not. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you are using your natural talents and abilities to do your unique thing.
Bill and Ted would say, "Excellent, Dude!"
Don't waste another minute of your life cruising along on autopilot. Start today "detecting" your natural, unique God-given talents. They are the secret to living life abundantly as God intended you to do. Every day you live without making progress toward your goals based on your natural God-given talents is a day lost. Don't waste thirty-two years of your working life doing the wrong thing like the father in one of my favorite television programs of years past did.
Nobody Told Us
By Donnie McKinney c 2001, 2005
I was watching one of my favorite television shows, "That's Life," while Lydia's DeLucca's father explained to her mother why he had quit his job of thirty-two years. They were six months away from having their mortgage paid off. The had certificates of deposit maturing. Retirement was within sight. So, why? Why would someone do something that crazy?
Listen to what Frank said, "You know how you're supposed to look at your kids and be happy because they have the things we didn't have? I look at my son, Pauley. He's a policeman. He's somebody. My daughter, Lydia, thirty-two years old, she wants to change her life. Ehh! Gets up one day, and goes to college. She's learning about stars and black holes and all that stuff. Our generation, we went and got a job. We worked hard at the job. We fed our family. Nobody told us we were supposed to be happy."
Nobody told us that we should discover our talents and follow our dreams. Frank's talent was singing. He gave it up. Nobody told us we could be happy every day of our lives. Nobody told us that our work could be fun when we're doing what we love. When you're doing what you love to do, you never have to "work" a day in your life. Somebody should have told us.
Every person has natural, unique God-given talents that, when used, will bring happiness, success and fulfillment in life.
Well, you know what? I'm telling you right now. Art Linkletter was right on when he said, "Life is not a rehearsal. This is it." Don't you wake up like Frank, after taking parkway tolls for thirty-two years, and realize you gave up your dream of being a singer. Decide right now to find out what your natural, unique, God-given talents are. Find out what it is you love to do, and do it!
When you're using your natural talents, and doing what youe love to do, you excel in life. Your adrenaline flows. You're creative. You're energetic. You get lost in the present moment, and don't even realize that hours have passed. Then, you look up one day and realize that you're happy.
Happiness is not something you can pursue. Happiness is a byproduct of doing a few simple things right in our lives. One of those things is finding your unique, natural God-given talents and using them. Marianne Williamson says it well . . .
"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant or fabulously talented?' Actually, how dare you not? . . . We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to manifest the wonderment of the gift that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone."
What is that gift that is within you? Find it. Do it. Don't wake up like Frank DeLucca did and find out that you've missed out on the wonderful life you should have lived. "Life is not a rehearsal. This is it." It's your choice.
Paste the following worksheet into a Word document (or simply download the Word file - Talents Worksheet) and spend some quiet time thinking about the answers and writing them down. This could be the most important thing you could ever do in your life. Your happiness, success and fulfillment in life will be in direct proportion to how close you are to your natural, unique God-given talents and abilities. Start today "detecting" what your mission in life is all about. When you're doing what you're supposed to be doing you'll be happy.
This is a simple exercise and it may not point out in bold letters what your natural talents are. However, it will give you a starting point from which you can begin to notice the things that fit into the categories you've thought through. Over a period of time you will start to see clearly where your natural talents lie.
Identifying Your Natural Talents
- Write down things you like to do, things that give you pleasure, things you have received compliments for, things you do even if not told to by others. What would you be if you could be anything in the world. Put things on the list that make you feel good. Don’t worry about how well you do them, just isolate the feelings here. Drawing? Painting? Building things? Music? Baseball? Reading? Football?
Look over your list. You probably have a mixture of talents and abilities (talents are a natural tendency to do things & abilities are things acquired through learning). Next, list just the talents - things you like to do, that come naturally whether you had any instruction or not; i.e., “I like to draw.” Not, “I am able to read Latin.”
Narrow the list down to your two most enjoyable talents.
II. List two subjects have you enjoyed most in school. (helped you express your latent talents)
What subject have you enjoyed least in school? (far removed from your innate talents)
What subjects would you like to know more about? Make a list of all the fascinating subjects you’d study if you had all the time in the world.
III. Can you recall times when you have been so engrossed in something that you didn’t realize time had passed? This is called getting “in flow.” It’s a sign you’re doing what you love to do.
IV. List all your personality strengths - things you are good at, things that bring you
recognition and praise.
List your personality weaknesses (be honest).
Hopefully, you will start seeing yourself in a new light. You’ve discovered one or two vital things you like to do. What you like to do you can learn to do well. Maybe you have seen whether your training fits your talents and what knowledge is lacking. Having listed your strengths and weaknesses, and knowing your talents, you can spotlight strengths that need further development to allow your talents to express themselves in greatness and weaknesses that need to be overcome to achieve your destiny.
V. Write down your most enjoyable talent from Step I.
List the subjects you have discovered best fit in with your talents from Step II..
List actions necessary to master these subjects; such as, special books, courses, research, consultations, experience necessary to be acquired, etc.
List strengths you now have that need greater reinforcement to propel your talents onward from Step III.
List weaknesses you feel need strengthening from Step III.
The above summary is a start toward identifying your natural God-given talents and directing them toward your Mission in Life. It’s not easy, but there’s no time like the present to start working on it! As a teenager, you likely haven’t experienced enough different things to bring out all your natural talents. Use this exercise as an aid in starting to recognize experiences that lead you to identifying your own unique, natural God-given talents and abilities.
Richard Nelson Bolles said it much better than I can in his essay, "How To Find Your Mission in Life" -
The three stages of living your Mission in Life:
(a.) To know God, and enjoy Him forever, and to see His hand in all His works,
(b.) to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you, and
(c.) To exercise the Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use -- your greatest gift, which you most delight to use -- in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.
Read Richard Nelson Bolles' entire essay - How To Find Your Mission In Life
I promise it will be worth your time.
Feel free to email your completed worksheet to Donnie if you have trouble or need some help interpreting the results.
Your input is valuable and will help make this study more beneficial to other teens. Was this subject pertinent to your life? Was it easy to understand? How will it impact your life.
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