It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week and I’d like to give a special shout-out to my third-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Patsy Capps. In 1973, Mrs. Capps helped me find my true passion in life.
Mrs. Capps looked a lot like Jacqueline Kennedy, but she spoke with a sweet Southern accent. She had dark brown hair, teased to perfection, and cherry-red lips. Each day she would ask me to help her sharpen pencils or clean the blackboard and erasers. I was always more than happy to oblige, and was careful to do everything just right. She knew she could count on me, especially when all the other third-grade kids were goofing off.
Mrs. Capps was kind to all her students, but especially to me. One day, she announced that our class was going to perform the play, Hansel and Gretel. Much to my surprise and delight, she cast me in the role of the wicked witch. It was my job to kneel behind the bookshelf in the corner of the classroom and wait for Hansel and Gretel to cross my path. When they approached, I had to jump out in front of them and frighten them with a wicked laugh. (To this day, I can still recreate that same laugh.)
Mrs. Capps and all my classmates loved my performance. I happily absorbed each and every one of their accolades. At last, I had found something I was really good at. I finally gained a newfound confidence and, unlike most of my classmates, I seldom got nervous when I was in a school play or when asked to speak or read. Most of all, I loved the fact that I’d found something that set me apart from all my other classmates, and made me stand out in a good way.
Instead of critically focusing on the things that you can’t do, focus on what you can do well. I found out in the third grade that it’s easy for me to sparkle when I’m on stage. Fortunately, Mrs. Capps saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and she was able to bring out the best in me. She knew that I had a talent for speaking in public, as well as a desire to help others.
Think back to your early successes and times of great enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to dredge up memories that go far back in the past. Ask close friends or relatives about what they regard as your talents. Oftentimes, others see our strengths much more clearly than we do.
To discover which talents are worth nurturing, try several. Then concentrate on the ones that give you the most pleasure. You’ll know you’ve chosen the right one when you lose track of time while pursuing the talent. Some experts refer to this state as “the flow” or “being in the zone.”
When you nurture your talent, you’ll eventually find a way to put it to use it in your everyday life. In my case, I became a professional speaker and a certified etiquette expert. Each time I step “on stage,” I experience profound joy because I get to share my gift with other people.
Everyone has a gift, and it’s worth your while to discover what yours is. It may take a while, but when you finally find it, embrace it and let it take you to the top. No matter how old you are when you discover and develop your hidden talents, you’ll find greater fulfillment, personally and potentially economically, as well.