Do you ever wake up in the morning and wonder if it really matters if you use your gifts? After all, there are other people out there who are more talented than you, more experienced, who have more resources and more Twitter followers and more influence.
It’s just a book. Just a small business. Just music. Right?
Is worrying about our gifts and chasing our dreams just selfish?
I know it matters. I do. I tell people all the time how much it matters. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I wake up wondering why it matters. Am I just trying to be happy? Should I leave the writing to the “professionals”? Should I just get any old job that would pay my bills?
I know that dreaming isn’t selfish. I do. I feel it in my gut.
But how do I know?
Recently my husband and I went to a friend’s house for breakfast. He cooked eggs and bacon and pancakes and we all stood in the kitchen drinking coffee while he worked his magic. Our friend happens to be a songwriter, and an incredibly talented one at that. And because this friend is someone I consider to be even more selfless than he is talented, I couldn’t help but ask:
“How do you do it? How do you keep your gifts from becoming self-centered?
We talked about several things—about thinking through your audience, and considering how you can serve others with your craft, which of course brought up the question: “how do you balance considering your audience with staying true to your ‘art’?” (That was me asking the question, in my best hipster voice).
And when I asked that question, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye while he flipped the bacon.This is what he said: Let’s say we were in a war, Ally, and you and I were trying to escape from an enemy attack. Let’s say a bomb exploded and you lost your legs. Let’s say I wasn’t injured. What would I do?
I looked at him. I wasn’t totally sure what he would do, honestly.
I would “lend” you my legs to get you out alive, he said.
I would throw you over my back, and carry you to safety.
Wouldn’t that be heroic?
I nodded. It made sense. He was right it would be heroic, but I didn’t see the connection between saving someone from the inevitable death and writing music or books. He went on.
It’s really no different when it comes to our creative energy. “I can write songs,” he said. “It’s actually quite easy for me. It’s like having legs. But it’s really nothing special to have a gift, or to have legs. On the other hand, it’s something extraordinary to lend your gifts—to lend your legs—to someone else.”
That’s why I can’t stop thinking about the people who are listening to the music I write. Because writing songs is nothing. But lending my legs is heroic.
Ever since he said those words I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what would happen if we each thought of our gifts like this—like something we have that others don’t, like a pair of legs we can lend to someone who doesn’t have any. I wonder the kind of tenacity this would give us in sharing our gifts, and in strengthening them, so we would have even more to give.
I can’t stop thinking about what would happen if I got over myself and just started sharing what I’ve been given, started lending my legs.
I can’t help but think about how our gifts would turn from self-serving, to others-serving.
I’m not sure what your gift is.
Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s songwriting. Maybe it is managing finances, or growing companies or making kids feel precious and loved.
What would happen if you thought of it like a set of legs? What if you opened your eyes to the people around you who are in need of what you have? What if you lent what you have to them?
What if you lent them your legs?
I think it would be quite heroic. In fact, I think anything less would be selfish.