I honestly don't understand what people mean when they say they "don't have talents" or they "don't have any skills". I'm assuming you've human and you've been on this planet a while, maybe some time beyond college. So how can you not have these things?!
Well, let me tell you - you have them! And you have them aplenty. :)
So many successful people will back me up on this. Off the top of my head: Oprah, Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeff Goins, Jon Acuff, James Clear, and many more.
You could say that discovering these things in yourself and using them the best you can is the secret to happiness and success.
But let's start simple and see what the difference is first - you probably know already but bear with me - a talent is what you enjoy doing (because you're good at it) and a skill is something you've acquired, meaning you didn't have it to begin with.
For example, I have no natural talent with food, but I make wicked pancakes because I've practiced a lot and perfected the process. That's a skill. On the other hand, talents are sneaky - you don't know they're there until you come face to face with them. And whatever your natural talents are, they're not necessarily the same as your skills because you don't always acquire skills that feel natural. Sometimes you just do what you gotta do, or what society says you should do, or what you thought you wanted to do.
Anyway, my point is...
Then why do some people say they don't have any?
Simple. Either because they're not aware of them or because they want different ones. (Take it from someone who's wanted to be somebody else her entire life - the MINUTE you accept yourself, your life becomes so much richer and happier.)
Now, failing to be aware of your talents probably means you're not especially self-aware. Maybe you're too close to your daily routine to step aside and notice what you do well. A lot of successful people are actually very clear about the benefits of self-awareness. One notable example is Gary Vaynerchuk who made a video about it. Some highlights:
Self-awareness isn't only betting on your strengths, it's accepting your shortcomings. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. Too many people try to be like me because it's sizzly and it's sexy, and people wanna be charismatic and on stage. So many of you do so many things better than I do. It's so damn important to stick to your DNA.
You have to honor who you really are because then you won't bullshit yourself. And the minute you accept who you really are, your life goes on the offense. So self-awareness at its finest is accepting your shortcomings and accentuating your strengths.
And it's up to you whether you are willing to take a dive.
However, sometimes it's not even about self-awareness, but about experience. Maybe you've had no way of knowing that you have a certain talent because you never got the chance to use it. Like I said, talents are sneaky. And the only way to unearth them is to try something new. James Clear says:
It is only through the act of pushing ourselves and creating something new that we discover what is important to us, what we’re good at, and what we are willing to sacrifice.
And you gotta be damn brave to do that. Fear has no place here.
Another way to know is to ask a friend. Ask them what you're good at and they'll immediately come up with not one, but several things. Or you can use this cheat sheet.
Failing to be aware of your skills, on the other hand, can be caused by: a) low self-esteem, b) being hung up on certifications and hard skills, and c) underestimating everything you've picked up along the way. All of those are easily remediable. You just gotta open your eyes and take account of all the things you can do. And I won't even start on certifications because it's going to take a whole other post. (Your best certification is your confidence.)
Finally, remember that you don't have to see how they can "fit in" your dream life, not yet. All you need to do right now is to knowledge them.
Now, once you have a list of your talents AND your skills (hard skills and soft skills, please), you can go about finding your passion. Which, actually, is not so much about finding it as it is about DOING THINGS and EMBRACING OPPORTUNITY.
Doing things has the added benefit of getting you closer to your dream by piling up crappy experiences. I have a mile-long list of things I hate doing. And I've done all of them. Babysitting, cooking, factory work, Photoshop, translating, painting, playing music, flyering, caring after old people, and so on. Yep, I've done it all, and then some.
But I don't regret any of it! It's brought me here, closer to my dream than EVER before.
Many times I've been so close to giving up and taking on the first job someone offered me. Many times I've been close to giving up on my dreams.
But when you truly hunger for something, it won't let you give up.
What do YOU hunger for? Do you know? Because if you can answer that question, you'll be ahead of many people out there who are still "finding themselves". And these same people are pursuing passion as if it's some unicorn that will give them all the answers, but sometimes it's about doing something for long enough that you fall in love with it.
Olivier Emberton's theory is that passion comes from success. He explains:
Imagine you start a dance class. You find it easy. You realise you’re getting better than others, and fast. That rising excitement you feel is your passion, and that passion makes you come back for more, improving your skills, and compounding your strengths.
The enemy of passion is frustration. If you constantly struggle with something, you’ll never become passionate about it. You learn to avoid it entirely, guaranteeing you never improve. Most people get this backwards. They think we discover our passion, and that makes us good at something. It’s actually finding that which you’re good at that comes first.
You see, that moment when you realize you're good at something and you're learning fast - that's your talent. We already established you have it by virtue of being a human being. And if you want to have your precious passion, you must bravely pursue your talents.
As for your "dream", I have found it's a flexible thing.
Let me give you an example. For as long as I can remember, my passion has been writing. My dream has been to become a published author (of fiction). And while my writing's never left me, or rather I never left it, my dream changes constantly. Maybe that's the curse of the multi-passionate or maybe there are so many cool things out there I still want to try!
And it's OK to try different things, just as long as you're having fun and you're making money on the side. (Nothing sexy about being homeless.)
Whether I publish a novel or a book on marketing... Whether I become a life coach or a novelist... it doesn't really matter. Because I love writing and I'm willing to dedicate my life to it, whatever shape or form it takes. I can have all the goals and dreams in the world, but what propels me forward is the joy and the fulfillment writing brings.
And that is not something you learn; that is something you choose.
"Do what you love", they say. Liberate yourself.
I completely agree with these sentiments and think that you should strive to be your own man or woman. Do things your own way. Find a way to take control of your life rather than just going by default and blaming external forces for your failures.
You and I, we know better. We are the masters of our fates.
And because we know better, we want better. We want to wake up with a smile and even in our darkest moments, remember WHY we're doing this and persevere. I tell ya, it's been hard before and it continues to be hard, whatever I'm doing, but at least now I know that suffering and perseverance are included in the contract. And I'm OK with that.
If you must suffer, do it with a smile! Have faith that you're almost there.
Something Jeff Goins wrote will always reverberate:
A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it' been trying to teach you all along.
I, too, believe the clues are there and you'll only understand things in hindsight. Until then, you must try your best at being happy in the process.
There will always be people who say they don't know what they want; they don't have passions; they don't strive for things like we do. Well, it's their choice. They can either go with whatever life gives them or not. It's all good if they're happy...
But YOU - my dear virtual friend - if you're NOT HAPPY, I want you to understand that all it takes to turn your frown upside down is commitment.
When Liz Gilbert was young and she knew what she really wanted - to write her whole life - she made a contract with creativity that went like:
I will never ask you to support me financially. I will support both of us. I will do whatever I have to do to pay the rent, and you and I will have a love affair on the side of this that is not contingent upon monetization.
And then she warns about the dangers of assuming your passion must pay the bills. This is actually why I think side-hustling and saving money is your best bet. And it takes the pressure off. Truth is, when you love something, it will pay eventually, but you gotta learn the craft first and be 100% committed. There is no reward without investment.
So take a note from Liz who didn't give up after 7 years of rejection.
You'll have good days and bad. You'll have days when you don't want to be side-hustling but be paid for your passion instead. Trust me, I've had those days. And I've spent years being angry - at the world, at society, at myself. But it didn't get me anywhere.
When I finally let go of that anger (and entitlement), things started to change. (Maybe in your case it's denial or sadness or resentment.) I took control and worked my butt off, saved money, and invested in a business I believed in. The business you're seeing.
But here's the most important takeaway:
I hope that this will give you hope or - ideally - give you a kick in the pants and inspire you to go take a class or find focus or... something. Just something that will help you help yourself. You can choose to walk towards happiness today or run in the opposite direction. You can choose to invest in yourself or other people's dreams. You can choose to be "safe" or take a risk and do something radical. You can choose ANYTHING.
Just remember: You have talents. You have skills. You have passion.
Don't ever let me hear you say otherwise. Never.