If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. – Michelangelo

What’s it about?

There is a misconception about genius that many people have. We look at one of Michelangelo’s sculptures or watch Tiger Woods play golf, or listen to the Rolling Stones play and think to ourselves, “Wow, they’re so talented. It must be so effortless for them.” They may make it look effortless, but usually, it’s not. All we ever see is the final product of someone’s efforts. We miss every bad paint stroke, every shanked drive, and every missed note. If we saw how challenging it was, how long the person worked at it and how many mistakes and bad decisions they made along the way, then we wouldn’t find the end result so miraculous. This is true for everyone who aims for any kind of great success. It’s all about Dedication, Practice, and Perseverance to achieve the Vision.

Michelangelo’s Story

The agony and the ecstasy of Michelangelo’s rise to being one of the greatest artists of his time was something of a climb. For while he had the passion and the raw talent, he lacked skill. Born the son of a minor Italian government official, Michelangelo’s father strenuously objected to his son lowering his social standing by becoming an artist. Because of this, he became an apprentice later than usual, at age 13, beginning his studies by tracing and copying the work of other great artists. Michelangelo’s rough, early work was seen by the wealthy Lorenzo de Medici, who whisked the young artist to his estate to further his study after only a year. It was there that Michelangelo learned how to sculpt in bronze and marble, and studied the various other arts of the Renaissance. Unfortunately, the Medicis were overthrown and Michelangelo had to wander through Italy to find work. His choice to sculpt from Marble was seen as odd at the time, as it was harder to work with and took longer to sculpt. As a result, Michelangelo garnered a reputation for taking a long time to complete work; his famous statue of David took 4 years to complete. This, along with the numerous other artists scattered throughout Italy, made it more difficult to find commissions. A great many unfinished works of his remain to this day, but the work he did complete are widely considered as masterpieces. It was for this reason that the Pope commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and inaugurate the opening of the newly finished St. Peter’s Basilica(1). A project that in itself took nearly four years of lying on his back hundreds of feet in the air. An impressive display of Dedication and Perseverance to a Vision.

Tips and Tools

Nothing arrives fully formed, and no skill is mastered overnight. The greats in any field had to practice as much as any of us and just because we don’t see their mistakes doesn’t mean they don’t make them. So if you are talented, don’t rest on your laurels. Maybe follow a few of these strategies (2).

  1. Have a Vision. Knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish at any moment is key. Keep your ultimate vision in mind. If someone asks you why have an answer ready.
  2. Stay Positive. Very important for when projects fall through. This is where Perseverance comes in. Mastering anything and bringing a vision to life will have setbacks. Try not to let them get you down.
  3. Get ready for the future. There’s always going to be another level of skill or achievement up the ladder from where you are. Start practicing for that level now. Gradually increase the difficulty every time you practice. It’ll keep you from getting complacent (3).
  4. Track your Progress. At the end of every practice session, ask yourself what you accomplished. Aim for some kind of tangible goal or improvement every time.
  5. Act before you have a chance to worry. Any time you start to doubt your dedication or perseverance, throw yourself into action. The more time you spend working toward getting better, the less you’ll worry about not getting better.

Some action questions to consider

1: Who are your inspirations? Does their work seem effortless to you? Research their background to see how much time and practice it took them to reach their current level.

2: How much practice are you putting into what you’re passionate about? Make some time to do so if you haven’t already.

3: How clear is your vision of achievement? Do you have a practical plan to reach it?

Sources cited:

  1. Gilbert, Creighton E. “Michelangelo.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., n.d. Web. 24 May 2017. 
  2. Mahmood, Usman. “6 Important Keys To Staying Motivated For Life.” Addicted 2 Success. Addicted2success.com, 03 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 May 2017. 
  3. Colan, Lee. “10 Things the Most Persevering People Do.” Inc.com. Inc., 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 24 May 2017.