The first book I read with my Black Vegan Life Meetup group here in Atlanta was “Super Rich” by Russell Simmons back in 2015. He was not the flashy and shallow hip-hop mogul I feared he might be, but rather a deep, thoughtful brother, long-time vegan, animal rights advocate and yogi. In his book he talked about the early years of his career when he created mixed tapes with seminal artists like Run DMC and LL Cool J, and, instead of trying to sell them, he gave them to DJs around NYC for free in the hopes that his music would get heard. Once people experienced his talent and that of the artists he produced, they wanted more. He had a following long before the concept of a social media following existed. This initial leap of faith – giving away talent for free was the secret weapon.
When I read the book I had been offering my Meetup group for free, despite the fact that I paid a monthly fee as an organizer. When people asked why I did it, I always said I did it for love. After reading Russell’s book, I realized acting out of love was giving it away for free.
Lately I’ve been wondering how many people die with their best talents inside themselves because they refuse to give anything away for free. We live in a society that teaches us we should be paid for our efforts, that values wealth above all else, and that glorifies the misery of the grind. Someone sold us the narrative that if we work ourselves into exhaustion, cognitive dissonance, poor health and moral dilemmas, we’ll achieve Nirvana. I’ve been working full-time in corporations since I was 17. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to make an unpopular decision to keep from sliding down the ethical slippery slope, or the innumerable times I prioritized my family, my health or my joy. I’ve seen many others cave in to ethical pressures to their reward or demise. I’ve seen folks work themselves into sickness and sadness despite monetary wealth.
I wonder what the world would look like if people shared their talents freely. Imagine all the art, songs, inventions, music and ideas we’ve missed out on because someone took their talent to the grave. Now close your eyes and imagine the opposite – a world where everyone is self-actualized. Take a moment to dream a world without barriers to basic necessities like food and safe housing – a society where all children got a quality education that included an honest history of their country, ethnicity and identity. Imagine we birthed a culture of lawyers who enjoy advocacy, police who enjoy protecting, doctors who enjoy healing, janitors who enjoy cleaning, waiters who enjoy serving, politicians who enjoy representing, executives who enjoy leading and construction workers who enjoy building. You get the idea. It’s just a thought from someone who enjoys postulating. 😊
I remember working at American Express headquarters at the World Financial Center in NYC in the eighties. (The WFC and Winter Garden Atrium appear in the classic movie Boomerang if you are in the mood for a throwback. It’s available on Amazon.) The mail room staff was comprised of mentally disabled people. They were so excited about their work, because the work was interesting and challenging to them. This same job given to someone with a higher mental capacity would have found it exceptionally frustrating, even demeaning. From where I sat, the Amex mail room staff was self-actualized.
I wish I could say I always had this concept wrapped up in my mind with a neat little bow. The reality is I came frighteningly close to keeping every drop of my own talent to myself. When I first wrote “Chocolate Souffle,” back in 1995, I shopped it with publishers and couldn’t find any takers. I let that rejection silence me because, if I couldn’t get PAID, why WRITE? Ironically, it was my Black Vegan Life community that encouraged me to publish my novel in 2016, and I did, not for money, but for love. We spend money on clothes and on vacations. Why not invest in our own dreams and talents? Whether you love or hate the book, it’s my creation, crafted through the lens of my own experiences. It’s available for anyone to read thanks to the magic of Amazon. I did it for love. I love that I did it. I will not die with my talents. No matter what spiritual path you’re on or not on, I can’t imagine anyone seeing a benefit to dying with unused, unshared, dusty-ass talents.
If we’re not here to share our gifts, what are we here for? It can’t possibly be to work hard for someone else’s dream, hoard cash and die without properly identifying, honing or sharing our natural abilities.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment & Effortless Abundance!
P.S. Meetup.com seriously changed my life. If you haven’t already explored meetup in your neck of the woods, I highly recommend you give it a try. If you don’t see a group you like, CREATE ONE! Do it for love! BTW, I took that pic while running a half-marathon this past weekend. It happens to be the 2nd installment of “The Race” here in Atlanta. I have a feeling if I reach out to the organizer, she’ll tell me she gave it away for free and did it for love. Check out theraceuc.com