Repurposing Your Hidden Talents
Part of our Earth Month Series
Hidden talents. We all have them, even if you’ve been mistakenly classifying yours under the heading “stuff everyone is good at.” It’s easy to forget the intrinsic value of our hidden gifts. Perhaps it’s something that’s always come easily to you or a skill you don’t often need to utilize. But to someone else, the unearthing of your skills at their moment of need is invaluable.
Repurposing your hidden talents in unexpected ways can alter your perspective in surprising way, creating new pathways for connection and growth.
Hidden Talents on Display
In my first job, I had the good fortune to work alongside a guy named Walter. Walter was the school librarian. He was built like a tank and the kind of tall that requires people like me to change neck positions in order to make reasonable eye contact. He was funny and kind, with a laugh that could trigger an earthquake and everyone liked him.
One a cool day in December, I was putting the finishing touches on our school’s first student recital and definitely feeling the greenness of my early career. Things were running a little wild, as often happens when trying to funnel several hundred children into a single venue and I was frazzled.
Walter noticed, quietly walked over to the piano, sat down, and started playing. The chaos came to a near-instant calm as his bluesy, gospel-style playing filled the room. The kind of playing that comes from the soul and not any lesson book I’ve ever encountered.
Without so much as a word, he gifted the entire school with something at which he’d never so much as hinted. And, when the students were seated and ready, he meandered to the back of the room as quietly as he’d arrived and ceded the spotlight to the kids.
I saw Walter – and the world, for that matter – differently after that. He repurposed a talent, typically reserved for his church, to help a friend who didn’t even know she needed it.
Embracing Your Inner Walter
Discovering hidden talents can change our entire perspective of others, reminding us that people are complex and unpredictable, and dispelling any notion that we have learned all there is to know. Sharing our own hidden talents reinforces that we are not merely the sum of our job, home, relationship, or bank account. We are each a wild combination of strengths and skills, talents and gifts, passions and interests.
And, there are Walters everywhere if we make a point of looking for them. It’s simply a matter of staying open to opportunities: both to be a ‘Walter’ for others and to accept help when we spot a ‘Walter’ in someone else.
Embracing your inner Walter doesn’t demand that you mesmerize a crowd of kids by playing piano, just that you tap into your own brand of “special.” Acknowledge the things you can do effortlessly and be willing to “repurpose” them to be of service when a need arises.
Here are a few ideas for connecting with your inner Walter. Try one or more as you lend your light to your corner of the world.
Three Ways to Repurpose Your Hidden Talents
1. Give Generously Noted research and management consultant, Jim Collins, puts it this way: “Never stifle a generous impulse.” Whether it’s time you give to help a stranded driver change a tire, knowledge you share with a new coworker, or delectable baked goods you donate to a fundraiser, be altruistic with abandon. Don’t get stuck in overthinking how you value your particular skills. Instead focus on the fact that taming the office copier, sharing your well-packed first-aid kit, or identifying a birdsong are talents that rank as invaluable to the person receiving them. Expertise comes in all shapes and sizes. The value lies in the willingness to share it.
2. Be Gracious Being the sharer of talents is an obvious way to positively impact a situation. But, there has to be an openness to receiving help before that impact can be fully realized. Strive to be the kind of person and the type of leader who can see the light in others and welcome it, understanding that it is being offered for the greater good. When Walter sat down at the piano, I could have bristled at the assist and taken over – I was the music teacher, after all. But, we would have all missed out on something magical. His help bought me some vital breathing room. I was a better teacher that day because of it and the students were beneficiaries in more ways than I can count.
3. Stay Observant Be on the lookout for Walter-like moments in yourself and others. Be curious in conversation and get to know people beyond their standard talking points. Asking someone “what do you do?” may be a catalyst for small talk, but when you get down to the first five songs on their workout playlist or the last thing they baked, you’ll start to gain a genuine understanding of what makes them tick.
My hidden talents include juggling, an elephant-like memory, and the ability to see the full potential of a project, even before the first step is taken. In a pinch, I can also twirl a fire baton. Not sure there’s a Walter moment for that, but who knows. That’s the beauty!
What hidden talents lie within you? How might you repurpose them? What can you offer the world today to make it a little brighter?