In the words of Michelangelo, one of the greatest Renaissance artists of all :” I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint”. And yet, the artista–just like you and me–at times had no choice but to obey certain rules, accept certain tasks, and abide by the commands of certain authorities. It’s called WORK, which pays the bills. Michelangelo could not always choose which projects to work on. If left to his own accord, he might have focused exclusively on sculpting, which was clearly his passion. When the powerful Julius II commanded him to take charge of decorating the papal apartments (think Sistine Chapel)–he tormented over having to leave his sculpting behind for the years it would take to finish this commission. He was in essence, fulfilling the vision of someone else, which imposed boundaries on his creative expression. Yet, despite Michelangelo’s reluctance, visitors centuries later, look at up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling and experience a once-in-a lifetime sense of awe. Why? because no matter what he worked on, committment and doing his best work were the values that guided him.
There will never be another Michelangelo, but we all know what it feels like to be in conflict with an authority figure’s vision–in the family, in the workplace, or in the community. Admittedly, legitimate authority is how peace,order, and productivity are established, yet no one should have to sacrifice their personal values in order to follow our assignments.
The important thing is, to ESTABLISH those personal values and become conscious of them on a daily basis. Write your values on a sheet of paper and put them in a place where you can remind yourself of the principles you wish to guide your life.
Taking a closer look at Michelangelo, patronage was how an artist survived. Let’s face it, if we have a job, we are already blessed to have the ability to survive and pay our bills. At times, it may have been a bitter pill, but Michelangelo even when not always thrilled with the assignment, always did it , nevertheless, to the best of his ability. His talent still came through loud and clear. So much so that it moves us centuries later. Yes, one of his values was the ability to express his art they way he wanted to, but an even stronger value was the committment to do his best at every job he was assigned, as well as be able to eat.
We all find ourselves in situations where we are assigned tasks that go against what we really feel we should be doing, but if we stick to our real values–those of integrity, committment, being good to others, and doing the best job that WE can do, while still following the rules–we can come out with the best of both worlds, and a personal history we can be proud of when we look in the mirror.j
Stay strong in your values, and do good work, too. Staying true to your real guiding principles, will leave a lasting impression on others.