Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci & Michelangelo

Did you know that it took Michelangelo four years to paint the the Sistine Chapel?  And did you know that Michelangelo considered himself not as a painter, but as a sculptor?  When he was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, it was because he considered himself a sculptor - not a painter - that he was initially reluctant to take on such a commission. 

Did you know that one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous artworks – The Last Supper – took three years to complete?  And did you know that the reason The Last Supper took three years to paint, was because Leonardo da Vinci had an infamous tendency to procrastinate?

At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m throwing some seemingly useless art facts your way.  Before I divulge why I’m giving you an art history lesson, I have just a couple more questions for you…

How many times have you decided to step out of your comfort zone and do something different, only to then decide (often at the last minute) that you won’t do it because it’s too hard or because you don’t know how too?  And how many times have you decided to get started on a project, only to stop it half way through and not finish it because you start over- analysing every aspect of it? 

So, what does Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci have to do with the questions I’ve just asked you?

The level of self-belief you have for yourself and your abilities is a direct result of the type of dialogue you tell yourself and the limitations you set yourself when the dialect we have on replay is challenged. When we are challenged to explore the place that sits beyond our limitations, we realise that the dialogue we’ve been telling ourselves on repeat is often all that’s been holding us back from achieving all that we want.  Once we come to that realisation, we can then start changing the language of the dialogue and our self-belief grows, and our desire to explore our limitations becomes possible, and our deepest desires become something that can be seen to be attainable. Michelangelo believed his artistic strength was as a sculptor rather than a painter - and yet he managed to create one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork in the world.   Leonardo da Vinci was a notorious procrastinator – and yet he managed to create one of the most well known works of art in history (it might have taken him three years…but the man still got it done). 

I’m not saying that changing the thoughts in your head is easy – particularly if you’ve been telling yourself the same story for a prolonged period of time (in my case 20 years). I’m also not saying that once you decide to make that change that you won’t sometimes revert back to your old way of thinking, but if da Vinci can be a procrastinator and complete a brilliant piece of art, then you sure as shit can complete the project you’ve always wanted to complete.  And if Michelangelo can be a sculptor and produce one of the most visually stunning artworks created by paint and brush, then you sure as shit can get out of your comfort zone and do something different.

 Self talk is a powerful tool, and depending on the nature of the self talk it can either be detrimental or instrumental to growth. When I think of the number of times I’ve thought poorly of myself, or when I think of the number of times I’ve sabotaged my own path to success, or when I think of the amount of time I’ve spent overthinking and procrastinating to the point where I talk myself out of completing a project – I. AM. MORTIFIED.

I don’t doubt that Michelangelo or da Vinci also had certain detrimental behavioural attributes – we all do - but the difference between them and everyone else out there who have detrimental behavioural attributes is that Michelangelo and da Vinci pivoted and changed their thought processes and proceeded directly to instrumental behavioural attitudes, and achieved greatness just by taking a chance, just by showing up and trying , just by embracing the discomfort of not knowing what the final product would look like, just by believing in their abilities and believing that they were capable of more than the limitations they’d set for themselves. Imagine how Michelangelo and da Vinci would have felt finishing their works art, putting the brush down, stepping back and gazing at the masterpieces they’d created.  Some of the words that come to mind when I imagine what that moment may have felt like for them are elation, pride, joy, success and contentment. 

I’d like to leave you with this final thought.  Would you ever talk to your friends or family in the same negative way you talk to yourself?  No, of course you wouldn’t…so why in the hell do you think its okay to talk to yourself like that?  Self belief begins with self love, so love yourself.  Believe in yourself.  You are enough.  You can achieve anything you want. 

 Follow your dreams and create the most beautiful artwork the world has ever seen – you living your one beautiful life with courage and passion.