Read Monique’s Chapter


11

Using Real Talents

In Life and Work

Man is the only creature

Who refuses to be what he is.

 

ALBERT CAMUS

 

 

*Monique: When I think back to my childhood, I never really seized on a specific career path that I wanted. But from when I was a little girl, I thought about being a performer of some sort, maybe a singer. I didn’t have a great childhood. It was marred by a lot of instability and insecurity. So I knew I wanted security and stability, and I wasn’t picky about how I’d accomplish that.

The first major decision I made in life was not to finish college. I was studying accounting, but I found the whole thing so boring. I remember somebody said to me then that cosmetics would always be a great business, so I left college and got my first job at Estee Lauder. I loved it and was good at it because it was immediate and it helped people. I did very well, working there from age 18 to 24.

Then something happened that changed my life. I had married my high school sweetheart, and after about a year and a half, he ran off with another woman. I wasn’t quite 24 years old when I got divorced for the first time. That experience threw me into an odd sort of depression – I felt suddenly purposeless and empty. While I loved cosmetics, I felt it had no real value for me. I felt compelled to seek a deeper, more profound thing to do with my life, to give me the security I longed for. Being married to my high school sweetheart was the thing that had given my life meaning up until that point. I had taken the track that “nice Latin girls” take, and I had thought it was the right thing for me, but I realized I was wrong.

I then toyed with the idea of going back to school, but I knew I was a good salesperson and people liked me. So I went to a temporary employment service to help me regroup and find a way out of retail. I went into a position of underwriting medical malpractice insurance policies, and it turned out I was really good at it. But the company I worked for asked me to stop associating with a former employee who was a close personal friend, so after a period of refusing to do that, I got fired.

I was home one day watching TV, and Oprah came on. Something about seeing her show affected me deeply. I sat there for hours after and wrote this long manifesto about my life called “The End of Slavehood.” In it, I detailed for myself all that I hated about my previous work life, and the things I would never succumb to again. From that point on, I knew I needed to be independent, so I formed my own corporation, Marvez and Madison, and worked for my girlfriend’s company selling medical malpractice insurance. I continued doing this for three years, and at 27 years old, I was doing well and making some very decent money. But after awhile, I begin to contemplate what my life’s big picture was and wondered if this was it. I hoped now.

As Monique discovered after “trying on” several different professional identities, being good at your work simple isn’t enough to build a happy, fulfilling life, not if the work doesn’t match who you are. What’s required for a satisfying and genuinely meaningful life is something else – discovering what you’re naturally and joyfully gifted at and stepping forward to do work that makes use of these gifts. Women often realize, after following a secure but joyless road for years, that life will happen, and traumas emerge, including exploitation, loss, disappointment, and sudden negative shifts away from what they anticipated. Sometimes these shifts are “just life,” but more often than not they have a purpose, which is to point you – like a red neon sign in the road – to follow a more authentic, self affirming direction, one that allows you to honor what you’ve been endowed with and use your core gifts.

 

Monique continues: It’s funny, big things often happen to me after a terrible illness. I don’t believe in illness, per se – I call it the “grievels,” when something is dying or changing or shifting, because changing makes you grieve when you have to move on. It was May 1990, and I was 27 years old. I was really sick with a terrible cold and fever. Lying in bed reading the paper, I saw an article about Sam Kinison that mentioned he had played in Miami the night before. The photo showed him walking out of the arena with a buxom blonde on each arm, and I thought, “If that big fat bastard is getting rich and laid by doing stand-up, I’m going to try it!”

In the article, I saw a local comedy club mentioned, and I just picked up the phone and called the club out of the blue. I said, “How do you do comedy there?” and they told me. I said, “Okay, I want to come tomorrow.” I was onstage the next night. I had been onstage performing a lot in school plays, so I was really comfortable in the spotlight. I thought about funny things I’d said over the years, sitting in a Denny’s with my girlfriends, and cobbled together some funny moments to make an act. After the set, the owner came up to me and said, “You’re a natural. Come back next week.”

And that was the start of my comedy career. It was that simple. I’d never been a comedy groupie, but my whole life my friends have said, “You should be a comedian, you’re a riot!” I didn’t think I was funny, but I knew I was brutally honest, and said out loud what other people just think to themselves.

Following Our Natural Gifts

From her childhood, Monique emerged with the dominant wish to create security and stability for herself. This longing governed her career decisions and led her to seek professional paths that initially looked like they’d give her what she wanted, but they disappointed each time.

Finally, she had an awakening and was compelled, almost by something outside herself, to pursue comedy. Her stunning natural gifts came together in a perfect blend – spreading laughter, using her wordsmith gift, loving the spotlight, applying her uncanny powers of observation, speaking her wildly funny mind, and taking full advantage of all she is (gloriously not skinny, not blonde). But not until the “grievels” took hold of her did she realize that she could use those talents in a career.

Women often disregard or underestimate the importance of their natural gifts and talents. They chronically fail to recognize ways in which they are unique and special, or to understand that these gifts exist for one key reason – to use them in the world, and to bring joy. Further, being driven to find security and stability means that we are motivated by fear – fear that we will be forced to experience the same trauma we did in childhood. Or we fear breaking away from the tribal mentality we were raised with. But submitting to fear inevitably leads to actions that bring suffering or discontent.

When I was a teen, I knew I loved to sing and perform, and I had evidence that I was good at it. I also knew that I took great pleasure in writing, as well as in exploring why humans do what they do. Being a compassionate listener to people in need was another natural talent I enjoyed. These are my natural gifts and abilities – compassionate listening, understanding human behavior, using my voice to connect with and assist people, and entertaining – all of which come together to help me do what I love best.

Why, then, did it take me twenty years to find “right” work for myself? Why did I take so long to draw on these talents? Because I failed to see my unique gifts. I didn’t believe these natural talents that I love to use would be the best building blocks for a successful, satisfying career and life. Instead I pursued a series of jobs that represented money and security but were boring and unfulfilling to me. Only after a series of seemingly random traumatic and disruptive events did I wake up and stop working solely for security. I finally figured out that my natural gifts and talents could be used to forge a career path I could sink my teeth into.

 

Monique’s Journey Through Comedy

So I committed myself to comedy. For years, I took every gig I was offered, traveled across the country, and loved performing. The problem was I made very little money and was always broke. Everyone told me I should quit, but I knew in my heart I couldn’t. After my second marriage ended, I said, “Okay, something’s got to change here.” I’m a spiritual person and I pray a lot, but I don’t know whence the answers come. There’s something bigger out there, so I started asking, “Am I crazy? Have I mixed my wires? Why is this such a struggle?” I felt like this was the one huge thing I do that makes me special, so I’ve got to do it. But I kept asking questions, doubting, and wondering, “Should I quit?” until something finally happened that gave me the answer I was looking for.

It was February 2002, and I needed money desperately. After a brutally honest conversation with a friend who said, “Your life is ridiculous! You’re always flat broke!” I thought that this really might be the end of the line for me and comedy. As luck would have it, my next gig was in Oklahoma for a wonderful woman named Dixie who loved me and always hired me when I was passing through. I used to sell T-shirts after my shows and I would tell people I’d give them a one-minute psychic reading for the price of the T-shirt. This wasn’t a power trip, I’m very intuitive, and I know things about their lives. So at this gig, I was asked to do a reading.

One guy in the audience had been in a terrible motorcycle wreck. He was disfigured, missing an eye, really torn up. I started to read him, and out of nowhere I began saying, “You have to apologize and start talking to God. You can try every way possible to kill yourself, but you’re going to survive, because you don’t have that power. Whether you like it or not, you’re not going to die.” He said to me, “I wouldn’t even know where to begin to talk to God.” And I responded, “Just go out to an open field and look up, and say, ‘I’m listening.’ I told him he was very powerful, special, and that he’d been kept alive because he had something to say that was important. You could see a shift literally right there in his face. He thanked me, left the bar, and for a moment everybody there was completely stunned, silent, just looking around in awe.

That was it. From that second on, I knew I couldn’t quit. I made up my mind to never give up on this life of comedy and performing, and when I did that, I felt better. From that day forward to this, wonderful, miraculous events have occurred in my life. The day after that evening at Dixie’s bar, I heard from an amazing L.A. entertainment attorney, Jeffrey, who was interested in representing me and collaborating. We met and instantly connected, and I saw that he believed in me as powerfully as anyone ever could. He’s my manager now, and we work beautifully together. Soon after that, I was offered my own radio which, which was a terrific run. Despite the fact that I’m not skinny or blonde, and everyone told me I had to be to make it, I eventually decided to move to L.A. to try my hand at stand-up. Just one day after moving to L.A., I performed at an HBO showcase and was approached by Dick Wolf Entertainment to work with them to create, develop, and star in my own network pilot! And it didn’t end there. I got a terrific radio job in San Diego and was also asked by Hay House to write a funny memoir. Of course I named it Not Skinny, Not Blonde.

Monique’s Relationship With Comedy

The best analogy I can offer is that comedy gave to me what most people hope a child will do for them. Comedy is my child. You have to love something more than yourself, something more than your human body and your human frailties. Something has to make you want to be bigger than you are. I love comedy so much, the power of making people laugh. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for comedy. Comedy gives my life meaning because there’s something about the way I communicate that alleviates people’s worries. I feel I was marked for something – it’s my purpose. I have no ego; I am very grateful. Comedy is my purest place, and I would do it for nothing, and have.

I’ve got to say though, that it’s been a long and hard ride, making this life in comedy work. Comedy has humbled me. I slept on couches of strangers, I never said no to a gig. Comedy rocked me to my foundation, and there was nothing I wouldn’t do to keep doing it, to keep it alive, to keep it thriving and healthy. I’ve been in car wrecks, been blown off the road in a blizzard, run out of gas in the middle of the night. But it’s always come out all right. I believe the universe conspired to protect you and move you forward when you’re on the path you’re meant to be on.

Monique shows us that following your talents and gifts doesn’t mean life will be easy. For from it. We’re often tested on this path to develop the “chops” of remaining steadfast and strong in our belief in ourselves, despite what the “three-dimensional world,” as Monique puts it, is showing us in the moment. As anyone who has pursued a nontraditional path knows, when you go against the grain, against what the majority sees as the right or sensible type of life to live, you will face challenge, adversity, and ridicule. But if you feel about your profession and gifts the way Monique feels about hers, you will do almost anything to nurture them. This type of calling inspires you to move mountains to follow it.

My husband, Arthur Lipner, has this type of calling as a musician, composer, and performer. Like Monique, Arthur has found that living the life of an artist today can be grueling, gut-wrenching, and can knock you to your knees. But he couldn’t walk away even if he wanted to. Music is who he is in his bones, what he came here to do and share, and the legacy he will leave to others. I too feel that I will never turn my back on myself again. I will stick this out – following my talents as an author, coach, and speaker – because I feel it’s what I’m meant to do. And because I love it.

Even if you don’t feel this type of calling, your life is much richer when you commit to doing what you love, in some form or another. When you accept what you are gifted  at and love doing, and dedicate yourself to bringing your gifts forward in life and work, your life experience takes on a completely new and powerful dimension. Then you are living for something greater than yourself, something deeper, more connected, and supremely beneficial in the world.

Challenge is inevitable in human experience. So why not experience it while living a life you find joyful and purposeful? Find new ways to use your natural talents. When you do, you’ll be serving your highest good and the greater good of others.

 

Monique says of her life now: My life is beyond my wildest dreams now. I love comedy with all my heart and always have, but now I’m able to do it in ways that are far bigger and more exciting than I could have hoped. I say that I’m “angel retentive now – I’ve been blessed with so many people who are angels in my life, who support me and move me forward. I feel like my gift and my purpose is comedy, that’s what I’m here for. I can thank my many angels and the universe for conspiring to help and protect me all along the way. Comedy is like my child. I keep going, believing in myself and in comedy, even through the tough times. After all, would you give up your child after five years just because they’re not turning out as you hoped?

There are several key lessons in Monique’s story. The first is that each and every one of us is special and important in the world. We are each born with beautiful, much needed talents and abilities. If we don’t use and develop them in this lifetime, who will? These abilities have coalesced uniquely through your distinct life experiences, perceptions, tribulations, and triumphs. They are not random, and they should not be squandered or thrown aside.

The second vital lesson we learn from Monique is that nothing ensures your sense of joy and purpose more than drawing on those very gifts that make you you. The capabilities that you love to draw upon are those you’re meant to use. Doing so to earn your living – if you can – brings great reward and fulfillment. It’s not a lark or a whim to want to earn your living doing what you love. Sometimes we can find ways to use these talents for our sole livelihood, and sometimes not. If not, it’s vital to bring them forward in other ways. And sometimes you have to do other work for a while to pay your bills while you are finding your legs in your new line of work. But completely turning your back on your longings is wasting your precious time. Your gifts connect you to a higher purpose. Your gifts allow you to be of joyful service to others.

 

MONIQUE’S ADVICE

  • Figure out what natural talents and gifts you have, and decide which ones you can’t live without expressing. Devote yourself to these special gifts, as if they’re you’re children.
  • Believe without a doubt that you can follow your path, no matter what others say. Let go of the fear that you can’t do it.
  • Recognize and be open to the angels in your life. Open your heart to those who are available, ready, and more willing to help when you get clear on your path

 

Know Your Natural Talents

Do you know what your special talents and gifts are? I’m referring to those natural, innate capabilities that emerged in childhood and have been with you all along, and you love to use them. Some of your skills may not bring you joy. I happen to be good at giving presentations to a board room of senior executives, complete with P&L’s and financial forecasts, but I hate doing it – it bores me to tears. If certain skills feel boring or meaningless to you, then developing a career around them makes very little sense.

Using the natural talents you love – the ones that make you feel special and important when you share them with others – brings a feeling of connectedness and usefulness in the world. Whether or not you’ve developed these talents, they are still inside of you. For instance, I’ve always been a good singer. I sang a great deal in my twenties but turned away from performing once I had children and a demanding career, due to my perceived lack of time. Ten years later, when I realized that my life is simply much happier when I’m singing, I committed myself to performing regularly, working the craft, and sharing it with others. I adore singing, whether it’s in groups, with my husband, or solo. I can’t and won’t live without it now. Interestingly, when you get committed to using gifts and talents and decide to bring them forward, opportunities appear that encourage you to do so.

The first step in connecting deeply with your gifts and talents is to identify the special abilities you possessed in childhood that were easy, enjoyable, exciting to use, and that others took notice of and praised. How have you been helpful to others while expressing your very essence? Below is a list of special talents and gifts that people possess and love to use. Which of these represent your distinctive gifts?

 

Acting                                                      Decorating

Adapting                                                   Demonstrating

Administrating                                          Designing

Assisting                                                   Developing

Building                                                    Directing

Challenging                                               Drawing

Changing                                                   Elaborating

Cleaning                                                    Enacting

Composing                                                Entertaining

Conducting                                               Envisioning

Consoling                                                  Expressing

Constructing                                             Figuring

Conveying                                                 Formulating

Cooking                                                    Giving

Correcting                                                 Guiding

Creating                                                    Healing

Dancing                                                     Illustrating

Improvising                                               Planning

Inspiring                                                    Preparing

Inventing                                                   Presenting

Invigorating                                              Producing

Laughing                                                   Restoring

Leading                                                     Restructuring

Loving                                                       Shaping

Making                                                      Sharing

Managing                                                   Singing

Motivating                                                 Speaking

Nurturing                                                   Teaching

Observing                                                   Telling

Orchestrating                                             Testing

Ordering                                                     Validating

Painting                                                      Writing

Performing                                                 Other __________________

 

Wanting to express your special, unique gifts is not whimsical. It is essential. The more you express your distinctive combination of talents, the more able you are to create a satisfying and meaningful life. And in doing so, you change your world for the better.

 

 

Get Solid in Your Belief in Yourself

 

Monique’s story reveals another critical point. Doing what you love does not guarantee that the money will follow. Once Monique did the inner and outer work of aligning herself unwaveringly with her calling, money started to flow. This takes time (much longer than we’d like sometimes) and action. Monique followed her gift of comedy but in the beginning went through hell and back to do so. Monique eventually learned that a secure, stable, and joyful life requires having an unshakable belief in yourself and your actions. Don’t give into self-doubt. Ignore the naysayers and critical judges. Misgivings, doubts and fears about what you’re doing will be reflected in your actions and your life experience.

At first you will be fearful and insecure when you step up to using your talents. Such feelings are inevitable. Why? Because these gifts mean everything to you. They are why you are here. To risk failure, embarrassment, and incompetence in the arena of your core talents is intimidating because these gifts represent the “real” you. No one wants to be less than fabulous when their authentic self is at stake. But when you move forward in spite of your fears and insecurities, you give yourself more and more evidence that you are truly terrific at utilizing these talents – or you have the capacity to be. You and your abilities matter in the world! Sure, you may need some work – perhaps even a little help – at sharing your talents and figuring out exactly how to apply them. But the fact remains, these are your gifts and always will be.

To follow this path of honoring and utilizing your talents, hold a steadfast belief in the rightness of doing so. Believe completely, in the importance of who you are, and of sharing your unique essence. Others will try to knock you off this path – that’s a given – because what you’re doing intimidates them. Many people are stuck in slavehood to their fears, and they want you to be stuck with them.  But if you want to remain motivated, ask yourself, “Can I stay committed to this path that feels good and true to me, despite what others say?” As you get better at moving forward unflinchingly, and feeling good about it despite what the world presents to you in the moment, then you will find a way to make it. And others will come to your assistance when you need it most.

 

 

 

Be Open to Angels in Your Life

 

Finally, Monique’s story reveals the importance of other people in our lives who believe in and support us unconditionally. These mentors, supporters, and facilitators trust in and support us unconditionally. These mentors, supporters, and facilitators trust in us completely. They see the stunning future version of us, even though we have not yet stepped up to create it. These individuals are nothing short of angels. They love us, nurture us, hold us to higher standards, comfort us in tough times, and offer us the “gentile fire” ( as my friend Mike Jaffe calls it) we need to push forward into the unknown. They have far greater insight and foresight than we do because we’re steeped in fear that we’ll fail and they are not. Angels act on their great insight in powerful and loving ways.

Monique’s angels are many – from Dixie, the generous woman who hired her anytime she passed through, to Jeffrey, Monique’s brilliant manager who sought her out and believed in her amazing capabilities before they were fully realized.  My angels have been many as well, including my husband, who supports me in all my new wild directions, despite how illogical they may appear, and my mother, who has always said to me, “ I know you can do whatever you want to in life – just do it!”

Angels come to us all the time, ready and able to help. But to act on their help and to move yourself forward, and to attract more angels who support you, requires believing powerfully and resolutely in yourself. In Monique’s wise words, “Be angel-retentive!” When you are, your angels will help you move mountains.

 

MOVING FORWARD TO BREAKTHROUGH

* STEP BACK

In your journal, capture all your thoughts. No censoring please – write everything that comes to mind.

 

  • What have I been gifted and talented  in since childhood?
  • What do my friends and family say are my gifts and talents? (Ask them!)
  • When I have used my talents previously, how did it go? What felt best about it? What was scary about it?
  • Looking over my whole life and career, what are all the things I am great at and love to do?
  • In my current situation, am I using these talents? If not, am I ready to explore directions where I could?

 

 

* LET GO of your fears of failure and inadequacy

Think about what you are most afraid of when it comes to using your talents. Explore this fear. Get to know it very well.

 

  • What does it look and feel like?
  • When have you had this fear?
  • What brings it on? How often do you have it?
  • What coping skills have you acquired to push forward through this fear?
  • What small step can you take this month to push through your fear of failure, and bring your talent forward? (For example, seek a career coach, take a lesson, make a call to a potential mentor in the field, do research, or enroll in a class.)

 

If you’re still reluctant, find support from one of your “angels” to help you. Who will you contact this month for support?

 

 

* SAY YES! to believing in your talents without fail.

Visualize your powerful Future Self using your natural gifts and talents, sharing them with the world, and loving doing so.

 

Visualizing Your Gifted Future Self

Find a comfortable spot to sit, relaxed and uninterrupted. Close your eyes. Take three long deep breaths, relaxing more deeply with each breath.

 

In your mind’s eye, picture in detail your Future Self, years from now. Watch as your Future Self moves through life and work, beautiful, confident, joyful, and powerful, using the talents that most compel you. Observe this Future Self in many different situations, both in your work and in your family life.

 

See your Future self working with others, doing what you do best, and loving it. Others enjoy who you are, and the benefits of your talents unfold. People praise you, applaud you, shake your hand, and thank you for what you’ve give them. You’ve helped them, and they express their deep gratitude.

 

Feel the joy that your Future Self experiences, and watch beautiful images of your strength and confidence. See clearly how the world is richer because you are in it.

 

When you are ready to speak to your Future Self, see her embracing the current you. She loves and respects you very much. She whispers something very important in your ear, something she knows will help you accept your talents and move forward to use them. She is wise and all-knowing, and you trust her.

 

You thank her, and she says good-bye, showing you out the door. See the current you smiling, more confident and self- assured, with a new bounce in your step. You know that she has helped you on your way,

 

  • From this visualization, what did you learn about

o       The talents and gifts you wish to bring forward?

o       The gifts in your life and work you can make today that will allow you to utilize your gifts and talents more fully?

o       How your talents are of benefit to others, and the world?

  • What did your future self whisper in your ear?
  • What one step can you take this month to honor your gifts and talents more fully, in life and work?

 

 

Remember

You are here to make full use of your unique talents, and to do so joyfully. Anything less is wasting time. You are not a random occurrence but a special, essential combination of everything you are and everything you’ve experienced. Move ahead honoring your gifts, even in the face of your fears. You will be thankful you did.

 

Monique reminds us

“follow the think you love more than yourself, the thing that makes you more than your human body and your human frailties. Something has to make you want to be bigger than you are. Find out what that is, what you were marked for, let go of your fears, your worries, and your ego, and just do it. Angels will come to help you.”

 

 

* BREAKTHROUGH “I use my real talents in life and work.”