On Whitney Houston, Wasted Talent & More Thoughts on a Birthday Eve

I realize it may seem strange, but as the clock speeds toward 44 (that’s the big hand on the “oh f**k” and the little hand on the “oh crap”), I find myself thinking about Whitney Houston. (That’s all hands on the “WTF?”) It’s true. With my birthday looming large those thoughts of “what should have been” keep dancing mercilessly in my head. And I know that it’s already “old news,” but I keep thinking about the theme that dominated social media immediately following Whitney’s death: Wasted Talent.

Social media is at its worst (and meanest) when someone like Whitney Houston dies. That is to say, the millions of sideline reporters (almost none of whom knew her) clamor to get in their “best” (see: Worst) shots. Beyond the tasteless jokes, Twitter and Facebook Timelines were filled with comments like, “What a waste,” “So much talent wasted,” and “What a shame.” I realize that some of the comments and status updates about “the waste” are meant with an open heart. Most, however, are simply judgments that knock the wind out of me.

For starters…she’s gone. How about a little respect? She blessed us with some of the most amazing, soulful music we’ve ever heard. While admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan, she was a-once-in-a-lifetime talent who provided the soundtrack to some of the most memorable moments in millions of lives. And, for decades, she courageously fought demons like we could never imagine, trying time and time again to get the wind back beneath her own wings.

As I work hard to perfect my super power of becoming impervious to judgment, however, those aimed squarely at Whitney cut deep. After all, on some level, aren’t we all wasting our talents? Raise your hand if you’re not truly, TRULY leveraging your greatest gifts in the best and most fulfilling ways. Raise your hand if you’re not TRULY living the life you’ve imagined. Raise your hand if you’d rather be doing something else. If you raised your hand, like I did, to any (or all) of these questions, aren’t you wasting your talents, too? Aren’t I? So, yes, my super power still needs some work.

Whitney was in the spotlight and had a voice touched by angels or (insert your favorite deity here), and admittedly and openly, she unsuccessfully battled her demons only to ultimately succumb in the most public way. But are we any better? We all suffer our demons. We probably have talents we’re not maximizing. Perhaps we’re just luckier than Whitney was. Perhaps we should be grateful for that and use her death as a reminder, a motivator of what we do have to offer…not only to the world, but also to ourselves.

When I wrote my last post about feeling burned by the 44 candles, I admit that I was, perhaps, feeling a bit sorry for myself. What I recognize now, however, is that the sliding doors aren’t the problem. What I did – and what I do – on the other side of the doors is the problem. I was right, however, that it’s a matter of focus.

It seems like there are so many of us that are trapped (by our own design) in a job, a career, a life that we don’t want. Perhaps we don’t know how to make the changes we need to make. Or perhaps we’re afraid to make the changes. We find ways to make excuses. We find enough opportunities to place blame outside of ourselves. Like I wrote on Monday, it’s natural to get introspective around birthdays, especially when the birthday brings with it more years behind than ahead. But, as a good friend who read my post pointed out to me, “Do something drastic.” His point was to get sparked. Take the talents and…do something drastic. I like that.

Another friend told me that she likes birthdays, as with each year comes new knowledge. New wisdom. With each year comes another opportunity to make a change, renew a passion or keep dreaming. With each year comes the chance to take a look at our own unique talents and make a decision: Use them or lose them. If you don’t use them, however, don’t blame someone else.

Whitney Houston’s death is a tragedy because she was so young. She did use her talents to bring us such joy. We need to celebrate what she did do, not what she didn’t do. It’s a good lesson for me. Celebrate the achievements.

The fact is we all have special talents, what we do with them is up to us. The waste…is not using them at all.

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