– If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all. (Michelangelo)

This short piece is inspired by the life of Michelangelo. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni[1] (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. ( source – Wikipedia)

The great Michelangelo is probably best known for his Sistine Chapel painting in Rome and the statute of David. What is incredible about Michelangelo was not only his talent but output in terms of sheer volume across the several fields he was involved in.  He was already painting before his teens and still active well into his seventies.

LEARN FROM THE MASTERS – Before Michelangelo became the great sculptor and painter, he studied under the greats of his times as an apprentice. He was able to learn and master the techniques which took several years. If we want to excel we need to learn from those who are already knowledgeable in the field. Even as we seek to innovate or bring about new ideas or ways of doing things, we need to know what is already there so that we can improve on it.

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR HARD WORK – There is no running from the fact that if you want to excel you will have to work hard. The nature of Michelangelo’s work was that he spent several hours and days perfecting his work be it a painting or sculptor until he got it right. He even did work in some instances which took as long as forty years. (Work on Pope Julis II’s tomb took forty years.)

FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS! – By the standard of the day Michelangelo was fairly wealthy. He received generous compensation for the commissions he undertook. However, he never let the fortunes and the fame get to his head. On the contrary he lived like a poor man though he was rich. Michelangelo was able to enjoy a very long career without any distraction from the fortune and fame his work brought him. On completing one commission or piece of work, he would move on to the next assignment.  Focus is critical if we are able to long and sustainable careers.

PUT YOUR OWN SPIN – After Michelangelo had learnt from the masters of his time, he gave his own interpretation of art through his work as an independent artist. Through this there was something distinctive about his work, making it stand out from the rest. After we have mastered our fields and areas, do we have the flexibility to do it our way?  It is not always possible especially in the scientific and commercial fields.

FINISH WHAT YOU START – Michelangelo took several commissions mainly from the Vatican. The scope of some of the work such as the Sistine Chapel, which took four years to complete, was huge. Michelangelo painted in fresco. As he painted on the wet plaster, it would dry quickly and this needed great skill (Once the plaster was dry it was very difficult to correct mistakes in the painting). He worked patiently till the work was complete.  As Michelangelo finished one work after another, his reputation was further enhanced and he was entrusted with even more work.

There is little doubt that Michelangelo was a very talented individual. However,  he went the full distance in terms of effort and dedication to his craft  to fully develop this talent over the course of his life. BTM

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