Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci are two of the most famous figures from the Italian Renaissance period. Both were prolific painters, architects, engineers that changed the course of art and technological history. A great testament to the power and longevity of their works are that many of their masterpieces are easily recognized 500 years after their original creation.
Upon deeper study, you will discover there are many interesting things about these two legendary men in addition to their art. Beside the fact that they both lived in the same country at the same time in history, and that they pushed art, thought and science forward like few people before them, I think that perhaps a piece of their personal philosophy may be their greatest, and most subtle, gift to us. Both men are credited for often saying the phrase “ancora imparo” which means “I am still learning.” In fact, at the ripe age of 87, Michelangelo wrote this inscription on a sketch he was performing. If two of the arguably most brilliant minds in history realized that learning is a never-ending adventure, I suggest we all come to the same realization.
Lessons of a Champion
Over the past few months, I have been interviewing many of the top athletes with which I have worked to better understand what it takes to become a champion. The process has been enlightening and has reminded me that every man or woman in some way is your superior. Below are some brief excerpts of the “Champion Lessons” I have learned and the athletes that I learned them from. In essence, I again was forced to realize that I am always learning.
Frankie Edgar, UFC Lightweight Champion
So many times in life, people give up right before their biggest breakthrough was about to happen. The athletes that push forward know that their past does not determine their future. They have realized that in order to succeed, there first must be failure and this is often not a negative, but a positive event that will increase the future chances of success. Many people give up when they don’t immediately reach their goals. Champions only work harder, invigorated by the challenge and increase their resolve until the goal is reached. These special people realize that the only person that can stop them is him or herself. Once this realization is made, these athletes also realize that anything is possible if they are prepared to dare greatly, fail occasionally, and never quit until they achieve the prize.
Ray Rice, NFL All-Pro Running Back
When you boil success or the lack thereof down to its most elemental form, it’s attainment can simply be described as “taking the correct turns when they present themselves.” Life is simply a series of “lefts” or “rights” in which you have a choice which way to go. Take enough of the turns that lead you in the direction of your goals and anything is possible. Take enough of the wrong turns, however, and your life can be a disaster. Champions realize that where you are or where you will be in life is directly related to the decisions and choices you either did or did not make. Champions are able to accept responsibility for their actions for they know that what they have or what they become is ultimately their fault. Life is up to them.
Molly Creamer, 1st Round Pick of the WNBA
Sometimes you have to have something taken away to realize what you really had in the first place. Sometimes the best thing in life to get you on track is not the achievement of a goal, but the denial in its pursuit. We all have a choice when the inevitable challenge of failure happens: we can choose to go up or go down. We can stay who we are and sulk, or we can decide to become more than what we were and succeed. Only by discovering our current level of incompetence can we ever understand who we are, and what we need to become if we want to keep moving further. Failure is positive when you view the experience as an opportunity to move forward.
Todd Hays, Olympic Silver Medalist in Bobsled
Many people, unfortunately, confuse the concept of “difficult” with “impossible.” Although this may sound like a small detail, this way of thinking can be the difference between an average or extraordinary life. Because something may be hard to do or achieve, or may take a lot of time to complete, it is easier for most people to convince themselves instead that this goal or dream is not possible. This small misconception may actually be the big reason why most people have not reached their ultimate dream. This may also contribute to the common occurrence in which these timid souls try to keep you from reaching yours.
I hope this blog has not only given you a new lesson or two, but ultimately acts as a reminder that there is always more to learn.