To Be Human Means That Our Work is Never Finished

On September 3, 1783, the United States signed the peace agreement with Great Britain that recognized its independence from the British Crown.

Painter Benjamin West was commissioned to capture the moment on canvas, but after he sketched the American delegates, however, the British refused to pose. The painting remains, to this day, unfinished.

To paraphrase Leonardo DaVinci, art is never finished, only abandoned. And our perception of what is finished or not relies solely on our thoughts.

Now, what does this have to do with us?

Well, we are all works of art. And we are never, ever, ever complete.

“I am still learning…”

Seneca, at the age of 70

One thing of extreme importance in life is never, ever to be complete. To always strive for more.

To be able to reinvent yourself on a constant basis.

And I believe that as we go through these tough times, we should keep this in mind.

We are not nouns, but verbs.

Action is what defines us.

And we can change what we do as we learn and develop new skills.

After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder, then a business man, then an actor, and then a politician.

Paul Gauguin was a successful businessman before deciding to pursue painting full-time.

Folk artist Grandma Moses began painting at the age of 77. In 2006, her painting Sugaring Off sold for $1.36 million at a Christie’s auction.

Actor Ronald Reagan was 54 when he announced he was running for governor of California in 1965.

Before being a famous poet, Allen Ginsberg worked as a dishwasher. Andrea Bocelli, the Italian singer, was a lawyer.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

We often think that it’s desirable to work on just one thing, to put all our efforts and time into becoming great in one area.

But what happens if the industry you worked in all your life vanishes?

What happens if you’re made redundant, and you never worked at developing new skills or learn new languages?

What then?

I used to struggle with this one myself.

Ever since I was fourteen years old, I’ve wanted to be a published author. That was my dream, and I thought writing fiction was the one thing (and only thing) I was good at.

Somewhere along the line, I became interested in motivation, psychology, self-help, and personal development. This allowed me to be able to overcome the difficult moments in my life, to focus my energy on bettering myself, and on being able to work on becoming self-confident.

Then I became interested in health, fitness, nutrition, so I wrote a bit about that. This allowed me to change my physique.

And looking back, I don’t regret taking all that time away from writing to pursue other skills. Not at all. I am a different human being because of my desire to change, to adapt to certain circumstances, to overcome certain limitations.

It seems to me that the truly successful among us have an innate desire to constantly reinvent themselves, because they are well aware of the fact that the future belongs to those who never, ever consider themselves as a complete work of art.

Yes, jack of all trades, master of none, but it’s sure better than being just the master of one.

Our life-long obsession with completion.

We work all our lives, so we can retire. We go through school, so we can be rid of it once and for all. We live, so we can die and go to heaven.

We are always obsessed with completion.

After all, a couple thousand years back, our idea of divine punishment was having to roll a boulder up a steep hill, over and over again.

The truth is, our job is never done.

We never reach the top of the hill, only to rest there forever.

But yet we still dream of it: of having enough money to never have to work again, of having to live a life of comfort.

Imagine if all you had to do was work out until you got in shape, and you could stay like that forever.

I bet a lot more people would be working out then.

But, no, we must workout constantly. Not only that, but if we do the same workouts again and again, we stagnate.

Life is like that.

If we stop, we might as well be dead.

If we don’t aspire towards something anymore, that’s when everyone else start to surpass us.


No matter what we do, we’ll always be a work in progress. Once we accept it, we can focus our energy on developing new skills, on reinventing ourselves again and again, not because the circumstances demand it, but because it’s in our nature to strive for progress rather than perfection.

18 Comments

  1. Hi Christian,
    Another good post! Soon I’m going to get around to one of your books. There’s a theme of “motivation” in your recent posts. I used to say one can get busy with life or get busy with death, it’s always one or the other, there is no standing still. I think this is also true in relationships. Relationships are dynamic, they are either growing or dying. The death may not be evident for years by which time it is too late to correct it. Life is a process, a movement, either a process of integration and growth or disintegration and death. I agree. Either we move towards gathering and collecting ourselves in a focused and clear pool of water or we move toward constant distraction, dissipation and disturbance. I’ve been following your post for years, only recently have I reacted. “Long time reader, first time writer!” Ha!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Those words are a good reminder to oneself. They also remind me of a quote by…..you guessed it…. Bruce Lee:

    “An intelligent mind is an inquiring mind. It is not satisfied with explanations, with conclusions; nor is it a mind that believes, because belief is again another form of conclusion. An intelligent mind is one which is constantly learning, never concluding – styles and patterns have come to conclusion, therefore they have ceased to be intelligent.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this blog, Cristian… enlightening as always. Yes, “…it’s in our nature to strive for progress rather than perfection.” I quoted several of your statements in my blog today and imbedded your post with a link. I hope you don’t mind. I doubt there are any of my followers who are not also followers of The Art of Blogging, but you never know. EVERY blogger should check yours out daily. You never disappoint!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cristian, thank you for this wonderful piece. I always find your writing soothing to soul. I was new when I left it (writing) and it is the same (always a student) when I am trying to get back at it. I am glad that you were in my “Followed Sites” list.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I watched an interview with Jim Carey once where he was asked about all of the different things that he did besides acting. He said it was like chopping his arm off once in a while and learning to do everything with his other arm. Then he would sew his arm back on and be able to everything way better than he had before.

    Liked by 1 person

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