Using your Talents for Someone Else’s Good

by Lisa Rothstein on 07/11/2012

When you think of working with your talents, the main question goes, “How do I make a living doing what I love?” It’s probably more useful (and, ok, less selfish) to also think “How can my talents help someone else get something they want?”

Recently, the radio talk show host (and my husband’s idol) Tim Conway Jr. was appearing live, broadcasting from a restaurant in a town about two hours from our house. My husband, Jim, begged me to draw a cartoon for him to give to Conway.  And not just any cartoon, He wanted the whole radio show staff in it, with references to all the little schtick they do on their show. We’re talking around eight compete strangers and their stories.

I don’t listen to the show. Mostly I hear it second-hand via Jim, a radio talk-show host himself, who quotes Tim Conway Jr.’s crackpot wisdom and silliness the way some people quote Shakespeare. Or the Bible. Or Yoda.  To give you an idea, Conway is a guy who for more than a decade has had a segment on his show called “What the H*ll Did Jesse Jackson Say?” where he plays a short clip of Jackson’s garbled speech and gives prizes to caller who can decipher it.

So Jim printed out the photos of all the characters, plus a 3 page document of trivia to “help” me. (“This guy is from North Dakota, so could you draw Mount Rushmore in the background?”) I thought the whole idea was such a waste of time. Even if I rushed (which I would have to do, since the appearance was the same day) it would take me a few hours to draw, and who knew if we could even get in? and once in, could Jim get to him?

Well, when you’re married, and your husband looks at you with those big eyes, what are you going to do? So I agreed, thinking all the time “boy, do you owe me.”

I wish I could say I was a good sport about it. I was NOT. I griped all the way up in the car about what wild goose chase this was. Plus, I didn’t feel it was my best work, so I wasn’t wild about showing it to anyone.

But I was wrong. We DID get in, and Jim DID get to meet his hero. He was totally floored and delighted with the picture. The whole staff giddily passed the drawing around and pointed themselves each other out in it. After the commercial break, Conway even mentioned the picture on the air and put me and Jim on the show for a couple of minutes. Now the cartoon is on Tim Conway Jr.’s Instagram page and on his website page at KFI 640.

What I learned from this experience:

The talent you take for granted is like magic to someone else. I didn’t get paid for this (at least not in money!) but I could see that it was priceless, both to my husband and to the recipients. I was thrilled to see the value I could give to someone else with something that is easy and fun for me.

You don’t always need to do your very best. Had I succumbed to perfectionism, I would not have let this drawing out the door, and the whole experience would not have happened. Everyone was thrilled with what I considered my B+ effort. (Who are you depriving of your talents because it’s “not quite good enough”?)

If you’re going to do it, do it graciously. I wish I had been nicer about the whole thing. When you’ve got a talent, it’s really bad form act grouchy about getting to use it. This doesn’t mean to say yes to everyone — if you do they will suck you dry. But if you do say yes, say it with a full heart. I know I (and Jim) would have enjoyed the whole process more had I not been playing the martyr.

Zig Ziglar always said something like: “When you help people get what they want, you can have everything you want.” Partly as a result of this experience, I’m looking at where else I can use my cartooning talent in my work, not just for my own pleasure, but to help my clients engage more with their own customers and add some surprise and charm to their sales messages.  It’s probably just what many people are looking for, would be willing to pay for…and it was right under my nose.

What about you? Is there a talent you’ve been sitting on that could be gold to someone else? Comment below and get an automatic link back to your own blog.


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