“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it”.
The above quote comes from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.
I love that quote.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old stories about Michelangelo and his sculptures.
Michelangelo was known to approach a solid block of marble and instead of creating a sculpture, he would merely chip away pieces to find the sculpture already waiting inside.
Have you ever heard the story about the lawyer who left a career, earning a few hundred grand a year, to become a blacksmith earning 5% of his original income?
How about the advertising executive leaving New York City and moving to the mountains to start a career as a fishing guide?
Or the numerous people who leave the perceived safety of unions and retirement pensions to start their own risky, and zero-guarantee ventures.
The stories are abundant, and we often hear variations of them.
The reason we hear of these stories are twofold.
First, the stories resonate with us because they scare us. We’re scared when people challenge the status quo. Sometimes we’ll criticize. We’ll talk about how nuts they are, or what a poor decision they’re making.
The thing to realize about criticism is that we’re criticizing out of fear. It’s our own internal resistance making excuses so we feel better about our own situation. It’s hard for people to accept, but true.
Second, the stories resonate with us because they also intrigue us. They offer us a glimpse into those who followed the same path we took, but somewhere along the way, they veered off track.
Originally, they shaped themselves into an imagined ideal. Perhaps the ideal was brought about by their parents, or school, or society in general, and the need to fit in.
But when we hear about people like this, we’re hearing about people who started looking for the sculpture again. Something was off. Occasionally, people don’t even start chiseling the marble until later in life.
If Michelangelo had quit half way through, he never would have found David inside that block of marble.
Your job is NOT to try to shape and mold yourself into something you are not. It’s hard to shape and mold a solid block of marble. It rarely works.
Your job is to keep on chipping until you find out what’s already inside.