I was in my car listening to the radio when I heard the news about the death of Don Rickles. For those too young to have experienced Rickles—he was an “insult” comic—a unique comedy genre (a current example would be Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). His tongue-in-cheek nickname was “Mr. Warmth”.  The radio station was replaying an interview that covered a variety of questions about his career and personal life. At one point, he was asked how he ended up at the top of the industry—whose style he copied, and who his role models were. His simple reply “…I didn’t try to copy anybody—I could only be me—so I did that, and it worked out.” He went on to elaborate that he had a natural talent for insults and making insult situations humorous, so he worked hard to cultivate that ability. He was a trained actor, and in fact, had success in that arena, but his primary love was comedy. He wasn’t good at telling jokes, or doing observational humor—so he stuck to insults. He used his natural talent to be happy, and ultimately, successful.

We all have natural gifts and things we are passionate about. Using our gifts and pursuing our passions is fulfilling. The ultimate expression of this is being “in the flow”. Rickles understood the flow. Unfortunately, many of us lead lives we endure rather than enjoy, or select for security rather than fulfillment. While real-life requires us to perform tasks that don’t excite us or maximize our talents, we can create a life that minimizes time spent on these “non-aligned” activities. We can start today, rediscover our natural talents, clarify our passions, and create a path toward maximizing “flow-time”. If you’re at mid-life, with a mortgage, family, and debt, this may seem unrealistic. But before you give up, consider the cost of staying where you are.  It would be an insult to your true self to do less.

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