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Doubt, Talent & Calling

April 6, 2010

After ‘Surfing Vietnam’, a show I produced and premiered in London, Canada on April 1, 2009, I experienced mental Velcro, a phrase that would not let go:  ‘It’s good to be successful but it’s better to be significant.’ Inspired by those words, I wrote a letter for the cast and crew and for every artist who has ever had a doubt emergency. A year later, I’ve re-worked the letter. Please share this with your creative friends and invite them to share their thoughts with me. This is part one.

I am celebrating talent, your talent. Each of you brought just the right ‘thing’ to the show. But that thing, your gift, your genius is more delicate than a hummingbird’s heart in winter. Protect it.

If you are an artist you are not average, nor will you ever have an average life. If you are an artist you won’t be content on the merry-go-round of sameness that most people call living. If you are an artist, your genius will demand an eyes wide open, front row seat on life’s big roller coaster.

Some days you will feel stronger than oak; other days you will find your faith plummeting while monsters of fear and doubt rise. You might ask yourself “What’s the f…ing point? Why should I keep going? What does it matter? Who do I think I am?” Read these words on that day.

You have a gift. You are called to use everything that brought you to this moment. That means taking all you have been and all that you are: not just to create art but to craft a life worth living. What is the thing you just must do? What makes your heart sing? The cost of not doing it is misery, anxiety and depression.

Very few people will ‘get’ that when you are ‘called’ you have to listen and then act. People will think you are eccentric at best or nuts at worst. But I know something. While my best ideas may feel like they burst out of the blue unbidden that doesn’t mean they come from nowhere.

Your inexplicable knowing comes from the same unfathomable source of eurekas that have astonished artists, entrepreneurs and scientists since ideas mattered. If you stop paying attention to your tiny, daily nudges of knowing you starve your creativity and murder possibility.

You have a gift. When you align your talent with the world’s deepest hunger, you go from “What do you want out of life?” to  “What does life want out of you?” (This question of Parker J. Palmer’s from Let Your Life Speak: Listening For The Voice of Vocation haunts me still.)

When we are brave enough to do what we are meant to do, we become who we are meant to be. Work becomes not a checklist but a calling. We get excited, and yes, sometimes exhausted – but not because we are crazy, busy existing.

P.S. Thank you to Chris McInnis for your friendship and edits.

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Good is no longer good enough. The goal is perfection and the path that takes us there leads to excellence.
Louise B. Karch