The Why Chromosome

Take-Home Message: One thing that separates those who change the world from those who simply watch: A Vision. 

vi·sion·ar·y
adjective

  1. a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

Have you ever observed someone describe a deeply-held belief? What did they look like doing so? What did you look like listening to them? How did it make you feel?

The ones who impacted me most profoundly made me feel something powerful awaken inside. They made me believe. If for but a moment, I shared their vision too.

They paint with their words. Not simple pictures, but beautiful, distant landscapes, and unfathomed horizons with brilliant, vivid clarity, these artists take hold of their brushes and gently, masterfully apply stoke after stroke with seamless effort, offering us an invitation to imagine.

These artisans paint us, too. With original insight, they carefully incorporate into their masterpieces our deepest fears and the sullen images of every shattered dream we ever encountered. Then, surreptitiously, the skilled hands of a genius fast at work replaces those pagan images of ourselves with bright, beautifully-colored, novel self-esteem and faith.

They possess a fierce, yet compassionate presence. They intimidate anyone unwilling to share in the enjoyment or embodiment of their vision. Simultaneously, they welcome into their presence all who share it.

Many mock them for their baffling distortion of reality. Yet, if at all moved by detractors, they become only more driven. They exist relentlessly for the pursuit of higher ideals. In the face of defeat, they embolden their vision all the more menacingly. They refuse to die until winning many victories for mankind.

Their beliefs do not equate to fantasies. Not to them. They see what we do not, they see that which exists beyond the veil. They hold confidence in both ideas and their ability to cultivate these into realities.

Others perceive them as discontent with each new creation. They simply see more yet to be done in their time. Others dub them profit-mongers, heretics, and cheats. These accusations distract them not. Their vision propels them toward a society of more apt standards of valuation for a man’s worth.

They envision the world as it could be and as it will be. They fret not of the present. To them, the future remains static, and we must approach it boldly.

They do not ask what. Rather, they contemplate why? They do not question how. They wonder when.

They live today to create tomorrow. We call them visionaries.

Creativity As A Discipline: Viewer Discretion Advised.

Take-Home Message: When you’ve run out of gas, pull off to the shoulder and continue on foot.

Creating a masterpiece takes energy. Like love or war, simple passion isn’t enough. You’ll need more than sweet nothings and grenades. When the honeymoon ends or your wingman goes down, it might rattle you to your core. You might want to quit. There is always this choice: call it off and abandon ship or man the fuck up and get tough.

You can wayfare through life casually making advances on trollops of your wasted mind, hoping the shallow intercourse rekindles your flame. OR, let your fight through the drudgery reignite the heat of passion, burning in you a newfound lust for conceiving your magnum opus.

Choosing to create only when feeling inspired is like holding the face of your infant potential under two inches of water in the kiddie pool and telling it to swim. You commit a homicide on self-realization. You circumcise inches from the fullest version of yourself. You banish your love child to a preventable ending.

Someday you’ll find yourself in the trenches splattered in mud, out of ammunition, with nothing but a bayonet and a prayer: you can either face your fears or run away. You might not achieve glory. You might get shot. Either way, you have a choice to make.

One of these options transforms your shadow into a coward to follow you the rest of your days. The right choice showers light upon the darkness of your wildest fears, blinding them. It sends forth a higher version of yourself bursting free into existence from the ashes of the weary, worn, fear-ridden corpse formerly standing there.

This choice has a name. I call it Discipline. You embrace it like a long-lost lover or tremble with fear from it your whole life until it murders you in your sleep.

Until Failure.

Take-Home Message: Don’t erect more barriers for yourself. When opportunity knocks, kick down the door.

Your best work could be waiting for you. Maybe you’ve dubbed yourself as someone unqualified to complete one of your ideas. Maybe you’ve given up when success was just another furlong down the path. By fabricating excuses, we erect more hurdles to jump over on our way to greatness. Whatever the case, don’t forego that greatness for mediocrity.

One famous example of this from history can be found in the story about the Sistine Chapel:

“In 1508, 33-year-old Michelangelo was hard at work on Pope Julius II’s marble tomb, a relatively obscure piece now located in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church. When Julius asked the esteemed artist to switch gears and decorate the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo balked. For one thing, he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter, and he had no experience whatsoever with frescoes.*”

Reluctantly, Michelangelo accepted the job and set to work on what is regarded to this day as one of the most outstanding art portrayals of the relationship between God and Man. In spite of this acclaim for Michelangelo’s work, the painting allegedly came at a great personal cost to him.

In a letter of correspondence crafted as a poem to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia**, Michelangelo mentioned various physical hurdles the painting required of him. These include an alleged developed goiter from looking upwards as well as complaints of his face making a nice floor for paint to drip upon. He also made reference to a desire to leave the project.

“My painting’s dead. I’m done.
Giovanni, friend, remove my honor’s taint,
I’m not in a good place, I cannot paint.”

–Michelangelo’s Letter to Giovanna da Pistoia

Popular conjecture even remains that Michelangelo may have developed partial-blindness from painting on scaffolding while laying on his back. While some historians dispute this claim, it no less dismisses the great physical toll this work took upon Michelangelo.

Yet, in spite of this, Michelangelo’s work prevails as one of the most hailed pieces of artistic creativity and insight. And all in spite of his initial reluctance to accept the gig, and his claims of not being a painter.

I reflect on this story because I think it holds many truths about our own pathways toward success. I often find myself analyzing any and every decision until I can come up with enough excuses to entirely dismiss the choice. This is an unhealthy practice. In fact, it’s cheating myself when I do this. I’m cheating myself not only out of an opportunity for success, but also out of an opportunity for substantial personal growth.

We are all expert con artists with ourselves, though, because we intimately know the things that make ourselves most uncomfortable and dismayed. When I have big decisions, I find it hard to overlook these self-erected barriers with the confidence that I can overcome them. Yet, each time I say to hell with it, and decide to go follow my gut, find a way and keep moving, I can feel the growth that takes place as a result–even if the hurdles have to be climbed rather than jumped.

I think this is an important element for every self-starter out there. I’ve been dealing with it for most of my life, and the more people I talk to about it, the more I find it to be a common thing to overcome. For me it has taken a conscious effort and an awareness of this to begin making strides toward eradicating the unhealthy excuses altogether. Following your gut shouldn’t be so scary. It should feel natural.

So, when opportunity knocks, stop holding out to see if it will ring the door bell and eventually leave if you don’t answer. Stop fearing the uncomfortable scenarios pursuing new chances might create. Stop squashing your chances for greatness. You might be a sculptor instead of a painter, either way, you’re an artist. Just pick up the damn brush and start painting!


*”7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.

**http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jun/19/giovanni-da-pistoia/