Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Ultimate Sin

To me, the biggest sin is unrealized potential, wasted talent. Each of us has been imbued by nature with certain gifts and talents,which when fully exploited could bring us happiness and success, personal if not financial. You may be good with numbers, good with words, good at making or building things, good at painting, drawing, or sculpting things. Your skills may be physical. They may lie in gymnastics, athletics, dance. It may be in your personality. You may be a gregarious person who people listen to, a commanding speaker, a natural leader. You may be very warm and nurturing, the type of person people feel comfortable talking to. Your talent may be in making other people laugh. Whatever your talent, if you are sitting on it and not doing a damn thing with it than you are committing a grievous sin that I would put right up there with murder. You are committing an ultimate sin. You are wasting your talent, allowing them to lie dormant and atrophy. You are doing nothing. Forgive my bluntness, but you are just taking up space.

There are two type of people in this world. There are "Or" people and there are "And" people. I am an "And" person. I don't know the meaning of the word "Or", often to my detriment, but in this case it is one of my greatest assets. I have various talents and so I explore them all. I write, I fight, I run, I train other fighters, I cook, I share those little life lessons I have learned to others on this blog (I could do a better job at that though. This is far from a world stage.) And I do this all while working a full time job and raising three kids.

Most successful people are "And" people. They are going a mile a minute in a hundred different directions trying to find their niche, trying to find that one area of talent, that one passion that they can excel at that will give them the happiness they are striving for. Other people, like my best friend Norm, are "Or" people. He could not conceive of working full-time while trying to do his art. He has to throw himself completely into his art or not do it at all. There is no "And" for him. He is determined enough to be able to pay the bills that way though. He doesn't just lock himself in his studio painting all day and hoping the bills will somehow pay themselves. He is out there hustling and paying his bills, doing art direction for music videos, selling paintings for thousands of dollars, doing story boards for movies. He makes his art his day job.

It is difficult to pursue your passions if you are not an "And" person. If you're like most of us and you are not independently wealthy and you have to work for a living and pay bills, it is very difficult to pursue your dreams at the same time. Add a family to that and it starts to seem impossible. If you are like me, you will be perpetually exhausted trying to do it all. But "Or" people have to be risk takers in order to chase their dreams, which is difficult to do if you have responsibilities. There are plenty of examples of people who have quit their jobs and threw themselves into their passions, spent their life's savings on a business they always wanted to open or an invention they always wanted to market, or a talent they always wanted to develop and fell flat on their face. There are examples of people who have done this over and over again throughout their lives, failing each time and rising to try it again each time. I'm not one of those people but i admire them. I don't have that kind of guts. That's why I'm an "And" person. I have to have a safety net a fall-back in case this dream doesn't work I can still pay the mortgage and feed the family. My success will likely take longer than the risk taker's success. There are so many inspirational examples of guys who risked it all to chase their dream. The Pursuit of Happiness with Will Smith is an example of an "Or" person who risked it all to chase his dream and wound up becoming a multi-millionaire. For many many people that is the way. For many others, like me, that way is too risky and terrifying. Whatever way you take, don't let your talents waste away, don't let them lie undeveloped and unrealized. You owe it to yourself and the world to share it. I know it seems impossible, but it isn't. I do it and Norm does it and neither of us are any different than you. Norm has two kids and a wife. I have three kids and a wife. Neither of us have any help from family, we were both poor and worked our way up from the ghetto, the same ghetto actually. The only difference between us is that he does his thing full-time and I do mine part time, but I put just as much passion and zeal into my writing and fighting as he does into his art. Forgive the cliche' but where there is a will there is a way.

When you are on your deathbed, what will you regret? Will it be not working harder on your day job? I doubt that. Will it be not spending enough time with your family? Probably. Not treating your loved ones better and letting them know how much they mean to you? Probably. Not pursuing your dreams? Definitely. You let one of your dreams die and it will haunt you to your grave. I promise you that.

We all know people who sing better than Aretha Franklin or Patti Labelle who are content to sing in the shower or the church choir or the occasional family function and never try to take it any further no matter how much we implore them to do so. I have a couple in my own family. We all know people who are funnier than Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle who are content to sit on the couch smoking weed and cracking jokes while laboring away in some dead end job. We know people with genius IQs who don't go to college and get thier degrees. We know people working in auto shops who could be building space shuttles with their amazing grasp of mechanics and engineering, raw and undeveloped. We all know people who have amazing ideas floating around in their heads, world changing ideas, that never do a thing with them. We have all thought to ourselves, "Man, if I had his talent I damn sure wouldn't be living here,working here, etc. " But what about your talent? What are you doing with it?

Consider that, that guy with the genius IQ who is content to just read his books and increase his knowledge, writing his ideas in little scrapbooks that he or she never does anything with, may have the cure for cancer, global warming, AIDS, emission free fuel, interstellar space travel, floating around in his head. If he were to go to college and get an education to give direction to that genius there may be no limit to what he or she might accomplish. Now do you see why I put unrealized potential right up there with murder? Consider that, that man or woman singing in the shower or cracking jokes on the couch may have the talent to lift his entire family out of poverty and give his kids a chance at a better life. If he or she were out there chasing his or her dream they might be able to make better lives for generations of their family. Do you think Frank Sinatra's grandkids, or even his great grandkids for that matter, will ever have to worry about paying the rent? Can you see why I put so much on this? Consider that, that born leader, who is content to be a shift manager at WalMart, could have been the world leader that finally brought peace to the world. Do you get it now? The cure for AIDS or Cancer or World Hunger or World Peace wasting away in some do-nothing's head? Do you get why this pisses me the fuck off?

I don't care if you're an "And" person or an "Or" person, where there is a will there is a way. Our talents, our gifts, are not just our own. They belong to the world. Keeping it inside out of some fear of failure or rejection, or because you don't have enough time in the day or you are too tired after working all day and taking care of the kids, is the ultimate sin. No guts. No glory. The only real failure is to not have tried at all. Your fear lessens us all. Your cowardice and laziness deprives the world of your talent, makes the entire civilization of man less than what it might have become. Think about that. Then get up off your lazy fretful ass and do something!


Anonymous said...

Great post. Very true, and heartfelt. Keep on keeping on.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I'm one of those really good singers who keeps backburnering her talents partly due to not thinking it would make much of a difference either way. I don't know if I've ever thought I may be able to actually improve my young daughter's life in the future by letting it rip...ok, so now that you put it THAT way, it's a vision I can put my energy behind. Thanks again for the clarity.