By Alan Cohen

Many years ago a young Kansas City artist struggled to get his cartoons published in city newspapers. His offerings, however, were met with rejection after rejection. “Forget it,” editors told him. “You have no talent. Get a real job.” But the artist felt that he did have talent and he refused to compromise his career.

Finally the artist found himself holed up in a mice-infested garage, penniless. Bored, he began to sketch his environment, especially one little mouse who ran back and forth on his window sill. Over time the artist made friends with the rodent and the two developed a relationship. He named the mouse “Mickey.”

The artist was Walt Disney, and you know the rest of the story. Disney went on to establish the most expansive entertainment empire in the world, with amusement parks spanning the globe, major film and television companies, and countless spinoff products. Over the years Walt, Mickey, and their entertainment progeny have provided limitless joy for hundreds of millions of children and their families. If you have every visited one of the Disney parks or watched Disney films or television, you can thank Walt Disney for trusting his talent.

Everyone has a bankable talent. You came to earth for a purpose. On the deepest level you are here for a spiritual purpose, to discover your identity and your value in the cosmic plan. You also have a form of expression in the world, to serve others while fulfilling yourself. Do not stop until you have tapped into your talent and expressed it. It is why you are here.

In biblical times, a “talent” was a high-value unit of currency, about 80 pounds of silver, equal to the wages paid to a man for about twenty years of work. Translate that into the dollar amount for twenty years of work today, and you will understand its huge worth.

The biblical parable of the talents tells of a householder who left home for a long time and gave three servants talents to use wisely. When the master returned, he found that two of the servants had invested their talents and generated a significant return. The third servant, however, had simply hidden his talent in the ground and made no use of it whatsoever. The master was highly displeased with this servant, and cast him out.

The parable teaches that talents are valuable only if you use them. If you “hide your light under a basket,” the light doesn’t get to do what it was created to do. If you ignore or deny your talents, the world misses the blessing you were born to bring to it, and you miss the spiritual and material reward you deserve.

A more modern wayfarer, Cesar Millan grew up poor in Mexico in a house with no running water. Young Cesar was shy and unpopular, and other kids made fun of him because he spent time with dogs; they laughingly calling him “El Perrero,” or “dog boy.” In 1990 at age 21 Cesar crossed the border into the U.S. as an illegal immigrant, paid for by his father’s $100 investment in his son’s better future. Speaking no English, homeless, and penniless, Milan walked the streets panhandling, and hung out in a park. There Milan befriended people walking their dogs and helped them improve their pets’ behaviors. Eventually Cesar got a job in a dog grooming shop, where he helped tame an aggressive Cocker Spaniel. The owners liked him and gave him a key to the store so he could get off the streets and have a place to sleep and shower.

Milan moved to Los Angeles, where he worked hard in a car wash. The owner gave him a van to start a mobile dog training business. Cesar met actress Jada Pinkett (who later became actor Will Smith’s wife) and helped her with her dog. Pinkett was so impressed that she introduced Cesar to her Hollywood friends and paid for him to get a tutor for a year to improve his English. In 2004 the National Geographic Channel gave Cesar Milan his own television show, which became a hit and fueled his worldwide reputation as “The Dog Whisperer.” Milan’s show, broadcast in 80 countries, has spawned five bestselling books, a line of pet products, several dog sanctuaries, and generous charity donations.

One has to wonder what the world would be like without the gifts bestowed by Walt Disney, Cesar Millan, and Stephen Jobs, who quit college to design fonts, and eventually built the Apple empire. Do you believe you have less to offer than them? You may not be interested or destined to build an empire, but you can build a kingdom of heaven raising your child, waitressing in a restaurant, or helping the elderly. God has given everyone a unique talent to serve and find reward, including you.

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to take stock of your talents. What comes easily and naturally to you? What would you do even if you weren’t getting paid for it? What do people compliment you for? These are all clues to your talent. This year don’t bury your talent or hide it under a basket. It’s why you’re here.

Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the newly-released Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. Join Alan beginning March 1 for his acclaimed Life Coach Training Program. For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit, email [email protected], or phone (800) 568-3079 or (808) 572-0001.