Is your career a work of art?

Most people aren't really artists, but the idea of creating a masterpiece can go well beyond artistic talent

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan wrote 'When I Paint My Masterpiece' ( Courtesy of Sony Music)

In 1971 — the year I was born — Bob Dylan wrote the lyrics to a song that would one day become an inspiration for me, in the workplace and in life.

The song's called "When I Paint My Masterpiece." It was first recorded by The Band, and if you're familiar with it, that's likely the version you've heard.

Here's the phrase that gets me: "She promised she'd be there with me, when I paint my masterpiece."

I was drawn to that shortly after meeting the woman who would become my wife. It seemed to perfectly capture the desire many have to achieve something great in life and to have someone beside them to share in that success.

I'm not an artist. Most people aren't. But the idea of painting a masterpiece goes well beyond oils on canvas.It's a construct, a goal that one day we might create something in the swirl of our lives that we can look on with pride.

For Steve Jobs, that masterpiece might have been the iPhone if not his company as a whole. But it's a goal that's there for everyone — a web designer, a waiter, an accountant, a lawyer, a teacher, a clerk.

The masterpiece, I believe, is a career led well, a family raised right, a life enjoyed. You don't have to invent the next iPhone or paint the next"Starry Night."

In his wonderful book "The Icarus Deception," Seth Godin writes:

"Art isn't pretty.

Art isn't painting.

Art isn't something you hang on the wall.

Art is what we do when we're truly alive.

If you've already decided that you're not an artist, it's worth considering why you made that decision and what it might take to unmake it.

If you've announced that you have no talent (in anything!), then you're hiding.

Art might scare you.

Art might bust you.

But art is who we are and what we do and what we need.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally.

Art isn't a result; it's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul."

Whatever the masterpiece you aim to create — whether it's actual art, or an innovation, or a good reputation — it won't come easy.

CHICAGO

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