March 2004
Risk of Drowning Your Ttalent: Water Is Rising and Time Is Short

I noticed very few people use their talents/potentials in full or anywhere near to full and I call this perhaps the worst waste of resources on the planet. I also noticed neglecting one's talents leads not only to unhappiness but after some time it causes psychosomatic troubles and diseases and at certain point the possibility of waking up one's talents seems to be lost for good... In the following text I am trying to figure out why we let it happen to ourselves.

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First some intuitive estimates that sound pretty brutal to me:

Only about 1% of people I meet personally (about 50% of whom are university educated) seem to use their talents in full (100%)... which feels to me shockingly low. Let's presume it can be generalized on the humankind.

On average people around me here in Cambridge, MA, as far as I can tell, use their talents by about 10%, in Prague I am getting intuitive estimate only 1%, Copenhagen 2%, Venice 1%, London 3%, Munich 4%, Berlin 3%, New York City 15%... speaking about places I visited recently. All these are intuitive estimates of course... and I myself expect some bias but anyway these numbers are still disappointingly low if we realize we are speaking about population living in culture that puts so much emphasis on self-expression.

Actually I think there is not enough space on the planet for everybody's full self-expression, but sill my guess is about 10% (and not pathetic 1%) of people could saturate their need of self-expression in full (100%) an it would be beneficial for them and their civilization and/or the humankind's average could be on 35% of self/expression without destroying planet as a whole.

Are we systematically discouraged from using our gifts? I think so... (see also the text on "COACHING FOR CREATIVE ARTISTS) I believe most of the education we are exposed to is rigid, narrow and simply wrong enough that it is a miracle to get out of the school system without serious psychological damage. It seems to me only a minority of educational system as for example Waldorf schools seriously deal with development of an individual talent. General school system seems to produce kind of prefabricated human units of working power to be used in a process of production, service, administration, military etc.

(Says a man who's spent last five months by going to public lectures and discussions on Harvard, MIT and Boston University and who went through horrors of communist schools in his youth.)

When" trivial" obligatory general education was introduced in Europe in about 17th century it was clearly meant to upgrade the human resources of the states for more efficient production and general functioning of the state. Educated people have simply higher work performance. (BBC recently quoted a study proving those less developed states who do not allow child labour and rather introduce proper basic education perform economically better than those who don't care.)

I suspect Western education in majority, no matter how progressive it might try to present itself, still mostly follows the tradition of forcing people into a unified molds instead of helping them to develop more of their unique talents....

Well, and that sure is one major reason why people don't use their specific talents more fully.

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If I agree on coaching/cooperation with somebody the first thing I do is diagnosing the current situation of a person on a number of scales including "using one's talents". As I already said what I mostly get here is a very small number...actually this is embarrassing and quite unbelievable fact as we mostly perceive ourselves in much more flattering light... with all the diplomas, good grades, salaries and praise we've collected on the way... that took so much effort to get and that mostly have very little to do with our real talents. In some cases reaction of my clients after this first diagnosis is that of a serious frown, lowered trust and heightened skepticism to my charlatan methods.

What outweighs this unpleasant news a quite a bit is mostly incredibly optimistic an very impressive estimate of client's potentials... and this is not a marketing trick but reality: people's potentials are, as a rule, truly and surprisingly wonderful... which has nothing to do with whether they will or will not be utilized.

Later when (if at all) we begin to work together and when the use of talents start to be supported and encouraged the client goes through an incredible experience of intense pleasure... the energy rushes through a newly discovered channel that was originally as if meant and "designed" for it, channel that is wide and straight enough so the flow, the stream of energy is unusually direct and smooth and performance high and the accompanying feeling is that of delight, satisfaction, strength, potency, "high"... so new and so intense that it inevitably leads to some kind of psychological backlash sooner or later - as most of us were taught most of our life such positive feelings are not supposed to be connected with "decent" and honest work and endeavor, or are they?

Lot of the case material on discovering one's talents by a psychic can be found in a book by late "motivational guru" Edgar Cayce "The Sleeping Prophet". Cayce actually specialized in giving people readings on what profession they would be good at based on his intuition... often very far from what they were doing... and based on my intuition he was often right (98%).

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Why don't people use their talents more often? Of course they were discouraged generation by generation from doing so very often by the ultimate "existential safety and security" argument: Pursuing one's talents doesn't secure enough money to live on and support one's family... so shut up and do boring work and forget about your naive dreams. It is so widespread and programmed into people from such young age that in practice negligible minority of people seriously questions it or argues with it or risks to prove otherwise.

This artificial and wrong dichotomy and dilemma: either security or self-expression seems to dictate a lot of decisions people make... in favor of security more often than self-expression... though both of them should be considered in reasonable balance otherwise psychological and somatic well-being of individual and society is in jeopardy.

What happens if people don't use their talents. It is very simple: One legitimate psychological need, need of self-expression is frustrated... and frustration first leads to or even just means negative emotions:

People who do not use their talents are not happy in a long term and it is difficult for them to keep good mood even for a short time. If they prioritize the need of security they try to compensate the frustration of self-expression by heaping more money, assets, luxury etc. - with short term success. Of course marketing uses this and so do producers of stuff we long for and buy without really needing it only to realize: "There goes another piece of crap that didn't make me happy".

Generally developing one or other kind of addiction is one of the responses to frustration of a psychological need. The satisfaction reached by addictive behavior is unfortunately short, followed by guilt and in a long term leading to self-destruction.

If one doesn't collect the courage to go for what one loves, for using one's talent, one starts to feel more and more psychologically out of balance. Depression, anxiety, phobias, pedantry, paranoia and other psychopathological symptoms become unwanted daily companions. The body becomes more and more tense preventing blood and energy circulation... and this leads to somatic problems of all kinds. I am not the only one who believes many more somatic problems stem from psychological reasons in other words are of psychosomatic origin than it is generally conceived of.

And so playing it safe and secure, reducing the danger of unpredictability of self-expression leads to rather predictable disaster... for the person him or herself and for the rest of a family.

On the other hand, just look around how healthy are people who have done what they love doing, who use their talents.

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There is a couple of scales related to using resp. fear of using ones talents:

EROS vs. THANATOS: Sigmund Freud used these concepts while speaking about conflicting human attractions/instincts to joy, flexibiloity and unnerving unpredictability of life vs. order, rigidity and safe predictability of whatever is more or less dead.

Logically self-expression is somehow connected with Eros and safety with Thanatos.

2 + 3)
WIDTH OF ANGLE of perception of the world on one hand and TOUCH WITH REALITY = realism, common sense, down to facts on the other hand:

My experience is that people who "play it safe" have rather narrow angle of looking at the world and within this narrow angle are very reality bound, firmly realistic.

Unfortunately the narrow angle doesn't embrace enough of reality so their sticking to the "realism" is actually misleading - for them and for the others. They may be perfect experts in a narrow field they are able to win arguments in their narrow area... but are not able to realize that being right in the scope of their expertise might just as well mean being wrong in wider context.

Unfortunately widening the angle is connected with real fear of loosing the safe touch with reality... so they would rather kill or burn at a stake anyone who could threaten their expertise by even bringing in new, controversial facts.

Originality, imagination, fantasy, intuition widen the angle which is highly desirable in any area of human activity... but at least for some time necessarily loosens grip on reality = touch with reality. I noticed some business people have real problems allowing this temporary drift toward unfastening of the grip on reality... as if they felt danger of loosing it for ever, as if it was some kind of life boat without which they would drown in a matter of hours.


Deterministic: "functioning as if human actions were necessary results of antecedent causes"

Voluntaristic: "functioning as if will and free choice without outer force or compulsion were fundamental principle or dominant factor in the individual or in the universe"

Obviously more safety oriented person will be also more deterministic and more self-realizing person can be expected to be more voluntaristic... this being based on, for example:
- upbringing: a person who's ego was more supported in childhood will behave more voluntaristic, trusting more one's will and right to have a freedom of choice
- social norm: society in which we live form in us some norm and expectation of a ratio of reality being deterministic/voluntaristic
- specific personal experience: being in a situation where survival demands original solutions and decisions the same as managing a big firm after some time presumably leads to stronger voluntaristic streak.

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Back to the title of this text: What is really sad and scary concerning using or not using one's talents is that there seems to be certain point in individual's life, certain moment, time limit where a person gets so far, so alienated, estranged, separated, disconnected from one's own talents that is seems impossible to go back to them, to retrieve or recover them. They seem to be lost... and whatever stems from frustration of the need of self-realization grows worse and worse.

I am normally an optimistic person and I believe in possibility of change... so I felt a strong resistance and disbelief when I first read (in one of Carlos Castaneda's book) about this moment where a person is basically lost or really dying, when the damage is irreparable... but no matter how much I would like not to believe it I have to based of my experience.

It is like in the fairy tale where Mr. Death granted somebody a gift of healing: when he stands at the feet of ill person but if he stands at head that there is no help and the healer should give up. Of course the healer tried all kinds of tricks to heal a person he didn't want to lose... but to no success.

And in the same way if I am asked for help by somebody who lost contact with oneself, who is consumed by this fatal estrangement my natural bent is to try and try and try to find some way out of this tragic situation... but in some cases there just doesn't seem to be any way. Sometimes the person had refused to listen to me before and I become a witness of such tragic development...

Less tragic but still unnecessary loss is when a hopeful good business or other project dies because too little attention is paid to its development, too little energy invested and/or too many wrong decisions are made.

Cambridge, MA, USA, March 2004

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Text by Jan Jilek,
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