Michelangelo: The Art Of Influence
Life Mastery From Michelangelo
In 1512, Michelangelo completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. If you’ve never had the privilege of seeing this, it is a truly magnificent piece of art; undoubtedly one of the greatest the world has ever seen.
Michelangelo spent four years on this project, all while being in severe discomfort from having to crane his neck skywards day after day when working on it.
And he despised painting…
Yes, Michelangelo looked down on painting, and felt that it was inferior to sculpting, which was his true passion.
Prior to his work on the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo was working diligently on creating the tomb for Pope Julius II, on which he would spend 40 years (albeit off and on)! Julius was constantly reassigning Michelangelo to different tasks during this time, one of which was to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo had no intention of doing any such thing. He was a sculptor, not a painter and had no experience with frescoes, the type of painting used on the ceiling. Though, the honorable man that he was, he agreed to take up the endeavor and the rest is history.
Michelangelo’s life fascinates me because of his expertise in an array of disciplines, such as architecture, poetry, sculpting and painting; today we call this a ‘Renaissance Man’.
In addition to that, Michelangelo’s life was filled with experiences and ideas that we could all learn from. Oh yeah, and he had a Ninja Turtle named after him.
Always Be Honing Your Craft
Pieta, in St. Peter’s Basilica Being an expert is never enough. You will never find elite athletes or Fortune 500 CEO’s slacking off. They are always raring to go. They will achieve one success, only to divert all their attention to the next day’s challenge.
One would think that those at the top would take a break once in a while right? I mean, they’re the best at what they do, what more can they achieve?
That attitude right there is the mindset of most people in this world, and it’s why most people are simply mediocre, average and uninteresting. Successful people live by this maxim:
“Be better than you were yesterday.” So what if they broke a record? It’s about more than being the best, it’s about always being better than you were the day before.
Michelangelo is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, yet he was always critical of his own work and was always seeking to improve his skills:
“Ancora Imparo“ I am still learning He said that at the age of 87, the last year of his life.
When he was assigned the task of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling not only did he not care for painting, but he was by no means an expert at it. Had Michelangelo not accepted this offer he would have gone down as arguably the greatest sculptor of all time. By taking up that task, he threw his name in the hat for the greatest painter of all time as well.
Always be learning. Even if you’re the greatest there ever was, there is no reason you can’t be even better.
See the End Result From the Start
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
This is a famous quote from Michelangelo in reference to his David statue. This can be interpreted several different ways, but as I understand it to me this means to see the end result from the start. Rather, the final product already exists you just need to work to make it a reality.
If you can see it, you can do it.
If you can’t see it, you can’t do it.
How can one expect to accomplish something if they don’t have an end goal in mind?
This maxim goes beyond working on a project. This can be in regards to yourself. Your greatness already exists inside you and you can bring that greatness to life through hard work.
Where do you want to end up in life? If you don’t know where you’re going in life, then you can plan to walk aimlessly in circles and accomplish absolutely nothing noteworthy.
Shoot For The Stars
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving the mark.”
The Last Judgement, in the Sistine Chapel above the altar Being average was not on Michelangelo’s mind. In fact, anyone you’ve ever read about in history wasn’t average, they were great.
To be better than average, to be great, you must set your goals high. Not simply above your peers, but at a point that you find it challenging.
Going off the previous lesson, greatness already exists within you. In order to realize that greatness, you need to set your goals at a point that allow you to fail many times, but still be attainable. It is only through this that you can realize the greatness that lies within.
Don’t Follow The Beaten Path, Make Your Own
Michelangelo’s David, while considered to be one of the preeminent pieces of art in the world, was a bit of an enigma when it was originally created. Earlier statues of David, like the one by Donatello (left), depicted the hero looking boyish, yet triumphant, with the head of Goliath at his feet. Michelangelo’s statue shows a stoic looking David, at the onset of battle. A subtle difference to many, but the change was indeed significant.
The only way to be considered great is to either:
1.) Do something better than someone is currently doing/already has already done or
2.) Do it differently. Both options are fine, but many choose the former over the latter out of fear that they won’t succeed. Rather, this desire to follow the beaten path often stems from a fear of success. They’re afraid that they will stand out and are afraid to be different.
Don’t be afraid to carve your own path, for this is how greatness often occurs.
Persistence Is Rewarded Greatly
“Genius is eternal patience.”
One of the things I love about these ‘Life Lessons’ articles is that anyone can look at the individuals I’ve highlighted and see what characteristics they shared. Thus far, persistence seems to be one of the common denominators for success.
Michelangelo spent 3 years working on David.
He spent 4 years on the Sistene Chapel.
And he spent 40 years working on and off throughout his life on the tomb of Pope Julius II.
Persistence, my friends, can never be overlooked.
Not only do good things not come easy, but they don’t come quickly either.
Patience is a virtue, but it’s more than sitting around and being passive, waiting for something to come to you. You must be diligent and always be chasing after what you want.
“If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.” We tend to assume that people who are elite at what they do were just born that way. They just have superior genetics, right?
Maybe, they do, but to say that’s the only reason that they are where they are in life would be a slap in the face to them because of the amount of time and effort the have put in to get where they are.
Despite being bogged down by several projects at at time, Michelangelo always fully devoted himself to his work. He toiled day after day to achieve what he did and although his talent was considered to be divine intervention by many, his work ethic cannot be overlooked.
Michelangelo did not enjoy the public eye whatsoever. He was a recluse for the most part. He never basked in his glory during his lifetime as the great artist he was; he simply created. And not for himself, but for God and his country.
His David Statue was said to be a tribute to Florence, his hometown.
His other works we’re, for the most part, dedicated to God, Popes, Cardinals or other important figures.
In 1528, Florence had deposed of the Medici family. This created a conflict seeking to fill this void of power. Michelangelo went to the aid of Florence as an engineer, where he worked to build and sustain the city’s fortifications.
He also had a great deal of humility, only signing one of his works, Pieta, which he later came to regret as being vain.
“When you get to the point where you can give away resources to help others in need that is a good indication that you have achieved something in life.”
Have A Project
“I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.” I’m an advocate of always having at least one major project to work on. It could be anything from having a blog, writing a book, to building a spice rack. It should be something that you can devote time to every day and have a concrete, desired outcome in mind.
Michelangelo always had a project to work on, and while none of us are Renaissance age savants, having a project or two is not unreasonable.
Devotion To Your Life’s Work
Michelangelo is notorious for his personal hygiene, or should I say lack thereof. At the insistence of his father, he rarely bathed throughout his life (even by the standards of 15-16th century Europe). He would sleep in his work clothes, as well as his boots, which he almost never took off. It got to the point where skin would often come off his foot along with the boots.
Don’t emulate his hygiene, emulate his dedication.
Perhaps his lifestyle was a bit extreme (Some say he was autistic, which would explain a lot, but that is simply speculation), but his ascetic lifestyle in lieu of a more lavish one is admirable. He never concerned himself with fancy clothes or even women, instead he cherished his work.
The love of material items is fleeting.
“Women are fickle, art is forever…” ~Michelangelo
~Lisa Christiansen ~ᎦᏗᏠᎡ ᏖᏁᏔᏗ
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