The Talent is not the person
I’m sure you know lots of talented people. They’re great at some job or skill they have. However, you may not like them at all. Why not? Well, they may be talented, but they’re not very nice people. There are countless talented people out there who have questionable character: “clever devils”. Great talents yes, but lousy character.
Talent and character are very different human qualities. Talent is frequently something we’re born with. Character’s more about our own decisions on what kind of a person we choose to become. What talents do you have? Deep down, what’s your character? Questions well worth asking ourselves.
Even if you develop your talents enormously, that says very little about your character. Character determines whether we use the talents ethically or not. We all have far more abilities and talents than we can possibly develop to the full. Perhaps that’s where character comes into the picture.
Character and the use of talents
Our character determines what we do with those talents. Select and develop them and become one of life’s winners; or become a spoilt genius, wasting our talents. That’s why Jackson Brown Jr, in the quote above, points out that we should praise character more than talents.
Character is about who we are as a person, rather than the things we can do. Character is all about personal integrity: our beliefs, values, passions, desires, dreams, hopes. Do we develop our character, and put our talents to good use: our small contribution to the wider world?
Without developing a strong and loving character, we risk remaining a human lightweight. I suppose one of the worst things you could accuse me of is being shallow. I’d hate it. I’d find it so damning to my personality. It would mean that I’m immature, my life is just superficial stuff on the surface, often trivial nonsense, the mood of the moment. It would mean there’s no depth to me. You wouldn’t ask me any serious question about anything.
I’m sure we’d all prefer to be considered as a person who has something of value to offer. Someone who has some depth of character. That leads to the very important question: how do I develop my character, get some depth to who I am, what I believe, what I think, what I do? Jackson Brown Jr, in this profound quote, suggests four ways to do this: thought, choice, courage and determination.
Our focus is on these tools suggested to develop character: the best version of yourself. Here are a few things these words say to me.
Our thoughts are the very engine of our life. We become what we think about a lot. Our thoughts take on flesh and become real. So we should think about how to develop our character, how to be the best we can be, how we can help other people, how we can move from self-centred selfishness, and reach out to others.
Secondly, our beliefs and values are a matter of personal choice. We get to choose our character, it’s up to us to decide how we live our life. We don’t simply have to accept the beliefs and values of other people. Our free will enables us to break out of any conditioned beliefs and values that lead to a negative and selfish character.
Developing a good character is often quite a challenge in today’s world. Many people choose lesser values that serve that person’s ego; but this ego doesn’t really care too much about other people. These challenges to be our own person, to be different from some other people is not easy. It requires strength and courage.
Character building is not like some little passing hobby, that we can take up and then abandon at will. Character is profound, essential, who we are. That’s why building and developing our best character is a life-long privilege. We never want to give up, go back to a lesser version of who we are. We must have determination to keep going, and live our lives as best we can. Lives of strong and loving character.
Let’s get to work then with these four strategies: our thoughts, choices, courage and determination.
That way, we’ll make a positive difference, and many people will miss us we we pass on.