Right around now, we’re all making a list and checking it twice. I could do without the cold, but the holidays are the perfect hour to help yourself. All year we wait for the chance to tell our closest friends and family what we want. This year, I decided to do things differently.
Instead of focusing on what I might get, I’m considering what I can give.
We all have a job to do, a self to become. The purpose of life is to discover your calling. The meaning of life is to answer that call. Pick up and pay it forward. You can only give what you got, but you must know what you have first.
This holiday, the greatest gift you can give is yourself. In the context of your career, the only work worth doing comes from a place of enjoyment and expertise. You can only be great at that one thing you’ll sacrifice everything to achieve.
On the road to becoming your best self, the most important question you’ll ever ask and answer is this:
What is your gift?
It took me six months to arrive at an answer. As odd as it sounds, I never considered my calling. Life didn’t deal me a deck of cards where I could factor in fun or making a living from what I loved to do. At least, that’s what I thought.
I know now that everyone has the potential to profit from their passion. We all have the capacity to cultivate our genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid. I was climbing up the wrong tree and, for the sake of my career, I stepped off. I stepped back and took the time to answer one question that I will ask you now: Do you know your gift?
Now that you know, the real work begins. Remember, your gift is for giving but before you can bestow you must begin. The first step down a new road is always the roughest. I’ve found that the trick to starting up is starting small. Here’s how you step into the ring and face the dawn of a new day:
Every pro was once an amateur. Every expert was once a beginner. So dream big. And start now. You will mess up and make mistakes, but such is life. Remember, the longer it takes to fall down, the less time you have on your feet. Be like a baby and crawl before you walk, but go into everything knowing you’ll start by stumbling along the way.
You have a lot to learn, but thanks to the Internet you can access almost anything. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Udemy and Coursera exist so you can explore your expertise. Most MOOCs are free, and Harvard, MIT and Stanford are just a few of the U.S. universities connecting via the digital classroom. Growing your gift has never been easier.
Maya Angelou said it better than I ever could, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” At our best, we are all teachers — your gift is what you get to present to the world. It’s the legacy we leave behind. What do you want people to associate with you? I like to think of it in terms of your personal brand and your job is to share your story.
There are 101 ways for you to instruct and, in turn, influence. You can blog, vlog, create a podcast, write an ebook, post pictures, share slides, design a beautiful infographic or record a webinar. Regardless of the path you pursue, give your gift a platform to give back.
When something works, wash and repeat. It will take time to figure out the perfect plan. Plan, but act in the present. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be at your best. Spend that time wisely. The only way to reach your highest potential is to grow — better you do so with your gift in mind then to present an incomplete package.
Image credit: CC by Alexander Henning Drachmann