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Bring All of Your Gifts



“Mr. Merchant, you must bring all of your gifts with you all of the time. For when you do not bring all of your gifts, you insult the Creator. And you are also very boring.” - Maya Angelou I know. Sounds like a total name drop. But it was a transformative moment...


When I was in grad school, ostensibly to earn a master's degree in American History (which I did), I also took a number of undergrad classes in theatre, dance, music, and just about anything else that seemed fascinating. I also performed in a number of plays and musicals. One class that I was fortunate enough to take was "Poetry in Performance," which was taught by Maya Angelou, or "Dr. Angelou," as we called her. As a 26 year old grad student in a class full of undergrads, I was probably more confident than others. I actually got to know Dr. Angelou a little bit, and from time to time would linger after class to ask for insight on various topics. She had been a performer and director earlier in her career, so many of my questions were performance-related. One day when I was asking her about a particular challenge I had been encountering in rehearsals (and most likely whining about), she slowly raised her hand at the wrist, effectively rendering me unable to speak. She said, “Mr. Merchant, you must bring all of your gifts with you all of the time. For when you do not bring all of your gifts, you insult the Creator. And you are also very boring.”


She said the last word as a broad and devilish smile was forming on her visage , so it sounded like "Bhoooohhhhhhrrrrrrrringggggg." She looked at me for what seemed like minutes, then broke the silence, "You underSTAND me?"


I nodded slowly, then aggressively, mumbling, "Yes. Thank you. I do. Thank you."


I did not understand.


But I thought about it for days. And I began to understand. And from time to time, when I need it the most, the moment returns to me. You must bring all of your gifts...


I have started a consulting business that serves organizations that need help recruiting, assessing, and coaching leadership talent. In a global pandemic. When tens of millions of people are unemployed. And now another wave of executive layoffs is starting as companies that had prepped to weather 4-5 months are now prepping to survive until 2022. I am confident that the business will be a great success, but things could be slow for a while. Dr. Angelou, I'm having a hard time with... You must bring all of your gifts...


A friend of mine is a residential contractor who specializes in kitchen and bathroom renovations. We were talking the other day about business conditions and he said, "You gotta figure out how to make your business a service. I don't mean a FREE service! But as long as it is a service people need, and you're open and willing to do the work, the business will find you. I know I sound crazy, but it's like a God thing." The next day (not kidding), a former colleague asked if I could help him with his resume and provide some coaching to help him better understand his own strengths. I told him that I didn't really do that. I worked with companies, not individuals. But I would be happy to help him some as a friend. He said, "Well, you don't have to insult me. I didn't mean I wanted you to do it for FREE! I'll pay you for it. You're better at this than anyone else I've ever met." 2 days later another friend called with the same request. "Trent, I need your help..."


2 days later, a former client called and said, "You know what you should do? You were the best I ever saw at..."


Now part of what I do is to help individuals by offering a menu of fixed fee services - building effective resumes, and providing coaching and personality assessments. I don't make a lot of money at it, but I cover my expenses while the economy is slow. I provide a service to others. I help people. And that gives me purpose. I am bringing all of my gifts...


What are your gifts? What are your talents and interests? How can you bring them with you all the time to serve others? ...let me know if I can help you navigate.

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