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  • Writer's pictureDavid Knell

What Elsa taught me about using my talents

Have you ever felt afraid to use your talent? Have you hesitated to do something you’re passionate about while others are watching?

Or have you felt uninspired to create, suspecting that no one will care one way or the other if you make this thing or not?

It can be scary to show our talents while others are watching. When we wonder how others will view us, we freeze up, hold it close to the chest. Our talent is something we feel deeply personal about. It's an often raw part of ourselves, and so we guard it as tightly as we guard our own private self.

How do we get around this?

Just don't think about it, right? It's easier said than done. We are social creatures, after all, wired to consider the viewpoints of others and how well we fit in.

We can't easily ignore people who are watching. But there is a way to look at them that trades in pain for passion, and hesitancy to get started into haste to get the work done quickly.

Elsa’s story

The other night I read my daughter a short story from her book “Frozen: 5-Minute Stories,” a collection of one-off spin-off tales featuring the film’s characters and setting.

The story, (Across the Sea,” based on a story written by Brittany Rubiano) sees our heroines, Anna and Elsa, on a royal tour of distant kingdoms. At each stop, the local queen asks to see Elsa’s powers. At each stop, Elsa grows shy and refrains.

They arrive at their last stop to find the kingdom of Vakretta experiencing an oppressive heat wave. The citizens lay languishing about the city, too exhausted to do anything.

“For once,” the story reads, “Elsa didn’t feel shy. She knew she had to do something to cool the people down.”

Elsa conjures snow and ice, bringing the people immediate relief. They ice skate, sled, drink cold lemonade from mugs of ice, and build snow castles. What a change from only moments ago.

We fear using our talents when we focus on how others view us. We lose this fear when we focus on how others will benefit from them.


Only when there is a need for our talent does it flow out of us.

When you see a need that someone else has, a need that will cause pain if not met, and you realize that you have the ability to meet that need, to prevent that pain, your fear and insecurity fall away, and motivation flows freely.

Your attention is too focused on the puzzle to solve—the solution you are sure you can deliver, the empathy you feel for them, and the excitement at how great they and you will feel when their need is met and their pain is turned to relief—to give a second thought to how anyone might feel about you. The people who receive aid at your hands will feel positive toward you. Any imagined negativity from others pales in comparison. If you even give that group a second thought, you realize you aren't making this for them anyway.

The pain is prevented. Happiness is in its place. You receive happiness too.

It's demotivating to think, "No one needs this." Think, "Who might need this?"

(Better yet, think, “What do people need? Which of those needs can I address?”)

Your talent will always be more potent when it's filling a need. And it is more personally satisfying too.


When I’ve given a talk or taught a lesson at church, I’ve prayed that something I say will answer a prayer or fill a need someone has been yearning for. Doing this helps me focus not on how I might embarrass myself by saying something wrong or giving a bad performance but on what I could say to will edify and inspire them.

This perspective shift changes everything. I feel assured, focused, and that blissful absence of thoughts about myself.

But I’m not the only person who benefits from this perspective. The resulting talks, lessons, and articles are the ones more likely to elicit a “I really needed that today.”

Composer Sean Jackson recently played the organ at a woman’s funeral. Moved by the grief of one of the daughters of the deceased, he decided to create an arrangement of one of her favorite hymns. He wrote to me about doing it:

Writing to bring others joy, to serve, felt vastly more rewarding. ... While writing, I found it much more engaging. I've never been motivated by making art to entertain for a paycheck in an industry I don't like, all that business stuff we avoid. I've been motivated making art for the sake of study. It's good to learn. It's better to love and serve. When I got home, my first thought was ‘okay, now who else could use a hymn?’

Give to others with your talents

You know that feeling that you potentially could connect your talent to others’ needs but you aren’t doing it? That stuffy, stuck, damned feeling, that ache you feel when you know people need help but you don’t know what you would do to provide relief, that ache you feel to be used for a work that matters. It’s an awful feeling.

But when you make the connection kinetic by actually doing your talent to serve someone else who needs it, there’s a feeling of outpouring that’s like a battery finally connecting to a lightbulb, the feeling of the circuit becoming complete, the feeling of the power finally being able to get outside of where it’s stored up and into something that needs it to function properly and well and to its fullest capacity.

That is what humans are meant to feel. Developing our talents and then employing them to help other people who need what we can provide—that is what humans are meant to do. It’s what we are meant to do with our lives, with our days. Day in. Day out.

I don’t do this well or frequently myself. I aspire to do it better and more often.

Our abundance can benefit other people, people who desperately need it. Our abundance weighs us down and aches and yearns to be set free in service to others. Not just money, but talents, time, contacts, knowledge and wisdom, opportunities, and other resources. Like an engorged cow, relief only comes when her milk is out of her and into the belly of someone hungry for it.

Go do it

Have you learned a valuable life lesson? Record it, then share it with someone who might need it. Can you play music that soothes the soul or excites or entertains? Play it for someone, or record it and post it where people who need that right now can find and listen to it. Are you good with kids? All children need adult mentors, but many are in want of one.

Identify those who need what your talent provides. At the very least, share it with family and friends, or put it on social media. Odds are a few people asking them will need it without you knowing.

You can help people, even if you don’t feel like your contribution is enough. To someone who lacks even what you have only a little of, it’s something, and that something has value.

So scrounge up what you have—whether abundant or a little—and share it with someone who needs it.

Whatever you can do, whatever you have, there’s someone who needs it. I guarantee it. Chances are, many people need it.

Give it to them.

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