Pursue Your Passion: A Lesson in Persistence From Vincent Van Gogh
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Ready. Set. Gogh!
Little do people know that for a majority of Vincent Van Gogh’s career, he was a starving artist. He wore ragtag clothes and slept in ragtag inns. He would exchange his paintings for a hot meal and a place to sleep.
The Vincent Van Gogh would exchange his now million dollar paintings for a roof and some food!
Wrap your head around that for a minute.
There’s a reason why Van Gogh starved. He created art for the sake of creating art. He didn’t send surveys to his potential audience, conduct A/B split testing, ask Twitter, Facebook, or Quora what people wanted. . . And then create art.
Van Gogh created art because creating art was his passion—it was his calling. He didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. He didn’t ask if people were going to like his work. Van Gogh followed his heart and realized the dream he always had.
Most importantly, he maintained persistence in the face of challenges, roadblocks, and the absence of success.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
4 Reasons We Don’t Pursue Our Passion
Here are a few reasons that keep you away from your calling.
Fear is by far the number one reason why we do not pursue our passion. It conquers us to the point of inaction.
We are afraid. Afraid of failing. Afraid of the economy. Afraid of our boss. Afraid of [insert your excuse].
Mainly, we are afraid of what others will think. Will people like the work we put out? Will they reject it? People will judge me!!
I’m going to shoot it straight by saying that no one will even care. Family aside, people are generally submerged in their own lives. They’ll applaud you or judge you momentarily then go back to their own lives.
Little do we know that we have nothing to lose. Regret is much worse than fear. Personally, the one thing that drives me is regret because when I’m on my deathbed, I will know I had the courage to pursue my passion and persist when faced with adversity.
The fact that you conquered fear and went after your goals is the biggest success you can achieve. It opens up a realm of many possibilities.
Success by traditional standards (money, notoriety) is a byproduct and will eventually come. But when you are pursuing your art, does money and fame even matter? If so then I challenge you to re-consider your passion.
2. You are Expecting Something in Return
If we don’t get anything in return, we deem it a failure. This is the art of business. This is not the art of creating.
If you are expecting something in return, then you are not fulfilling your passion. You are chasing fame and riches. Even though you may end up achieving these goals, you are not fulfilling your authentic self.
How many times have you heard of people that have gained fame and riches only to be left unhappy than before their fame?
3. Ignoring Your Inner Voice
Our inner voice knows exactly who we are. This inner voice is telling us what to do, but we fail to listen. We silence that voice and create excuses for not walking down the path we truly want to follow. Reasons 1 and 2 are big culprits for this.
You’ve heard that voice several times. It has told you to say “Yes” when you said “No.” It has told you to say “No” when you said “Yes.”
You discount yourself, but I urge you not to underestimate yourself. You are more than capable of going after your dreams.
What separates others from you is that others persist because of their passion. They go hand in hand. Persistence stems from passion.
4. You’re Overwhelmed
Having a grand vision is daunting. You know what you want to do but are not sure where to start. In any event, you get overwhelmed to the point where you do nothing.
I can tell you that taking the first step is scary. At the same time, it is one of the most liberating feelings. When I first launched my blog, I had no idea where to start. “I need to make my website look pretty. I need the right plugins. I need to create a Twitter Account; I need more Facebook likes.” Blah. Blah. Blah.
90% of the battle is getting started. You’ll figure out the rest along the way. I like to use the analogy of going to the gym. Physically going to the gym is the hardest part but once you’re there, you have no choice but to exercise.
Van Gogh unconditionally did the work, then shared it—and repeated this cycle many, many times.
Most importantly, he never gave up.
Van Gogh was not a naturally gifted artist. He made drawings throughout his life, but it wasn’t until his late 20s until he started painting full-time. This was after failed attempts at multiple professions: minister, a school teacher, art dealer, and clerk.
I got the impression that he finally followed his heart after failing at professions he didn’t want to do in the first place.
His notoriety didn’t begin until his last few years of life, gaining widespread fame after his death.
Nonetheless, he created art while he was alive.
Van Gogh is the epitome of persistence. His first major painting was at age 32, but there are countless of drawings displaying his efforts to master his craft. He was engulfed in the process of creating art.
Whether in rundown inns or in mental asylums Van Gogh persisted. Fyi, Van Gogh painted Starry Night in a mental asylum.
. . . A mental asylum.
Are you allowing a bad situation to allow you to move forward?
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
3 Strategies to Stay Persistent
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you too want to relentlessly pursue your passion, then follow these steps.
1. Know Your Why
Too many people get stuck on “What” and “How” but very little actually know their “Why.” Like Simon Sinek says, “Start with Why.” Becoming one with your Why will help you persist through roadblocks when you don’t feel like moving forward.
If you don’t know why you want to pursue your passion, then you are in for a rough journey, my friend.
“I feel my voice will inspire others to take their lives to the next level.” This is my Why for my blog. In lieu of the multitude of blogs on the web, I stayed true to my Why and continued to pursue launching my blog.
Allowing myself to pursue my form of art (blogging) is a success. Anything else gained is secondary.
2. Have a Clear Vision
Create a vision and be extremely clear on what this looks like. Write this vision down and keep it in front of you at all times. Place it on your fridge, workstation, intern, wherever.
Whatever it is you’re doing, ensure you are working towards fulfilling your vision. The most successful people ever to live always had a clear idea of their vision. And they always stayed true to it: Henry Ford, Steve Jobs. . . Vincent Van Gogh.
3. Set Deadlines
Setting a deadline will light a fire under your ass to keep you moving forward. Putting these deadlines on paper will help keep you accountable. Because the deadline now exists, it’s tangible.
A helpful strategy is to have micro-goals established for each deadline.
For example, if you want to lose 30lbs in 30 days, break down your overall goal. Set a deadline 10 days from now with the expectation that you will lose 10lbs by then. Once that deadline is hit, move on to the subsequent deadline. Repeat this cycle until your goal is hit.
4. Stay Accountable
If you are having trouble maintaining motivation, then chances are you need a support group. These people can be there to listen, hold you accountable, or uphold whatever expectation you have for them.
The best accountability partner I’ve ever had was money. I would throw my hard earned dollars on the line if I weren’t staying true to my goals.
The thought of losing money is much more prominent than earning money. Back to the losing weight example, if you don’t meet your deadline, then you must sacrifice a certain amount of money.
Needless to say, this works. If there is something that will hold you accountable, it’s the potential to lose money. People hold money with much value and will go to great lengths to ensure they don’t lose it.
What is Your Art?
There’s an abundance of art in the world. It comes in a multitude of forms but doesn’t have to be art in the traditional sense. It can be:
- Graphic design
- Data Analysis
If you know what your artform is then, it is time to get to work. If you don’t know what it is then, it is time to get to work.
Whether you think it’s too late to start or is not seeing the fruits of your labor, then keep persisting—because it’s small daily performances that pay off big in the long run.
My former self got discouraged every time I read a Forbes 30 under 30 list. “I’m too old” was a story I’d constantly tell myself.
Then I read about Van Gogh’s story.
I kicked my weaker self out and began persisting like Van Gogh. Art was his passion and he worked, worked, and worked. Writing has been mine. And no one is telling me to clock in at 8:30.
I do it on my own because it’s my passion. And I’ll never stop.
“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Your Dreams Await You
There is nothing in this world holding you back but yourself. You are the master of your destiny—the maker of your own fate. The world provides everything you need to make your dreams come true.
You may think that Van Gogh is an exception, but I assure you he is not. There have been a multitude of people that became successful against all odds. Many faced rejection numerous times but never gave up:
J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Stephen King , Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Disney, Nikola Tesla
The list goes on.
Some of these people beat all odds. Many people had no business being their line of business. But they never gave up. They were in line with their passion and persisted as a result.
Just because you hear “no,” doesn’t mean it’s over. “No” sometimes means “try harder” or “not yet.”
My challenge to you is that whenever you reach a roadblock or challenge of some sort:
Just keep Goghing!
“In spite of everything I shall rise again. I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Over to You
Are you giving up on your passion quickly? What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream? Share your comments.
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