This is an excerpt from my book Better than Sex.
Take a moment and have a look at your right thumb. Now turn it over, so you can see the underneath. You can see lots of squiggly lines there. There are seven billion people on this planet, and none of them have the same thumb print as you do. At a crime scene when police obtain prints, they can match them to just one person. Not only that: my childhood friend who now works at Scotland Yard tells me there has never been anyone in all of history who has had the same prints as you. Among all the humans who have ever lived, you are unique. In just the same way, no one has quite the same face or body as you have. People may look alike, but even with identical twins you can learn to tell the difference.
You also have a unique energetic blueprint. There is a song that only you can sing, a dance that only you can dance. One of the roles of a facilitator of awakening is to recognize that unique gift, through the layers of accumulated rubble and debris from years of conditioning, and to help bring it forth. The tragic thing is that although we all have this unique gift to give, many people live their lives and die without it being passed on.
Before we continue, let’s clarify something. When we speak of a unique gift, it could be what you do for a living, but not necessarily. In a minority of cases the unique gift and your source of income are perfectly aligned, but often they are different. Your unique gift is the particular quality, the particular flavor, that you brought to the planet, before you were conditioned in any way.
You may sense the unique gift in a small child of two or three years old, or sometimes even in a newborn baby. Each child has unique characteristics. You probably would not say to the parents, “Oh, what a lovely child. What does your child do for a living?” It is not a relevant question. A child eats and sleeps and plays—lots and lots of playing. The child’s unique gift is the special contribution their presence brings to family and friends. Very likely this gift is tied to a particular way of bringing more brightness, more aliveness, more humor, more warmth, and more tenderness into a situation. In the same way, your own unique gift may flow more when you are relaxed and playful. It may flow most abundantly when you are on vacation, or taking it easy at home. You are not working then, you are not doing your job, and the gift may become stronger.
For most of us, the unique gift usually gets covered over by what other people think we should do with our life, by the many sensible and practical fears and concerns about how to survive in a dog-eats-dog economy. And so it is, for most of us, that by the time we become adults, our unique gifts and what we spend our time doing are disconnected.
Hardly a day goes by without my wife Chameli and me giving thanks for our blessings. We have each other, we have two splendid young men we have raised together, we have a lovely home. But most important, we are aware of the privilege we share to spend each moment of each day doing what we are most passionate about. You know that old campfire question, “What would you do with your life if you had a million dollars and you did not need to work?” We would both do exactly what we are doing now. But we do not take this for granted for an instant. We are aware that this is a rare blessing in today’s world. This area is the most important that coaching can address.
When I reflect on my own good fortune, I often look back on the lives of my two grandfathers.
Desmond, my mother’s father, grew up in Northern Ireland on a big estate. He loved the outdoors; he was fascinated by plants, by the magic of how living things grow out of the earth. This love was his unique gift, a big part of why he was born. In his teens, he had the idea of starting a market garden on his family estate that would allow him to work with plants, fruits, and vegetables, as he loved. But his father did not see that as a suitable profession for someone of his “social class” in Northern Ireland in that time. He was sent to become a stockbroker in London. In 1928, the market crashed, and a couple of years later my grandfather had a nervous breakdown. He never really recovered. Although he still managed to become the secretary of the Flyfishers’ Club in London, for his whole life he regretted not having done what he really loved. When he retired, around the time I knew him best, he spent most of his day tending to his garden. Desmond never got to live his dream, to make the contribution he wanted to.
My grandfather on my father’s side was Osmond Ardagh. He died young, before I was born. He worked as a civil servant in Africa. I learned from my grandmother that he had not really loved it. It was his duty more than his passion, also dictated by his parents. Recently I googled him. He had been a first-class cricketer at Oxford, but he only ever played one match as a professional cricketer before he left for Africa.
I am sure you can find similar stories among your own ancestors. The majority of people on this planet have a passion, a gift to give, but they spend their lives doing what is acceptable to other people.
We have to understand what it means to have your gift held back in this way. Think of a child you love, either your own, or a nephew or niece. Now imagine you go to the store and buy a gift for that child: the most special thing, something that would make that child’s little heart explode with joy. Imagine wrapping that gift in shiny paper, with ribbons and bows. Now imagine hiding it in the back of the closet, behind the clothes, where it will not be discovered. Now imagine leaving it there. And leaving it. And leaving it. For months. For years. For decades. The child had some sense of the gift, but it never comes. I know this is an emotionally manipulative story to tell, but unfortunately, it is the story of many peoples’ lives. They have an enormous gift that could make an impact on others’ lives, but the gift is given occasionally as a trickle, not a torrent.