One of my all time favorite movies is “Lust for Life”, starring Kirk Douglas as artist Vincent Van Gogh.
Most great artists are seldom appreciated until long after they’ve passed. This was certainly the case with Van Gogh, who lived a tortured life and died in relative obscurity. In the years since he has come to be considered one of history’s greatest painters. Douglas’ performance in the film is stunning, and the story of Van Gogh’s struggle to bring something of meaning to the world is a compelling one.
“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever come to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on the way.” –Vincent Van Gogh
I may not be an artist, but that quote speaks to me. Those of us who share that “blazing hearth”–that intense desire to build great and wonderful things–often struggle from time to time with a hunger for opportunity. This is certainly the case for most of us early in our careers, and a common thread shared by many of the designers and tradesman I encounter in my travels across the country.
A favorite scene from the movie: (Click here to view the clip >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGG_QJjnRbA)
“I want nothing but to work.
Only, I can’t.
I’m in a cage. A cage of shame and self-doubt and failure.
Somebody believe me. I’m caged. I’m alone. I’m frightened.”
I’ve felt that same feeling of desperate hunger myself over the years. Sometimes it was on the heels of a particularly difficult project. Sometimes it was lack of work. Sometimes it was a feeling of failure from working as hard as I could but not really getting anywhere.
Unfortunately, being exceptional at what you do is seldom enough to guarantee success. The struggle to learn all of those other skills—marketing, sales, the nuts and bolts of running a business, relationship building, etc., can discourage even the most passionate among us.
Having lived through my own share of dark days I can attest to how much it can mean to have a mentor or friend offer their encouragement when things look their bleakest. Sometimes, all it takes to get through is understanding that you’re not alone; knowing someone believes in you and knowing someone else has experienced the same things.
As Theo Van Gogh was a source of strength to his brother, the counsel and example of a good mentor can make all the difference in the world to your personal and professional life. Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to a great many trades people who are struggling–treading the same path I once did as they strive to grow their careers. Hungry to build. Hungry to create. Hungry to be seen for the worth they know lies within them. They are often surprised to hear that most of their struggles are common ones, and that even the best among us have felt the sting of failure. That simple truth, along with a little bit of encouragement, can be enough to sow the seeds of hope and determination to press on.
To those of you who are struggling in today’s very challenging market, I send out to you a word of hope. The pain you are experiencing today will pass—but I encourage you to seek out those mentors and sources of knowledge that can help point you down the right path. Set aside your ego and admit there are gaps in your knowledge and skill that need to be filled.
To those who have earned some measure of success, it is easy to take for granted all of the little lessons we’ve learned along the way—and all of the people who lifted us up when we needed it. I encourage you to reach out and give of yourself to those who are on the path behind you.
Note from hosts: Thanks out to Chris for sharing such a personal & heartfelt take on things. You may remember that both Barry & I had the opportunity to hang with him last year at the Remodeling Show. Oh and look for him presenting at KBIS in April. Thanks from reading and a good one. jb & Barry.
Christopher Wright, CR is one of the premier Builder/Remodelers working today. Founder and President of WrightWorks, LLC—he has amassed an extensive portfolio of award winning projects and is widely recognized as an expert on the business and craft of remodeling. His project experience extends from inner city HUD rehabs to multi-million dollar estates.
For more on Chris: http://www.wrightworks.net/2011/founder-and-president-christopher-wright/