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"Free and critical minds can emerge only by a return to the source-the primary sources. A free and critical mind takes nothing for granted and is not intimidated by "authorities" who frequently may be more confused than the general public. Free and critical minds seek truth without chauvinism or shame." - Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III (1)

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Talent Shmalent!

By Marcia Yudkin
Reprinted with permission from Marketing Minute newsletter.

Over the years, many people have asked me to look at their writing. "I need to know, do I have talent or not," they say.

Their request is seriously flawed, I'd reply. Anyone can become a better writer. When I taught English 101 at various colleges, I saw proof of this. Students with hackneyed, half-dead writing turned in lively, interesting essays by the end of the semester.

According to Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, I was right to question the query about talent. Dweck's book, Mind-set: The New Psychology of Success, reports research showing that in education, the arts and business, people who believe talent is fixed and inborn do not fully develop their potential and do not recover easily from setbacks.

Those who believe talent can be developed, regardless of apparent starting point, not only achieve more but also prompt greater achievement in their children and staff.

Her best news: You can change your mind-set about talent or intelligence. In only two months, kids who were taught that the brain, like a muscle, improves with exercise saw their math scores rocket from F's to B's.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Artistry For Free?

Core concepts initially appeared as comments on Nick Daw’s Writing Blog.

Life would be a pervasive shade of grayscale without creative expression. Artistry has extensive and intrinsic value; however, this understanding has been lost when it comes to certain forms of written art.

The responsibility lies mainly with writers of poetry, short stories and articles. I suspect part of the problem is too many of us view our creativity as sideline contributions. Thus, we give too much talent away when offered a chance to participate in the publishing game and then expect to be fairly compensated when we turn pro. How many novels are published for free? How many screenplays are flooding the free market? How many tailors give away clothes? How many paintings are simply handed over? How many wood carvers whittle away just because someone wants their creation?

Artists should be paid. Venues that do not pay writers have every right not to. Writers who are not hobbyists should carefully weigh the long-term benefit of exposure and perceived prestige of a publication against their creative output’s ability to create input for their own bank book. The minute we give our writing away and it appears in a publisher’s showroom, the value plummets like a new car driven around the corner. Yet, our continued willingness to give our property and rights away has created a feeding frenzy on one end of the talent pool by non-paying markets while at the other end media machines pick and choose. Who can live off exposure? Exposure by itself is far less sustaining than love which, even at its best, love hardly puts food on the table.

In my infancy and ignorance, yes, I have given foolishly. Granted, not everyone wants to get paid or seeks satisfaction the same way. For those of us who want to earn a living using our talents, we must stop undervaluing our blessings in any form and any length. The beauty and value of art are not limited to our age, experience, training, credits, goals, culture, form, formulas, panels of judges or editors, etc. A beauty of art is that it transcends every man-made constriction, even the artist, because it flows from a spiritual gift which is forever equal in all respects to any other manifestation of the spirit. A value of art is its renewable ability to connect with us in pure places and transfer meaning across the space between lives. The only real difference in art is, not everything is for everyone; but, let’s let this be decided individually, freely.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Encouragement: The Gift Opener

This is a follow-up to “Opening The Gift of Childhood.”

A friend remembers being assigned a speaking role in a church performance at age 12. Although she dreamed of speaking before others and practiced speaking to imaginary crowds often, she begged her parents and church members to not make her go through with it. They said, “You can do it!” They didn’t fully realize her lack of confidence came from her reliance on others to do things for her. When the moment arrived, she froze, then, ran crying from the church. Her peers teased her but adults provided kind words and encouragement.

Now that facing a real crowd was no longer unfamiliar territory and with continued support to believe in her abilities, she began taking smaller steps. She spoke from her place in the congregation, collected church offerings, taught Sunday School, joined church and school plays and spoke in her classes. During this process she realized two things: (1) The same people she spoke to one-on-one were the same people in the congregation and (2) Communicating one on one was good but with groups, she could deliver the same message once and impact more people.

Overall, she learned to view challenges and frustrations as preparation for blessings. Whenever fear tries to surface anywhere, she reaches into this experience. As Tavis Smiley (quoting Marvin Gaye) suggests, she has “turned her fear into energy” and now speaks to groups on a regular basis and finds it much easier because speaking and her topics are her passions.

In high school, I was terrified of taking an English class from one particular teacher. I heard she was hard from student informants. I doubted my ability to comprehend and keep up with the concepts, the teacher and the really smart students. I tried to get out of it but couldn’t. I planned to do the minimum until I learned we had to write something everyday in a journal, let her read it, criticize it and grade it. Me? Write daily about something personal and let someone more knowing than me read it? However, I feared not graduating more than I feared not being good enough.

I rambled through the routine, wrote whatever and gambled with true feelings. In return, I received praise, encouragement, silence, gentle guidance and freedom to write my thoughts my way. Needless to say, writing then has helped writing now because that journal assignment was much more than an English lesson. It has helped shape my acceptance of this and other gifts as the purest form of praise to the Great Giver of Gifts. It opened my confidence, self view and worldview just enough. I learned another method to understand and communicate with myself and others. What I write can’t be changed plus it has the power to impact more people than I will ever meet face to face.

Encouragement in any form is a gift opener. We do angelic things when we consider the needs of others.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Opening The Gift Of Childhood

I’m amazed and saddened at how many grown people over 40 believe they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. They say they don’t know what they want to do, what they’re good at or where their natural, God-given talents lie.

We lament lives cut short and talents taken to the grave rightfully so. Sadness fills the womb of Mother Earth. I mourn even more when we still have life and don’t do things on purpose despite the unopened gifts we know are already in the grave.

What do I think about, dream about, gravitate towards or do easily? What am I doing when time passes quickly and the thought of eating is an interruption? What do I do that I can’t wait to do again? In what area do I get a lot of ideas? What makes me feel alive?

Many answers are in the time prior to 18, our childhood years, a time when money was not a motive. Oftentimes what we once found challenging in our childhood is where our blessings and talents lie.

Here’s a novel idea. If you don’t know, ask somebody. It’s amazing how often family and friends can confirm what we can’t believe.

To be a success in life is to work with what you’ve got and make the most of what you have. You don’t have to be a public star to be a superstar. Go ahead! Open your gifts! If you’ve already been a faithful steward with one gift, then open another gift.

I’m 44 and just recently realized I’m supposed to write. This is a whole other level from wanting to, liking to or loving to. Please share when and what you’ve realized you’re supposed to do. What fulfills you fills the world with the joy of another gift being opened.

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Related: Unbreakable Evolution: Higher Purpose Coming Out
Gift Wrapping Poem
Whatever You Do, Think Again!
Passion – Let It Go
Real Pursuit of Happiness
Living Instinctively, Pollination, Nectar, Pollen