On one of my earliest trips to Italy in the 1990s, I had the wonderful opportunity to view some of the most beautiful and highly regarded works of art in the world. I was particularly touched by the mastery of Michelangelo.
As I stared in awe at the statue of David, I couldn’t help but remember the story about the woman who approached Michelangelo to compliment his work.
After seeing the beauty, the power and the magnificence of the life-like marble statue of David, she said to the artist, “Your mastery is quite impressive.”
Michelangelo replied simply, “Woman, if you knew how hard I worked for my mastery, you wouldn’t be so impressed.”
Natural Talents and the Art of Living
It is true that some people are blessed in life with greater propensities or talents in particular areas than others. However, it is also true (more often than not) that those born with “natural talents” worked hard throughout their lives to hone their skills and nurture their gifts.
In the “art of living” there are many human talents that we must work hard to master — talents that relate to our maturity and growth, including patience, listening, self-discipline, understanding, communicating and many others.
Not only do we have a responsibility to hone the talents that seem to come to us “naturally,” but we must also brush up on those that may not come as easily. This is called building character. Maturity is not an entitlement of age; rather, maturity comes from working at the art of living. When it comes to the basic aspects of human development, we owe it to ourselves and those we care about to work hard to develop our talents.
Mastery Requires a Debt of Devotion
Like Michelangelo, we are creating works that will live beyond our lifetimes and touch others. Our words, our actions, our dreams, our very lives impact the lives of others; and to this end, we have a duty and a responsibility to work hard for our mastery.
Sometimes it can be tempting to slight the areas of development where we feel we are less talented. Many shirk their responsibility using feeble excuses such as, “Well I’m just not good at this, and it’s just the way I am.” [See also, Why We Refuse to Find Our Potential]
Sometimes when we aren’t happy with the amount of “natural talent” we have in any given area, we may become a bit disheartened. However, it’s important to remember that no matter where one begins, mastery requires hard work.
In the art of life, your success won’t be determined so much by how “naturally talented” you were when you began the process, but by how committed you were to developing the talents required to create a life of mastery.
In developing our mastery, we must take the first step from wherever we are right now. You can get “there” from “here.” From even the lowliest depths there is a path to the loftiest heights, and you are at the starting point…if, like Michelangelo, you’re willing to work hard for your mastery.