A friend told me a story last night. Over drinks we talked and she said, “I was a dancer once. And I was damned good.”
This admission didn’t surprise me. My friend is tall and willowy and glides about a room with grace and flair. Her personality is sparkly as well, so typical of those in the performing arts. And when she said she was a dancer who was once offered a scholarship to Juilliard, I knew there was no exaggeration. She was a dancer.
But that wasn’t who she is now.
My friend is a marketer. She is a damn good marketer. One of the best. She is focused and driven and independent and she is among the best marketing minds I’ve ever come across. She speaks all over the world and is brought in by many of the top brands to give seminars and private training sessions.
And she is happy.
“Dancing wasn’t my passion,” she said, followed by a sip of wine. “Luckily, though, I was also good at something else. And that just happened to be what I really loved.”
Too often in my life I have been distracted by things that I was really good at. I was really good at playing guitar and singing. So I wasted years playing up that talent to audiences. I was really good at acting. So I mis-focused my entire college career on being in plays and learning performance. I was really good at solving technical problems. So I wasted hours and hours pulling apart devices and tinkering.
I think there’s nothing wrong with having talents and expressing them. I also think there’s nothing wrong with the occasional distraction in life. Hobbies are a good thing. But I now also know that unless I find my true passion and never compromise it, I can never truly be happy.
Talent alone is a fleeting pacifier. It gives me satisfaction to express it, but without passion to back it up it becomes a chore over time. And if I allow too many of these talents to distract me, it even diminishes the joy of what my passion really is.
My friend told me of a dinner with friends and how all of them, talented as they were in their respective professions, had now moved to autopilot. Their hearts weren’t in their talents anymore and they had begun their coast toward retirement before they had even reached 35.
I can see a little of that in myself. As responsibilities set in, passion can too often take a back seat to fiscal concerns and physical comfort. And let’s not forget fear. “What if my passion turns my world upside down?” It’s a question that lingers in the back of my mind always.
And yet, I am coming to realize that unless I wholeheartedly and fearlessly pursue the things I am passionate about, I’m only living half a life. It’s a life of what-ifs and questions, when I could be living a bold statement of vibrant, living excitement.
There is a difference between expressing a talent and living a passion. The key is being honest enough with myself to find that passion, cling to it and never let it go.