Are you practicing Picasso’s way?

practicing Picasso

Picasso lived to be 91 years old i.e. approximately a total of 33,035 days. He created his first artwork at the age of 8, but it took him close to 20 years to showcase his passion to the world. With 26,075 published works, that means he averaged 1 new piece of artwork every day of his life from the age of 20 until his death at the age of 91. Picasso created something new, every day for 71 years!

Isn’t that amazing? Perfection needs consistent and rigorous practice. Think of most of the accomplished personalities and we will realise that their overnight success has decades of hard work behind.

What made me certainly look at this trivia? Well, another story. Leadership and life coaching are another passion that I pursue. It makes me meet and know people in deeper detail than how we otherwise do. One of my coachees is a young achiever, with over a decade of corporate experience. The human resources team in his organisation is preparing a leadership pipeline of about 7 promising employees and hence I am working with 10 of them to create a pool. Excellent at his work, this coachee is one of the most promising candidates of the lot. One of the days he was quite hassled when we sat down for our coaching discussion. I could read from his body language, he was preoccupied.  To help him ease up we got talking and I figured that he was working on the annual report of the company. It was the 22nd version of the overall design that he had submitted and the managing director rejected it. He believed that the new managing director was a micromanager and was just getting unnecessarily critical about his ideas. He added that for the last 5 years he had been designing the annual report and usually got it approved after a 3rd or 4th iteration. My coachee was so disturbed that I knew no amount of perspective presentation would do any good. That’s when examples like that of J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame come in handy. 12 publishing houses rejected her work before Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book. Deep probing into how she would have felt during her struggling days, made him appreciate that people have put inordinate amount of hard work to succeed. Rejection of his ideas was a small challenge. The idea was to make him think from the managing director’s point of view. 22 iterations do not mean our ideas are perfect if we are not able to present what our target group is expecting. As Rolph Dobelli mentioned in his book ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ – We must not fall in love with our ideas so much that we ignore losses. We must cut our losses and move on even if we have made high investments in it. Holding on doesn’t make the outcome better. Similarly, sometimes we need to drop our favourite idea and think from our end-users’ perspective.

Our conversations, made him reflect upon his challenge. He realised that it is important to possibly switch off completely and then think afresh. He went back to the drawing board and worked on a new approach. This time he succeeded. He used the concept of Picasso’s trivia to present his thought and that got accepted with a few tweaks.

This episode made me reflect that with two decades of work experience, there are times when I think that a certain project is a cakewalk as I have done it before. Yet, every time it turns out to be my first time. The process of learning is never-ending and to excel in anything we have to be at it all the time. There are moments of disappointment and doubt but the resolve to not give up and try a new way to make things work, have helped me grow as an individual as well as a professional. 

Take a moment to think about it – what do you do when you face roadblocks or what do you do to become better?

Keep learning, keep practicing and keep growing.