Little Gems with Big Promise

May 10, 2010 by

Little Gems with Big Promise

Some of life’s quirky moments get infused with a mysterious mixture of timing and poignancy and against all odds, manage to stay etched upon our awareness forever. An interesting conversation I had with my Dad many years ago still lingers with me in that kind of vivid detail. When I recall that day and our conversation, I polish a gem of personal wisdom that applies to all of us, offering the promise of making our lives easier, better and more fulfilling. I’d like to pass this little gem on to you.

On a clear, blue-sky, blue-sea day in Florida, my father and I sat in matching deck chairs overlooking an inland waterway. The early morning calm, the sea taste in the air and the sun’s gentle touch seemed to create an alchemical magic that primed us for an intriguing exchange. “Hey, Dad” I said unceremoniously, “what do you think I’m going to do with my life? I mean, what could I really be good at?” Even as the words escaped my mouth, my mind became entangled with doubt and insecurity.

“The thing you will do better than everyone else,” Dad began,”is the thing that will come to you so naturally, so easily,” he continued, with a casual flip of his hand, “that you will write it off as valueless.”

I swiveled to look at him. My brain cued to full attention.

“The very thing that will set you apart will be so easy,” he said, bearing down on the last word, “so effortless for you….” he looked up at the sky with a wistful smile, “that you will think, “Oh, this is no big deal, everyone can do this.” But that, right there,” he emphasized with a little jab of his finger in the air, “will be the thing that you do better than anyone else.” I started to laugh as my Dad became the entertainer. “That,”he said, looking at me straight in the eyes, “is your real talent. That easy thing is really your greatest strength and your greatest gift.”

At the time, I knew my Dad’s advice was good, though it would take me years to realize it had been great. He uttered a truly universal human truth that day: Our greatest traits are often those that remain invisible to us, because they come through us with such a natural, unhindered flow.

As a society, we tend to value only that which requires struggle. We seem to have collectively absorbed the idea that sweat and strain produce the best results, while we remain mistrustful of relaxed gain and easy success.

How remarkable it is, then, that our most beautiful “work” often comes haphazardly, with no apparent or intended effort. Maybe we have a knack for inspiring children, organizing chaos, speaking perfect words to a friend in grief, fixing anything we touch, dreaming up incredible travel ideas, encouraging cooperation, seeing the big picture or peeling off a dozen creative ideas for someone else without blinking. And we are baffled when someone makes a huge, complimentary fuss over us while we are “just doing nothing.”

The gem in this for all of us is the impetus to start examining our moments of real ease to see if we are in the presence of overlooked brilliance. The next time you are complimented for “no reason,” stop and think. You might discover a new career possibility, an easier solution to a problem, or perhaps just some much needed self-appreciation. As you start to organize your life around your natural gifts, it just might happen that the easy thing will become the ticket to your success, confidence and ultimate happiness.

Emily L. Butler is a creativity coach and holistic health educator who maintains a private practice in Manhattan and offers workshops, guest speaking events and retreats throughout the East Coast. Connect with her at AscendanceHolisticHealing.

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  1. kelly

    On the verge of turning 40 tomorrow and having always wondered “what to do with my life” or “what’s my purpose” or “what am I supposed to do” — this post is just what I needed to read. Thank You

  2. That piece was an absolutely beautiful GIFT. It’s almost too sacred a moment to even say, oh, this is what I got out of it…but I got a lot out of it. It went straight to the heart, and the writing was lovely. I fell in love with it at the word “swiveled” and cued to full attention there myself! While I’ve heard the advice before…especially smart people do tend to devalue what they do easily, bc they wrongly assume everyone else can (there’s a whole book about that called “Why Smart People Fail”)…at the same time, I’ve never heard this said quite so … wonderfully. It made me happy you had that relationship with your dad, and that insight…and that you were able to pass it on to the rest of us. I know that what I do “best” or “naturally” is something I would never even realized was a talent, let alone a vital one, but I’m very glad I found it, even though life took me on a pretty circuitous journey beforehand. Thank you for the affirmation this really was for what I do truly know about myself, and now can use with others. Grateful.

  3. Parker Vollmer

    This is the first thing I have read on this website, outside of Elizabeth’s work. Very good stuff. For those of us in need a sagely influence, this advice was so sound and simple.

    Thank you.


  4. Elizabeth,
    I was so moved by the comment you left about my piece. Thank you. I feel you really went to the core about what I was trying to say: we don’t have to struggle to share our real gifts. There is a point where, like you said, we decide “This is Good Enough!” and we put it out into the world. That’s certainly what I did with my piece! I have no writing credentials to speak of, but I had something to say.

    You’re so right: our gifts don’t have to be perfected in order to valuable, meaningful and uplifting. I think our society is WAY too focused on perfection and we need to get over it! In fact, sometimes it is the imperfection in something, the frazzled sincerity that comes through a song, or a piece of writing, that can move us the most.
    Your comment was from the heart, and it moved me.
    Keep writing, and stay connected to your easy thing. This is a beautiful gift, and one that I look forward to seeing more and more of in the time to come…

    Emily L. Butler

  5. Elizabeth Wescott

    I loved the entire piece. But what really, really got to me is that perhaps when we do the little things we do so naturally and someone appreciates it we might let that appreciation sink in to a level of self-appreciation.

    Last night I was contemplating my writing, which comes so easily to me that I don’t work at it. And it’s not polished to a shine. I don’t enter into the editing struggle that would make it an income source for me. And I could use one. I struggle with this a bit – but when thinking about it I realized that I really want to say to the world – This Is Good Enough! What we have to offer, as we are, what comes to us as if it’s a gift to be shared doesn’t need to be perfected (whatever that means) to be of value, to touch people, to be a Moment that Counts. And so for the moment, I have let myself off the hook. My writing is good enough to do what it is intended to do – encourage, uplift, support, and join.

    Thank you, Emily,

    Elizabeth Wescott