In Front Of The Easel

I’ve been absent from blogging over the past two weeks, although I do have a good excuse (at least I tell myself as much).  I’ve been travelling across Holland and France with my daughter Maci.

It was an amazing trip, one that was planned for several years, and one that Maci actually funded her portion of via her own entrepreneurial success.  I wrote about her business venture in an article that got featured on several entrepreneurial websites.  You can read the article here:

Business Lessons From The Lemonade Stand

One of the places that we visited on our trip was the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.  This was one of many art museums that we visited on our trip (including the Louvre).  Van Gogh is an artist who really resonates with me – mostly because of the very unique circumstances of his life (circumstances that I have written about previously on this blog).

Van Gogh painted hundreds of works, while in obscurity as an artist (many of which we saw at both the Van Gogh Museum and the Louvre).  It was only until after his death that he became famous and his art commanded exorbitant sums. As an artist he never experienced the fruits of his labours.

He resonates with me for many reasons – not least of which is the topic of motivation – why we do what we do? And what dictates whether a project is worth pursuing? As an entrepreneur, consultant and writer, I have had many “failures” – ventures where I have spent time on a project and my goals weren’t met.  I have started businesses that never got off the ground.  No entrepreneur has been an unequivocal success, not even the ones that we lionize (like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk) – even they have experienced failure.

Learning about the story of Van Gogh has given me a source of inspiration about focusing on “craft” rather than on results and learning to switch to an intrinsic minded motivation. These habits have helped me to be calm in the face of uncertainty and risk, and move forward despite the potential for failure – all skills that are necessary as an entrepreneur.

When I visited the Van Gogh museum however, I saw a quote on the wall that changed my perspective, gave me an even greater appreciation of the artist, and helped me realize why I find intrinsic motivation in pursuing things where the payoff is uncertain.

Here is the quote (in Van Gogh’s words):

It is only in front of the easel, while painting, that I feel a little of life. 

Being “in front of the easel” is where I have felt the most life as well. That is how Van Gogh painted so much without experiencing the “rewards” of his art.  The art was the reward.

It isn’t in the rewards, the results, the money, the success, the praise where life is most real.  Life is most real, and most clearly felt “in front of the easel”.

This is my easel:

  • Being an entrepreneur;
  • Being an advisor to other entrepreneurs and helping them grow;
  • Being a creator as a writer and entrepreneur;
  • Sharing my ideas in spoken and written word;
  • Strengthening the “creation” of my family life;
  • Doing things that scare me;
  • Pushing myself beyond the boundaries of my known limits.

This is where I feel life.  Life isn’t felt in front of the TV, in the store, buying something to make ourselves feel better.  Life is most felt when we are confronting our fears, pursuing our unique purpose as an individual, and living in front of our “easel”.  I get it.

What is your “easel”?

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