Friday 13 December 2013

Our talent versus our identity

Simon Cowell the producer of Britain's Got Talent, was asked the following question on Dutch television. 'If you are judging a talent show would you tell us what your own talents are?' Simon Cowell took some time reflecting before giving his answer. Finally he was able to respond. ‘I only have one talent.’
'What’s that?'
‘Making money!’ He answered.

Those of you out there that think that making money is a talent might need to get their head re-examined. Talents are our natural gifts and strengths. They are often birth gifts and need to be nurtured. It could be the responsibility of a foresighted parent even teacher to spot these gifts. We all have them which makes us all unique in each different way. As we grow up, our talents and strengths become part of our identity, an identity that becomes a kind of adventure in which we are destined to discover. If we do not nurture them or use them in our lives in the right way we have the distinct possibility of never discovering who we really are thus creating potential havoc and unhappiness in our lives. We also have the distinct danger of losing our coherency or integrity, let alone our wisdom and judgement.

The other day I had the privilege of sitting at a dinner opposite a well-known Norwegian singer song writer. We talked about some of the rubbish that was coming out of the music industry today. He concurred. I asked him out of my curiosity what he would describe as a talented singer or song writer. He paused and then answered, ‘The talented ones are those that sing or write from the heart.’ He was certainly a delightful person and one that appeared to know what he was talking about.

In our work place there is a common misconception that a person’s skill is their talent. Skills however are not talents. Skills are our expertise, knowledge and know how that are accumulated in our job. Talents on the other hand take great skill and discipline to develop especially the hidden ones that need to be tapped into. People can have skills and knowledge in areas where their talents do not lie. If they have a job that requires their skills but not their talents, organisations will never tap into their passion or voice. There is the distinct danger of becoming robotic or simply entrenched into the system.

What I find difficult to fathom is for example when some kind of gifted quantum mechanic or a rocket scientist as they might commonly be known by, is recruited out of a leading University by a large investment firm, just to devise some clever mathematical formula as a disguise for the sole purposes of enriching directors and shareholders. This has to be a clear example of not just talent wasted but talent exploitation which will only cause immense suffering to the person in question.

Making money is neither a skill neither is it a talent. Making money can be considered as a driver or motivator which can easily be translated into personal ambition, social status and power. If all this becomes a driver above all else it becomes incompatible to our true identity and we will never be fulfilled nor happy. One might add that it is not sustainable in the longer term for the human being to function in a decent or proper capacity. It can also become synonymous to losing our wisdom, judgement, authenticity, even our talent and skills. Unless there is a higher purpose, we fall over, for which there are many clear examples out there. Richard Fuld of Lehman's. 'Lloyd Blankfein' (not yet)of Goldman Sachs. Didier Bellens of Belgacom. Fred Goodwin of RBS, Piet Morland of Rabobank. Paul Flowers of the Coop. There are many more who all seem to be dropping off like flies. There is a common saying that you cannot serve two masters.
I know from my own experience, that in the past when my sole driver was making money working in commerce, I was incapable of understanding true love. In fact Simon Cowell is one of those in our culture that remind me of how I used to be, a bit of a playboy with little character. I was not the genuine article therefore I was not happy. Really and truly I had never tapped into my true talents which never allowed me to discover my true identity. I am greatly relieved that I discovered this phenomenon some years ago rather than later. Naturally I have great empathy for those that can take longer to figure this out or who may have lost their way. Others may have no need and sadly there are those that don't seem to care which is a shame really if we would like to achieve great things in life. It is logical to deduce therefore that sadly Simon Cowell is simply under qualified to judge other people’s talent. If the BBC take their values seriously they ought to re-examine the values of the people behind their shows as they ought to have some experience by now after the dreadful Jimmy Saville saga.

In short, the one way I have learnt in which to inspire our passion and create some meaning in our lives is to discover our voice of conscience; by this we can also sense a need out there. This can take time, education and some serious thinking. Needs can be defined in what others value or what is missing out there. Then if our talent matches that need, we can discipline ourselves in improving ways in finding solutions. Vision, passion and character can follow henceforth. Hopefully, with all fingers crossed with a bit of faith and self-belief, the money can follow as recognition for our service and contribution and not the other way round. You never know the hidden talents or gifts may spring about at the most unexpected of moments some in which you never thought you had. Here goes my basic formula and I am not a rocket scientist.
Conscience + heart + talent + Need = Identity (peace of mind/happiness)


  1. Great reflections on an important subject!

    A. Pettersen

  2. good stuff George. I like the pop singer story - we all need to operate from MORE Heart!

  3. excellent george post it on linked in... alexander

  4. Thanks George ! Great piece. Who is the norwegian singer/songwriter ?