I just finished Pete Sampras’ A Champion’s Mind. A review of the book is here. Could any book come at a more apt time? I tell ya’ll books come into my life just when I need them or I decide to read books I’ve had on my shelf for months! Over the past few days, I have felt a sort of calm come over me—a loss of the frenzy that dogged me all last year, emerging after a period of darkness dating back to December. I welcomed this period because I thought it was and would be instructive and useful. I would normally be very afraid, eager to deny my feelings and DO something—say traveling around the world at break neck speed as if a boogey man was on my tail. Alas, there was no escape, so I had to sit with a fog that seemed unwilling to dissipate. However, a day ago, the fog began to clear and my mind started talking.
Then I read Sampras’ book today and it all crystallized. Have you ever fancied having your cake and eating it too? You know, not working but wanting lots of money? Or not sticking through the bumps in a relationship, but wanting enduring ones? Well Pete has something to say about that kind of slackadaisical approach to living. Being a champion is a delicate balance between submission and agency. You have to submit and recognize your talents or your Gift as he calls it; whatever they may be. You may be good with people, have a head for numbers, or just ooze creativity. You have to accept your talent, acknowledging that you just may be better at your Gift that anyone else out there.
Gallivant, what if I don’t like my talents or gifts? That’s just too darn bad honey. Take a hard look at yourself and ask the important question: why don’t I enjoy what comes naturally to me? Maybe you are suffering from a lack of acceptance, a little self-hatred, or a case of envying your neighbor’s flashier talent? Sadly these musings are my own because good ole Petey loved his Gift; though others would have liked him to execute his tennis brilliance with more tears and guts on the tennis court! According to Pete, you may just have to get out of your own way and submit to what works for you. Once you do, your path becomes clearer, your choices more obvious— if you want to fully exploit your gift. Life does not become easier; you now face the second challenge, exercising your agency. You now have to accept the costs of exploiting your gift, the burden of being successful, of no longer being hidden in worlds that do not suit you. Otherwise, you are liable to spin your wheels, navel gaze, or engage in an ordinate amount of wishing and hoping. You may find yourself bemoaning other’s success when you are busy working so hard! Ooops, you must be exploiting a “non-talent.”
Over the last few days I’ve realized something is missing in my life; it’s an arena in which I’m tested and challenged to be my best self, to deliver something beyond my own pleasures. I want to demonstrate my efficacy in the real world, not a fantasy one. This distinction is important because in my fantasies I’m all kinds of things to all kinds of folks but that don’t amount to a hella beans in the real world. I have been hard pressed to see how I’m shaping the world outside of my head.
I thrive on making sense of the world, in taking an idea and shaping it into something in the world, whether it is a project or a program. It’s one of my talents. I can conceive it, build it, and let it go with the best of them. I have not been using my talents wisely because frankly I just didn’t think they were sexy or glamorous enough for me. Yet, I’m not necessarily suited for the glare of the limelight. As a friend recently reminded me, “I like to keep my shit cagey.” Like Pete I was never one to let people see me sweat and I’m starting to see that there was nothing wrong with that approach at all. It may not get me prizes or awards, but it certainly helps me stay in the black emotionally, spiritually, and financially!
What are some of your talents that you have let wither on the vines? It may just be time to nurse them back to life.