For some people, talent comes naturally, while others question if they have any true gifts at all.
When I was a little girl, I wished with all my heart I could sing. I would watch Whitney Houston videos over and over again. "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" was my song! My freshman year of high school, I signed up for Ms. Wiggins’ Beginning Mixed Chorus class. It turned out to be a room full of 14-year-old girls that could sing like The Supremes. On that very first day, she went around the room, girl by girl, and asked us to sing The Star Spangled Banner solo. You have got to be kidding me! I thought this was a choir class.
It was a defining moment for me, because as much as I wanted to run, I decided to sing. Mine was a terrible rendition of the song, but I made it through. That very day, I bought a new journal and I wrote about my experience. Since that day, I’ve kept a journal, and I’ve written about my life experiences. I still have them all.
By the time I finished high school and got to college, I had a passion for writing that I didn’t even realize. As much as it came naturally to me, I had not identified it as one of my gifts. Although I was a science major, I wrote practically every day. Campus newspaper, personal journal, school assignments, short stories for fun, you name it. Then, through a series of divine events, I ended up making a game-time decision to change my major going into my senior year. I switched it to English writing.
I’ve enjoyed an amazing career in public relations and business, but writing has never left me. In fact, one of my very first journal entries was about my dream to be a writer and best-selling author. Thinking back, every time I stopped to evaluate my next move, writing has consistently been a conduit to opening doors.
My first internship was solidified because of my writing, as was my first full-time job with my precision on a writing test. I’m now a writer. I’m a contributor for national and global platforms. I am often tapped to write speeches, remarks, brand messages, and all types of narratives for individuals and organizations. I have also written my first book, started on the second, and completed the narrative for a series of children’s books. (None are published yet, but that’s coming).
The moral of this story: your gifts will always make room for you. I still can’t sing a lick. That dream never came true. But what it did do was lead me to do what I do best—what opens my heart space and the heart space of others.
I can recall once I was traveling for a national PR campaign launch with my absolute favorite client of all time. She was talking about a well-known celebrity and entrepreneur and how she could see herself being the next version of that person. Without thinking much about it, I said to her that the world has already seen how great she is. Why not concentrate on showing them the greatest you? And that is true for all of us.
Maybe you feel like you can’t relate because you don’t think you have a gift. You do. Trust me. Or maybe you have a gift and you’re discouraged because things haven’t panned out as you planned. That doesn’t mean your gift isn’t your gift and that it won’t make room for your purpose. It may not look like you expect it, but open your heart and mind and let it be what it is meant to be. Whether a senior executive or an assistant account executive, you’re not just in public relations; you have something unique and special to contribute to it.
I recently talked with an agency CEO who I very much respect and admire. He was sharing the nontraditional culture his agency is creating and how its evolution has led the firm to be open in ways it never was. This new philosophy is fascinating and right up my alley because it honors people where they are, and in turn fosters the best and most productive work outcome.
So often in public relations, people feel they have to compete with or be better than the next person to be recognized and validated. In fact, the PR industry is known for having a culture of competition. Although this can be motivating on one hand, it can be a stifling distraction from true creativity on the other.
Don’t get sidetracked trying to open someone else’s gifts. Take some time today to think about who you are, what you love, and what makes you so extra special.
I’m never going to be in the vocal league of Whitney Houston. Correction: I’m never going to be in any vocal league. But oh what fun it is to celebrate her and sing along—the whole time—being myself and doing what I do best.
Rashada Whitehead is a professor, writer, and the president and chief transformation officer of KGBERRY, an organization that helps conscious companies navigate big changes. Connect with her here on Twitter.