As I watched the TV journal story on CBS Morning News by Alex Wagner with Amy Sherald, the artist who painted the now famous picture of Michelle Obama, the artist was describing her journey in her craft, her words about ‘living harder’ struck a chord.
She explained that as an artist, there is no empirical way to success. Yes, she said, she studied hard, worked hard, but along the way it “chipped away at my self esteem” . Being chosen and ‘found’ will allow her, she said early on, “to pay off my student loans.”..
She also spoke of how her brother’s death showed her the depth of her strength. She said she never knew she had the inner strength and fortitude to overcome tragedies until she had to overcome her brother’s death. She stopped painting for four years while she returned to Georgia to tend to her family during his illness. Her own heart transplant happened days after her brother’s death and made her want to “live life harder”.
I believe many of us in all walks of life have found their true inner strength after overcoming adversities unimagined. Not unimagined because they’ve never happened before in history, but because we could never have imagined our lives containing them as part of our stories.
Some of these adversities happen early in life and some, yes, later on. Some are adversities we climb out of quickly because of the spark of inspiration these events have given us. Others climb out slowly, whether because of the length of the adversity, the pursuant adversities that follow, or because the inspiration is, for whatever reason, delayed.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to help others find their way through the adversity and into the inspiration that allows them to truly find their calling; to ‘live life harder’.
I know that my personal journey through several life changing events drives me to ‘live harder’; to somehow repay the opportunity given for another chance. It is the reason for looking through the facets of the apple, because only by looking deeper into our decisions can we be sure we carry on the legacy given to us by those second, third and even fourth life events and ensure that they are not lost or wasted in the sounds of silence.