Couch potatoes never know what muscles they could build if they spent their couch time at the gym. On the couch, even repetitive bench pressing of the biggest, baddest universal remote won’t build a noticeable muscle. And the same holds true for exercising our talents. Just as a dedicated couch potato will never know if he has a set of six-pack abs waiting to be liberated, we’ll never develop our abilities without putting in time exercising them. Abilities are a lot like muscles; you have to work them to have them. And the more you work them, the more impressive they become. But what abilities do we have to develop? We may be clueless about an absolute treasure trove of inborn talents lurking inside us. We may even claim to lack talent. Not so fast, bucko. Everybody’s born with talent. That’s spelled e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y. Lots of talent. But secret. We can’t look at a baby and tell what career will suit their talents. Babies eat. They cry. They do things only a parent in love would be willing to deal with–and then sometimes grudgingly. But exhibit talent? No. Talent is a treasure hunt. And unless we go hunting, we can live and die without uncovering our treasures within. It’s like have millions in the bank that nobody told us about. We spot some talents easily. Schools teach us to read early on. Those with literary talents find reading easy. Others struggle. This has nothing to do with our value, but with our direction. If reading is a chore, we probably won’t want to become an editor or a writer; our path goes in a different direction. School sports programs uncover athletic talent. Some people run like the wind almost from the moment they stand up; others never get beyond a lead foot trudge. One child sings complete songs–on key–at an early age. Another takes their toys apart and–more importantly–puts them back together. Yet another accurately counts the change they receive when buying candy. We shouldn’t dismiss these things with an “isn’t that cute” remark. They’re all part of the talent hunt. But some talents aren’t so easy to spot. How do we know where to dig for the treasure? A sure sign of talent is doing easily what others find hard, and we’ll miss it if we’re not looking. It’s a natural tendency to think everybody is just like us, so we decide–without checking it out–that everybody finds it as easy to do as we do. And we miss the 500-pound-gorilla clue sitting right in front of us. We may decide we’re good at something because, since we enjoy it, we get a lot of practice at it. Sure, practice makes us better, but practice–despite popular opinion–doesn’t make perfect. Effort only takes us so far. Talent takes us all the way. Truly gifted people often fall into the “imposter” trap. We get many, many compliments. We may even make a lot of money doing what we do. But we can’t accept the praise because we can’t believe we deserve it. We decide we’ve had a free ride so far, but some day we’ll be found out and exposed as an impostor. Anybody sitting on that thought is atop a talent gold mine. So maybe it’s inventory time. Let’s check out what we enjoy and what people say we’re good at. Pumping up those muscles will start us down the talent trail, and who knows what good stuff we’ll find? © by Bette Dowdell. All rights reserved.