When I was 12, I went to the 1964 New York World’s Fair with my Boy Scout troop. At the Vatican pavilion, for the first time in my life, I was struck dumb with amazement. The Church had actually sent Michelangelo’s Pieta, depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the crucifixion, to the World’s Fair. There was a fair amount to consternation in the Italian press about the decision. Many citizens worried about what could happen if there were an accident (it was flown over).
I recall standing on the moving walkway as we slowly slid past. The room was mostly dark, with lighting strategically placed to reveal the Pieta in all it’s glory. At 12 years old, I was transfixed. In fact, it made such an impression on me that when I had the opportunity to travel for business, I made it a point to seek out and view the other three pietas that he created in his lifetime. Each in its own way is inspiring, but his first, which he created when he was only 24 is still the one that is recognized as one of the world’s greatest artistic creations.
When asked to explain his craft, Michelangelo had several answers, but there is one that I find applicable to today’s topic. He said, basically, that he envisions what he wants to bring forth from the marble, and then simply removes what isn’t needed.
Although he was being a bit facetious, I think we can apply his answer to our businesses.
As we step away from 2021 and hesitantly look forward to 2022, instead of thinking about all the new projects, ideas, products, services, etc. that we plan on rolling out in the new year, perhaps we should take a moment to consider Michelangelo’s approach.
We should ask ourselves, what is the core of our business? What is it we do best and how can we do it better? What did we do in 2021 that, in hindsight, was either a waste of time and resources, or didn’t create the return on investment that we thought it would?
Of course, we can analyze the results from those less than successful ventures and think that if we just added more time, or more resources, or tweaked it this way or that, it would be more lucrative. But before we double down, we need to ask ourselves if our vanity is getting in the way of making the right decision. Do we want to risk going down the wrong path yet again, simply because we don’t want to admit that it was a mistake?
I’m suggesting that we look at our businesses and focus on the true gems within. We should be willing to take a hammer and chisel to those products and services that are standing in the way of our success. It may make a mess in the beginning, but once we sweep away the rubble of what doesn’t truly belong, we’ll have something honest, genuine, and worthy of our talents to offer to our customers.
To quote Michelangelo “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”. To really set our business free, we may want to take the same approach.