The rustic boards under my feet squeak as I make my way across the porch to the little wicker couch with bright red cushions. The wicker also squeaks as I sit down and place my coffee on the table in front of me, which has a little glass arboretum with small cactuses growing inside. It’s a warm spring morning, and the birds entertain me while distant neighborhood chickens make sure we know they can sing too.
A big yawn fills my face as my arms stretch out. I stayed up till about 1 a.m. working in my man-cave studio. Sometimes I go there just for silence, other times to read. I read a great book the other night called Beyond Genius: The 12 Essential Traits of Today’s Renaissance Men by artist friend Scott Griffiths and his friend Eric Elfman.
I was fascinated by the book because it profiled great Renaissance men in history like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton (yes, all men; they are coming out with another book on women), and great living Renaissance men like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria (who lives about a mile from me), and others. For the first time, someone had tried to categorize the traits that make these people special. Though it would not be fair to outline all the things they discovered, I thought a couple of the traits might be worthy of some discussion.
Why is it that some people move mountains and do amazing things? How is it that some people can create great inventions, and make multiple inventions happen in their lifetimes? How is it a man like Elon Musk (who also is here in Austin now) can, at his still young age, reinvent online payments (Paypal), create one of the biggest and most disruptive electric car companies in the world (Tesla), put people in space privately (SpaceX), put a new internet up with hundreds of satellites across the world (Starlink), and plan to colonize Mars?
I’d love to be considered a Renaissance man, and maybe in some small way I am, but not in comparison to these greats. So what traits do they have that you and I can adopt?
No Silver Spoon
It’s not unusual for us to think people like this had something special … like rich parents and endless money … but that is not the case. In fact, most grew up poor, some grew up with awful parents, and John Paul lived in his car for six months when starting his business. And why is it that many people who grow up in wealthy families end up doing little or nothing with their lives?
The Same Tools We Have at Our Fingertips
In these cases, each one of them was self-taught. Though some went to college, most did not, but each had an insatiable curiosity to learn, and they spent most of their time filling their brains with new ideas. A billionaire acquaintance of mine reads a minimum of two hours a day and two or three books a week while running multiple companies. It turns out that curiosity is a massive trait they all have in common. They spend their lives looking at possibilities. What is possible? How can I conquer the impossible? What does the world need to make it better? What is the status quo, and how can I challenge it?
Passion and Courage
Courage is another trait these men have in common. They did not let anyone tell them what is and is not possible. What if Elon Musk listened to the naysayers who told him that electric cars were not practical and had never been a big success? What if Steve Jobs had listened to the people who said, “MP3 players already exist — why would anyone buy one from you at twice the price?” These people had a vision and the courage to pursue it. And, unlike others, they never gave up. When you read their stories, you realize that in some cases, they persisted with an idea for 40 or more years, when most of us would have given up at year one.
The thing I’ve discovered about these people is that they have such clear vision that they know the world won’t change unless they do it. They know that the world will not be as good a place without their idea. Thus they are driven.
What about you?
I know that every person reading this had an idea, sometime in their life, that they did not pursue, and they may regret that. Maybe it’s because it was too expensive, or too hard, or not even possible. I’ve given up on far too many ideas I had because of the roadblocks, yet someone else ended up doing them, proving what could not be done was possible. My list is fairly long. But I did not believe strongly enough, I gave up too early, or I simply saw my ideas would be coming, but I lacked the passion. It’s passion for a project that drives it home.
If You Are Breathing, There Is Still Time
I believe you and I still have time to see our ideas happen. Even if you’re on the downward slope of life. If you believe it, think clearly about it, you can find a way to do it, or get someone to do it, so you, too, can change the world in your own way.
Telling yourself you’re too young, too old, too fat, too thin, not well enough educated, don’t have enough money … these are mental roadblocks. Do the Renaissance people mentioned have these roadblocks in their heads? Absolutely. They just keep plowing through anyway.
Not convinced? I dare you.
Will it be easy? No.
Will you fail? You might. So what?
Will you succeed? You will if you never give up.
Let’s not live our lives talking about the one that got away, the dream that never happened. Let’s not live in regret that we did not try at all, or gave up too soon.
You have it in you. Yes, you may have to overcome a lot of things others have told you that pollute your brain and limit your thinking. Yes, you will be uncomfortable. You may have to get up earlier and stay up later. You may have to give up mind-numbing game shows or video games. But you can do this. I have complete confidence in you.
Reach in … pull those dreams back out, and make it happen. I’m looking forward to seeing how you change the world.
PS: Recently I heard from a woman who was stuck at home for years, wheelchair-bound, who told me she always had dreamed of attending one of my conventions, but her health got in the way. Last year she was able to attend for the first time because we came to her, with an online virtual conference called PleinAir Live (which saved my company). We even have a Beginner’s Day for those who have zero experience.
We’re doing the second PleinAir Live, with a bigger global audience and amazing top painters, starting Wednesday. If “I’ve always wished I could paint but don’t have the talent” is the negative self-talk rolling around in your brain, take control of it and attend. Some say it’s life-changing. And since it’s guaranteed, if you spend the money and hate it, you can get your money back if you let us know after watching your first day. Take the bull by the horns and do what you don’t believe you can do. Can’t make the dates or take the time? Replays are available if you sign up this week. Again, we even have a day for brand new beginners with no experience. Then you can watch the event one hour at a time for as long as it takes, in your spare time. Guarantee it beats what most of us are watching on TV. Do this; you won’t regret it. I’ll be your host.