Some five hundred years ago, a 26-year-old sculptor was given the task of turning a leftover slab of marble into a work of art. Other artists had tried to give life to the stone and had failed, but the young artist took on the contract, determined to shape the marble that others had discarded.
Early in the morning on September 13, 1501, the young artist began to work in order to extract his vision from the piece of stone. He carved and carved until he set his dream free.
Later, artist Giorgio Vasari would describe the process as, “bringing back to life of one who was dead.”
In June 1504, the statue, a depiction of the Biblical character David of epic proportions, was installed at the entrance of the city’s town hall. The name of the artist? Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known best as Michelangelo.
This story serves as a reminder that we are often wrong in assuming that in order to become successful we need access to resources.
It is quite the contrary. It is not the resources at our disposal that determine our success, but rather our resourcefulness, our ability to be creative in spite of certain limitations and setbacks.
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
George Bernard Shaw
When we argue for our limitations, we justify our inability to act.
I used to think that there was no way to get in shape because I couldn’t afford a healthy lifestyle: a gym membership costs money, gym equipment costs money, eating healthy costs money, supplements and vitamins cost money…
There are always obstacles. We either don’t have the time, the money, the right connections, or we simply don’t feel like doing it.
There’s always something to keep us from doing what we know we should be doing.
We ruin our chances for success by vacationing on Someday Island. We wait for the resources we think we need to be given to us. Someday. Somehow. By someone we haven’t even met yet.
A lot of artists thought so about the slab of stone that Michelangelo turned into art. A lot of them tried and failed because they didn’t believe the stone was of the right quality or the right shape.
Michelangelo, on the other hand, carved until he set his David free.
He turned an obstacle into an opportunity. He saw that the limitations could be used to inspire him.
The Power of Doing What You Can With What You Have
Our limitations provide us with the greatest opportunity for creativity and inventiveness. It is often desperation that inspires us to act in the most creative and original ways.
It is the lack of money that makes one “invent” different ways to work out. A door can be used for pull-ups. Any two heavy objects can be used to do farmer’s carry. Or lunges. You can use just about anything that isn’t too large to do bicep curls.
All we have to do is embrace the ridiculousness of the situation. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even world-class athletes train in parks.
You Can’t Beat a Man Who Doesn’t Give Up
It’s easy to spend your life complaining about your lack of opportunities or resources.
It’s easy to say that you can’t start a YouTube channel until you have the money to buy the most expensive camera or the best external microphone.
But there is an alternative to this. You can use those constraints to drive your creativity. It requires a lot of mental energy to turn disadvantage on its head, but that’s what the most successful among us have always done.
Alexander the Great managed to defeat the Persians with inferior numbers, by taking advantage of his army’s strengths, not by complaining about the weaknesses of his men.
Opportunity is never embraced by many because it looks like a lot of hard work. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
We want to win the lottery without having to buy a ticket.
We want to eat, but we’re not willing to go hunting.
Opportunity is often disguised as adversity.
Some of the world’s top companies have been founded during times of recession. When everyone was prudent with their finances, the visionary founders of these companies decided to go all in.
As cliché as it sounds, we should all remember, at least from time to time, that planes take off against the wind, not with it.
“The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God’s paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle — and not lose it.”
Success is not about the resources we have at our disposal, but how we use them.
You want to blog, but don’t have an audience. Not a problem. You can grow an audience as long as you write with the passion and conviction that you’d have if you have one.
As an example, my dream is to someday own a small art cafe, a place where people can gather and admire and maybe purchase prints and original artwork from independent artists.
I can postpone this dream indefinitely because I lack the funds I need to start such a business venture, or I can adapt and start by launching a blog, an online store, and an online platform for artists.
The best ideas I ever had were the by-product of limitations. When I had no other choice but to find a way around an obstacle. If we can’t find a way towards our dream life, we can make it.
Many of today’s most successful bloggers became successful because they had lost their jobs. They managed to turn a disaster into a triumph by not letting their lack of resources ruin their dreams.
Use your limitations to your advantage. Force yourself to find a way to solve problems.
The more resourceful we become, the more we develop our inner fortitude and drive. The more resourceful we become, the more we can adapt and overcome and experiment with creative ways to find a way around an obstacle.
To paraphrase the great Jim Rohn, don’t wish for things to be easy. Work on becoming better.
After all, that’s how five hundred years ago, a 26-year-old artist turned a slab of unwanted marble into one of the world’s most beautiful sculptures.