“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo
The art of sculpting has been around for thousands of years. For most of its history, the sculpting process started with an artisan thinking of an image he wanted to create and then beating, hammering, chiseling, and polishing the stone to make it look like what the sculptor pictured in his mind.
In the late 15th century, a young artisan came along that took an entirely different approach to sculpting. Rather than think of the stone being turned into the statue he had in his mind, he imagined that there was a statue already trapped inside the stone, waiting for him to release it. His job was to chisel away anything that wasn’t a part of the beautiful sculpture trapped inside. In a nutshell, instead of turning a rock into a statue, he was releasing a statue from the rock. Before long he was creating incredibly beautiful and detailed statues. Somehow he had the ability to make them look more life-like and alive than any other sculptor of his day. Much to the amazement, and dismay, of the artisan community, he became the top sculptor in the world before the age of thirty! Nobody could understand how this young man was simply better than the sculptors who had been practicing since before he was born. His sculptures are still around today and considered some of the best in history. He is the famous Michelangelo.
Obviously Michelangelo was incredibly gifted but I can’t help but think that much of his success came from a paradigm shift in how he looked at sculpting: freeing a work of art from the rough stone that encased it.
He is quoted as saying: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Are You Stuck in the Stone?
I can’t help but think about how this applies to ourselves and people we associate with in life. I believe that we came into this life with a destiny to be marvelous works of art. But somehow as we grow up, the world tends to encase us in rough and uncomfortable stone. Words people say to us, bad experiences we have, or just the way society labels us, all add layers of stone around us, causing us to almost forget the work of art we were meant to be. Slowly over time, we begin to see ourselves merely as a lump of rock. We only see the rough, ugly edges that have been built up around us.
Releasing the Work of Art
In Batavia, Illinois there is a beautiful statue entitled “Self Made Man” by Bobbie Carlyle. The statue depicts the torso of a man holding a hammer in one hand, ready to bring it down on a chisel. The stone he is working on is covering the lower half of his body. He is sculpting, or releasing, himself from the stone.
I love this sculpture because it reminds me that even though I look in the mirror and see a rough and ordinary stone, there is a work of art underneath all of that. And if that work of art is to be released into the world, it is up to me to make it happen. I have to take action and remember that life did not put me here to be ordinary. Life put me here to be the best I could be and make a lasting difference for good. The longer I feel sorry for myself, the longer I think down about myself, the more I listen to what other people think is best for me, and the more time I waste standing still, the more layers of “stone” will be built up around me and the harder it will be to break myself free. We are not meant to be rocks, we are meant to be works of art.
How Do You Break Free?
1. Have a vision of who you want to be. Just as Michelangelo could envision a work of art hiding in the block of stone, you need to have a vision of what you want your life to become. What are the things you wish you had accomplished? What does happiness look like to you? What traits do you see in others that you would love to have? You must define a vision for yourself so you know what to chisel away from your life, and what to unlock.
2. Chisel away the negative. A few years ago I read a study that said that 80-90% of the thoughts we think about ourselves are negative. We worry about how we look, how we act, how much money we make, how we appear on social media, etc, etc, etc. If society can hide us in layers of stone, we can do it to ourselves even worse. It is counter-productive to say, “I want to be more outgoing and make more friends” and then think to ourselves, “I’m so boring to talk to, who would want to hear what I have to say?” If we are going to break free, we need to break free from self-deflating thoughts.
Try this: every morning when you wake up, think 10 good things about yourself before you start your day. It may be hard for you to do at first but you’ll be amazed at how soon your self-esteem and confidence starts to increase. This how you grab the chisel and start releasing yourself from the stone.
3. Free others from their stone. I think that the best way to improve yourself as a person is to try and improve others. Something about serving other people accelerates our progress for ourselves. Look for opportunities to compliment the people around you. Tell them thank you for being a good friend. If you see someone struggling, ask them if there is anything you can do to help. People need to hear 10 positive things to counteract just 1 negative. If you focus entirely on releasing other people from the negativity surrounding them, you will soon find that you are releasing yourself at the same time.
It is time to pick up your hammer and chisel and get to work. Time goes by at the exact same rate it always has and it waits for nobody. Whatever you have been through in life, whatever hardship you are dealing with now, no matter how thick the wall of ugly stone the world has built around you, now is the time to break free. It all starts with a desire to unlock the work of art you were meant to be.
Grab your tools and let’s get to work!
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