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Ideas ruled the world. I thought so, I believed it, and delighted in unveiling and polishing mine where I had them filed. There were many secrets to making money, I was privy to quite a number. If ideas were cash, I was a billionaire at 19. I felt rich even if reality offered no remorse. One day, somehow, even without any pointed effort from me, I would be really rich, own businesses, live the good life because I had those fabulous ideas. I know better now. And I protected my darlings. I was aggrieved if someone came up with anything close — my attention turned to seek the latest newness. Surely, when the time came, just that one distinctly rare (and therefore, precious) idea would fetch money off the market just by my revealing it. Example: I generated 21 ways a campus restaurant could improve its sales, met with the manager, and sprinted through my list (he must have tired at idea #6/7 but endured it all). At the end, he offered his sincere compliments and a plate of their fried rice. Nah, my goodies were more than food. I refused it.

Talk is cheap. I talked when I felt I knew better than my audience, that was in the days before I found myself with more questions than answers. I envied the ones who could talk. I aspired to talk. If I said anything about my ideas or the faintest of it to anyone, it was done. It died. It was to my mind as if I had executed my plans and it got ticked off my to-do. I get people like me gain our most energy from solitude, from reflecting, not from grandstanding. Talk is cheap except you get paid for it. Obviously.

But talent is cheaper than table salt (it’s Mr. Stephen King, again). Ah, that. I sang, acted, danced, rapped, wrote R&B, rap, rock, gospel, even Yoruba. I debated philosophies, designed new businesses, invented skits, discovered new foods (egg fried with honey), made photo-greeting cards off my landscape photography hobby, designed clothes and tried to sew them, wrote poetry, edited magazines and books. Surely, the world would pay handsomely for these goodies. I was over-loaded, it seemed, and there was no way under the sun I wouldn’t do well in life just for my talent. I realized many things in the sun while hawking powdered milk in the open market, dressed adamantly with shirt tucked in.

My conclusion? Ideas, talk, and talent are all cheap. They are nothing without the spirit to execute them. Courage, gumption, humility, daring, faith, discipline are more important than all or any of those. It is why those stuck on and puffed up with those three work for simple folks whose. The ideas still emerge from time to time, but my trust isn’t in them. Anyone near or far could and would have the same or far better ones. Talk is draining most of the time. I now know better to do the work, and only open my mouth only when necessary — not for fear of ‘dream-stealers’, but for the prudence of conserving my resources. And then, I may be able do many things but that is no guarantee for significance. Skill, not talent, is my goal. Mastery is what attracts and produces value, while talent gets its deserved applause.

Ideas, talk, talent. Faith, gumption, humility, daring, discipline, execution.

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