Who knew a five hundred year old statue could teach so much?
The Angel Inside is a simple fable of Thomas, an American man who travels Europe for three weeks, looking to gain some perspective and direction in his life. It’s not until his last day, thoroughly disheartened from his lack of an epiphany, that Thomas encounters a curious, older gentlemen in Florence, Italy. The mysterious stranger takes young Thomas under his wing and teaches him “Michelangelo’s secrets for following your passion and finding the work you love” (as the subtitle of the book so aptly reads).
Using Michelangelo’s life story and the analogy of the process of marble sculpting, author Chris Widener brilliantly teaches the joy of following your passion and the value of understanding the process of achieving greatness. Written for anyone who aspires to create more meaning and joy in their lives, The Angel Inside is a delightful, quick read.
The Big Idea
The Whack and the Work
"Thomas, most people live in one or the other. They either conceive of amazing things – they dream – but it never goes beyond that. They live only in their minds. Still others do just the opposite. They are filled with action, but not action that is well thought out. It is movement that takes them nowhere. The secret is this: Let your mind conceive it and then let your hand create it. True accomplishment requires both."
While the truly amazing technological advancements available to us today have great value if leveraged properly, they also, quite naturally, lessen our focus.
How many email accounts do you check regularly? How many times a day? How often do you suffer from “Inbox Alzheimer’s”, (i.e. when you go to the inbox to find something, immediately get distracted by new messages, and forget why you’re there. Thanks, Tim Ferris)?
With all the fun, fascinating applications and areas of interest in our online world, it’s now completely plausible to be busy for an entire day… and get nothing done.
We’re getting diluted. Our time is spread thin, our attention is easily distracted, and every day it’s becoming easier to stay busy doing nothing.
Through the metaphor of sculpting, Widener reminds us of the value of deliberate, appropriate action. Strong and quick action complimented by patient and continual diligence. It’s important that we remember the big picture, and regularly remind ourselves of our missions. Know that there’s a time for planning, a time for sharp deliberate action and, mostly, a time for growing through experience.
The Big Whack
"Every successful endeavour begins with one swift action."
Every initiative worth pursuing requires a big initial push. It has to do with momentum. Momentum and commitment. Maybe it’s a function of the human mind, but it seems that we need a big “here we go” event to kick off that which is destined to be great. A “point of no return”, if you will, to galvanize us into action.
Change begets change. If you want to take a big step in a new direction, you need to take a big step in a new direction. There is a time for planning and there is a time for action. Planning is crucial. You need to visualize, with precise detail and extreme clarity, the world you want to create. You need to bounce ideas off people, find a mentor and be extremely analytical. But ultimately, you need to act; decisively and confidently. And, the bigger the first action, the bigger your commitment to seeing it through. Quit your job to start the new venture. Buy the plane ticket for your long desired trip to India. Sit down and have the conversation that’s been keeping you up at night. Act.
Maybe it’s not the right time yet. Maybe you need more planning. Worth keeping in mind though that that very, very rarely will there be the ideal time to “take the plunge”. Get yourself prepared, definitely. But if you’ve already done the planning, maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “What’s holding me back, now?”
“What else do I need to do to move forward?”
Plant your flag. Make a statement. “This is what I’m doing, and this is how I’m starting it.” Whack.
Embrace the Process
"The earlier we are in our lives the more we hope for the latter stages, and the later we are in life, the more we long for the earlier times. The key is to enjoy each stage while you are in it and understand that success takes time."
I’ve always enjoyed speaking with people who road trip. Some just don’t get it. “Wouldn’t it be faster to fly? It’s well worth the money to save the time.” People who road trip get it. The destination’s cool, no question. (Otherwise, why are you going there?) But there’s something to be said for the trip itself; the conversation, the detours, the cool, unexpected adventures along the way. Life’s like that; it’s a lot more fun if you take pleasure in the process. You’re going to have rough spots. You’re going to “run out of gas”, “blow a tire” or potentially even “write off the vehicle completely”. (Car references, to keep the analogy alive.)
It’s going to happen – no life is without mistakes and growing pains. So if we know it’s going to happen, all we really have control over is how we act in the moment. As Thomas’s mentor teaches: “The key is to enjoy each stage while you are in it and understand that success takes time.”
Spend 10% of your time planning and charting the course. But for the other 90%, love the journey.
The Angel Inside is brilliant in its approachability. It’s a simple story that can be enjoyed by all ages and all walks of life. It’s a good thing it is so relatable, as this is a message that should be embraced by all. Full of great direction and reminders, the fundamental lesson is one that’s so dear to my heart – if you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, you really don’t have anything. It’s a limitless world out there; find your corner and bask in it.