Embracing Your Natural Talents with Realism

Your dream job may not be the end-all. But your talent might.

Posted Mar 14, 2019

There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful,” ~ Brianna Wiest, Medium contributor


Growing older has its advantages and certainly its revelations. Many of us see it as a time to finally go after our dreams. The quote I used above from a medium.com article was written by Brianna Wiest, a scribe much younger than myself, about her work. You’ll notice I said her “work.” Her dream was not to become a writer, but that is where she ended up nonetheless because it is what she knows she is good at. In today’s society, however, where we are told to never give up on our dreams, she (and I) are not sure that’s the best message to have and to hold onto for as long as you (and your dreams) both shall live.

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Like me, Wiest experienced many of the same reactions from others when introducing herself as a writer. “More than half of them will immediately tell me about how they have an idea for a book, need an editor for their autobiography, or that, though it sounds crazy, they are certain they have this one idea that would be a mega best-seller. Like one of the biggest books in the world.” Her point in this article is that there are a lot of things we dream of doing. But there are only a few we may have a true talent for. Perhaps you could say working within your talent spectrum is what you are “meant” to do. 

In many people's minds writers are authors. We write books. They think of writers the way they would if everyone who works in Hollywood were an actor. The "visible" people. But when you think about how many industries, livelihoods and people rely on the written word to inspire them, instruct them and explain things to them, books are a minuscule part of the writing arena. From cereal boxes to eCommerce descriptions to screenplays to letters from your health insurance company, there is a writer lurking there, putting words together to get a point across, inform you or represent someone else's story. It may not be sexy, but someone has to do it. And no, you'll never see our names attached. While a byline is nice from time to time (as in my Psychology Today contributions), the fact is that for some of us, making a living at something that comes easily to us requires little ego-stroking. We feel blessed just being able to get up in the morning, tap into our desktops and then get paid for it.

Truth be told, I did try to get a few books published and even with my literary platform, some pretty impressive book proposals and great literary agent representation I was roundly rejected. Did all this "failure" stop me from earning a living at writing? Absolutely not. I discovered through my heartache that books were simply not going to be a part of my future. So I cultivated a collection of clients who offered me writing tasks at decent hourly or project pay. Then I began immersing myself in getting better at what I already knew how to do. I now freelance write about everything from biotechnology to fundraising to real estate lending to helping someone’s kid by editing their law school application personal statement. It is mind-blowing as well as instructional, honing my talents each time I take on something new — something that often starts out feeling as if I am the mistress of BS until I realize I really can write it.

By the time I approached 60 I had enjoyed a number of other careers, from managing an airline station operation to selling homes to training adults to go out and make their fortunes. All those jobs were fun, offered me some recognition, and added to my self-confidence. But these careers ended at one point, whether it was due to the economy or the employer changing owners.  Later in life, I looked back on them as mini-dreams and wondered if I could take a stab at any of them once again — kind of like a once-famous actor who thinks she can reprise her glory days. I even tried doing one of them again and found — surprisingly enough — that the person I was back then is not the person I am now and the industry itself had dramatically changed from what I remembered. Whatever “did” it for me back then no longer works at my age. In a way, however, I was relieved. Because those dreams no longer fill my head, leaving me the bandwidth to concentrate on my inherent skills as I mature. Yes. I am still maturing.

“If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done,” says Wiest. I believe this even applies in older age if comprehensive retirement is not an option in your head or your bank account. “Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life passion because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose? No. Of course not. You can choose what you love to do simply by how you think of it and what you focus on. Everything is work. Everything is work.” And this said by someone so young...

She goes on to say that while there are jobs that are fundamentally easier than others, whether physical or cerebral, there is also the idea of finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. Did you know that a huge part of the American workforce is increasingly being taken up by baby boomers who simply can’t or refuse to stop working? They NEED us on that wall. Unlike past generations, many of us are tech-savvy, can apply the wisdom we have accumulated far beyond what they even need us for, and are no longer being rejected as often for work because of our age. We are a safer bet than many of those in younger generations, who are still trying to figure out who they are and what they’re good at.

So what do you see as your natural talents now that you’ve been there/done that? Is it managing people, coming up with great marketing ideas, or are you great at persuading others to buy something? Are you holding out for doing something you've never tried before but always dreamed of doing? Dreams are indeed important, and there is no reason not to want to see your words smiling up at you from a book or your name on a storefront. Just be realistic about how it will feel if the learning curve doesn't include the stuff you're already really good at. Who knows? You may find out your talents lie somewhere you never expected them to be.