From a very young age, I distinctly remember having a definitive belief about myself.
That belief was that I had no talent.
I can't remember the moment in time I made this decision. Maybe it was because of something someone said to me or about me or about anything at all I interpreted in a particular way. My parents always encouraged and supported me, and I know they didn't view me the way I viewed myself. Whatever the cause, this belief became part of my identity.
I wish I could say that by the time I was in high school, or college or even law school I had changed my mind about myself. But that is not the case.
My older brother, who is now deceased, was a very talented artist. He was two years older than me, and he was drawing his own comic strips from as young as I can remember. My mother used to be a professional singer and sang solos in the church choir.
I couldn't draw. I couldn't sing. I was too self-conscious to make any effort at any kind of sport as a kid, and while I was smart, I was also math-phobic, so my grades were always lopsided. High at one end, pathetically low at the other.
It seemed to me that was the way the world worked. Some people have talent and the rest of us just... don't. To combat this, I made another decision as a child. That decision was to take pains to not have an "ordinary" life. I didn't know what an extraordinary life looked like exactly, but I knew I didn't want to lead a life like that of most people.
I struggled with the conflict between being wanting to be seen and acknowledged and also having no confidence that there was anything about me worthy of seeing or acknowledging.
I was slightly rebellious in my own peculiar ways -- I did things that lots of other people did, like go away to college. But I decided I was too cool to care about making lots of friends or socializing too much. That was too ordinary.
When I went to law school at the University of Michigan, I was more social, but I refused to spend hours and hours studying every night and obsessing over my grades like most of classmates. That was too ordinary, too. I got accepted to a prestigious law journal and I quit because I didn't want to be "that" typical law student.
When I became a corporate associate at a big law firm in New York, I refused to aim for the career advancement like most of my colleagues. In fact, though I was doing well at the firm and assured I had a bright future there, I left that job because I felt my life was becoming entirely too typical.
At some point, after I had traded New York for Los Angeles and I was working in the movie business, I started to examine this long-held belief I had about myself. I realized that most people I knew in Hollywood were happy to announce their talents to anyone and everyone. For me, my lack of talent wasn't up for debate.
I would say it out loud, nonchalantly. "I don't have any talent. There's nothing special I can do."
And one day as I said this, as I had for decades, it just hit me. I heard myself and I thought: Maybe this isn't something I should believe about myself.
What would happen if I decided that everyone has talent, and I am no exception?
Asking myself that question literally changed my life. In response, evidence that I was wrong about myself began to appear. I went from a "no-talent" recovering lawyer to a person who made it my mission to uncover what talents I truly possessed.
As it turns out, I have quite a few, if I do say so myself! I have a unique perspective on things. I can write. I have an eye for detail. I have good style. I am incredibly resourceful. I am a good listener. I can make other people feel heard and understood. It turns out, inexplicably (to me) I'm at ease on camera, which I discovered as a contestant on Survivor and continue to experience as a regular Today Show guest.
Recognizing that I could change my whole experience of my life by changing that old, unexamined belief allowed me to truly live the extraordinary life that I always desired.
A huge part of my life now is to help other people. Some of these people look at me as being really together and accomplished and sometimes they have a hard time believing that they can ever view themselves that way.
But I know the truth about them, which is the same truth I had to learn about myself. Which is this: we are all as talented as we give ourselves permission to be.
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