Nowadays there’s a lot of talk of “X-Factor”, a term that, with a certain degree of approximation, we use as a synonym of “talent”. In substance, it refers to one’s natural inclination for being good at something.

The word “talent” comes from Greece, where talents were both a weight unit as well as a precious coin.

In order to understand the meaning of “talent” according to the self-empowerment approach, we can refer to that evocative evangelical parable, in which the talent itself has no value, its value, instead, resides in the investment – the use – one makes of it. Therefore, fulfillment comes from making the most out of the talents one has. Only the servants who work hard, even at their own risk, get praised. On the contrary, the servant who hides his talent gets blamed.

Instead of contrasting the different ways of viewing talent, this parable offers a new understanding, conceiving natural predisposition as one of the ingredients, albeit not the only, of talent. Talent in itself is therefore deidealized; the meaning referring to an extra-ordinary ability only few possess gives way to a more ordinary (although no less exceptional) meaning that can be referred to anyone and that has to do with taking on one’s responsibilities, gaining awareness of one’s strengths, and using one’s willpower, passion, and determination to exploit them.

In self-empowerment, talent is deeply related to the development of one’s potential, which also implies the process needed to unfold it. The natural gift (and each of us has a couple) is accompanied by hard work, in terms of both perseverance and effort. It is a matter of eagerly anticipating possible outcomes but also of not giving up and running the risk of being disappointed. Most of all, this approach rules out anti-empowerment, that is the alibi-killer of not having any exceptional gift, which may lead to deresponsibilization toward one’s developmental path.

Everyone has their given potential as well as the responsibility to make the most of it by looking for their vocations and, while involved in the process of unfolding them, taking their limitations into account. The famous quote on talent by Seneca (“Luck doesn’t exist. Luck is what happens when talent meets opportunity”) can be viewed through the self-empowerment lens. It is a matter of accepting reality and the facts that are out of our control (opportunities in this case are seen as fortuitous elements) and, simultaneously, of investing on self-determination, that is, on what, at every moment, we can do to increase the likelihood that opportunities meet out talents.

I suggest you an exercise.
Take a moment to identify and take note of your five main skills.
Now think you could leave to a place where you could live happily and profitably by simply exploiting those skills and doing what you like. Take a moment to think of what you would do. Now pack your skills and continue reading.

The trip begins. You find yourself at a border and to continue with your trip you need to pay a duty by giving in one of these skills. Which one would you leave behind?
The trip goes on. There’s another border and, again, you are not allowed to proceed without leaving one of your skills behind. Which one are you willing to part from?
The trip continues. You find yourself in front of the last border and another skills needs to be left behind. Which one?

Now think of the skills you are left with. You chose to take them with you and you didn’t leave them at the customs. Could those be your talents?

Now, go back to your current life and ask yourself whether and to what extend you are investing on those skills. Are you expressing those talents? How much space are you giving them? How much more could you give them, perhaps by making some more efforts, taking decisions or making choices, or, again, taking on some challenges and making some sacrifices?

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