What Michelangelo Can Teach You About Work

The Michelangelo Method of Writing a Job Description

When my family and I went to Italy in the Fall, my 5-year old daughter was completely captivated with the David. She sat at the feet the huge sculpture and sketched it.

I was inspired by its beauty and its interesting story.

Sometimes career inspiration comes from unexpected places. When I learned the story, I had the idea of a “job artist”.  A job artist is someone who chooses to see the potential masterpiece in their current job situation.

The David Came from a Hopeless Situation

The David was created from a terrible chunk of marble that frustrated many of the master sculptors of the time.  In 1464, Agostino di Duccio was commissioned and failed; then his work was carried on by Antonio Rossellino in 1475, who also failed.  They blamed the marble for having too many “taroli”, or imperfections.  (Does your job have too many imperfections to become a masterpiece?)

The partially carved sculpture sat outside exposed to the elements for 25 years. The locals in Florence would walk by it and laugh at “the Giant”, seeing it as totally worthless.  They called on the great Leonardo Da Vinci, but even he couldn’t figure out what to do with this expensive chunk of discarded marble. (Do you feel like you might be in a dead-end job?)

Then a 26-year old Michelangelo accepted the challenge, and the rest was history.

Michelangelo Inspires Your Career

Michelangelo had proven his artistic skill, and here are a few of his keys to success you can benefit from today in your current job:

  • Vision – He looked beyond the immediate imperfections in the stone and chose to focus on its potential.
  • Persuasiveness – He managed to persuade the authorities to give him the project where two other masters had failed.
  • Grit – He didn’t quit.  Although others failed in this daunting task, he stuck with it.  He began working on the morning of September 13, 1501 and would take just under 3 years to complete it.  He often worked in the rain and even slept at the statue.

The 3 Actions of a Job Artist

A frustrating job can often be like the giant chunk of discarded marble.  It can seem overwhelming and hopeless.  Maybe it is for now; but in the hands of someone who cares, your job can be transformed into something worth the investment of yourself.

Take the three actions below of a “job artist”:

1. Vision

Set the timer for 10 minutes on your phone, and brainstorm potential changes that you make your job better and more effective.  You might consider simple ones like moving routine meeting times, changing approval protocols, and renegotiating project deadlines.  There could be more challenging ones like changing office locations and establishing more flexible hours.  You might be surprised how big your list of potential changes can get in just 10 minutes.

2. Persuasiveness

Now circle your top 3 impact changes.  Write how the change can benefit the organization, your manager, then you.  If it’s difficult to think of the potential benefits for your manager and organization, just move down your list to the next one.  Take the change with the most compelling list of benefits, and casually mention it in your next conversation with your manager.

3. Grit

Don’t quit. Use that casual conversation with your manager as a feedback mechanism to refine your discussion points and keep trying.  Note that many changes do not require the approval of a manager.  For example, perhaps you have a 7 a.m. ongoing meeting that makes it difficult to coordinate getting the family ready for school in the morning. Maybe you can just ask the meeting coordinator to move it 30 minutes later.  Of course, if you’re the meeting coordinator just try it and get feedback from the group.

Get inspired by the great Michelangelo, and began working on your job masterpiece today!

Ben

P.S: Download my free report, The Catastrophic Cost of Quitting: How Organizations and Employees Pay the Ultimate Price

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