This year, Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day falls on a Sunday. This is an ideal opportunity to practice, perform, or otherwise engage with our talents. I use the plural form of talent because all of us have more than one. Finding and developing talent is a process. Using and celebrating talent takes desire and determination. The discovery and evolution of talent also requires special timing. It’s not something that can be forced.
I remember my encounter with the viola. Dad had acquired the instrument and a chrome, portable music stand from somewhere, perhaps from grandpa J. I don’t recall the circumstances because I was a third grade age boy at the time.
Dad registered me for elective music lessons that began in the early morning. I was ill-equipped to do much with the viola because I couldn’t read music. My language skills were too immature to follow the teacher’s instructions. The fact that I was uninspired by the instrument was probably the main obstacle. Instead of a string instrument, I wanted to play trumpet or some sort of horn. My parents were unenthusiastic about any sort of horn playing at home, so no horn for me.
After a year of struggling with the viola, I flunked out of the music class. It was with an honest feeling of relief that I didn’t have to scrape that accursed instrument ever again. Dad got rid of the thing. I don’t remember if he sold the viola or passed it along to a relative.
There was one other inauspicious encounter with childhood talent that comes to mind. I remember this one vividly. My fourth grade teacher asked the class to share what we wanted to do when we grew up. When my turn happened, I announced that I wanted to be a famous artist who could draw well and paint.
There was “blowback” about that, later on, at the parent-teacher conference. The teacher mentioned my artistic desire to dad. She said so in a dismissive manner. The two adults agreed that I should pursue a more practical career; becoming an artist was out of the question. From that day forward, I kept my other plans and goals a secret.
“Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are you ready?'”–Johnny Carson
Discovery and development combined with desire in junior high school. An elective course in journalism was offered. I begged and received permission to enroll. It was full-immersion monthly newspaper work. Our teacher was a stringer for Nebraska’s daily newspapers and for several weekly papers and magazines. I took to journalism like a bee to pollen.
Encouragement and support marked every aspect of that course. For instance, each year, we took fascinating field trips to the Lincoln Journal-Star building. Publishing the school newspaper on proper newsprint and ink was a proto-professional experience for my peers and me. The journalism course was positive in nearly every respect. It cemented my love of reporting and writing news stories and short features.
These memories underline the importance of talent and how it came to be developed into my profession. There are some other avocations that provide enjoyment and satisfaction. Regular readers of bluejayblog know that I like to experiment with artificial flowers to fill my vase collection.
There is a still dim desire to play a musical instrument. I finally learned how to read sheet music. My preference is mainly for electronica and synthesizer works. A Casio sampling keyboard leans against the wall for those times I feel like tinkering with it. However, at this time, music is a very low priority interest. I don’t see the point, right now, of putting in the required time and hard work to perform music. That said, there are times when tinkering with the keyboard brings me joy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness loves this analogy from the author, H. Jackson Brown, Junior. “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”