“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us, and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become catalyst for profound reinvention.” -Conan O’Brien
7 Life Lessons I Learned From Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, the most famous artist of the 20th century and one of my all time favorite artists has taught me many things about life and living.
He was born October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, as the son of an art and drawing teacher. He was a brilliant student. He actually passed the entrance examination for the Barcelona School of Fine Arts at the age of 14 in just one day and was allowed to skip the first two classes.
According to one legend about his life, his father, recognizing the extraordinary talent of his son, gave him his brushes and palette and vowed to paint never again in his own life.
Bottomline, if you have not heard about Pablo Picasso, you have probably been living under a rock for the last century as his influence and name have been everywhere.
The man is simply a legend, and rightfully so. His art sells in the millions and his legacy remains and always will.
Being an avid art fan, Picasso has always stood out to me as being highly unique and having the greatest impact on me. Everything about him and his art has always struck me as fascinating to say the least. The lines. The colors. The moods. The fluidity. The simplicity. The complexity. Life is reflected right there in front of our eyes through his works. If you look hard enough, you will feel it.
What I have discovered in Pablo Picasso was a guy that really knew how to live life and I feel he has passed on many keys to living life fully…in beautiful abstract color and bliss. Dancing to one’s own drum. Being bold and relevant. Picasso was a unique soul who was meant to create…to make us feel something, to make us look out at the world a bit differently, and most of all, ourselves.
You may not be a fan of his art, but I can assure you, you can learn volumes from the way he lived life to the fullest.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Picasso
Below I’ve listed out 7 life lessons I have learned from Pablo Picasso (not directly of course, I wish.) I hope you find them interesting and most of all, they can impact your life in a more positive way, or in a different light or angle.
1. Imperfection = Perfection
Picasso has taught me that in life, imperfection is…perfection. If you think about it, what actually is “perfection” anyway? Does it really exist? I truly believe it doesn’t. There is no rulebook that shows what perfection actually is. I’ve discovered that perfection is subjective, it is simply based on OUR views of what we think is perfect. What is perfect to me, may not be perfect to you.
Your idea of a “perfect” book could be the latest Harry Potter book. In my case, the perfect book to me may be the Tao Te Ching (which I adore). I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but hey, that’s just me. Your idea of a perfect vacation may be a trip to Africa. Mine would be being on a beach with the girl I love…and doing nothing, but soaking in the sun and beautiful waves of the ocean. The point is, perfect does not exist in a general sense or to the masses as a whole in unified agreement.
When it comes to art and beauty, I find that the closer the art is to reality, the more boring it is. The more imperfect it is, the more perfect and beautiful it is to me. What makes it “perfect” and unique to me is the filter of that human it has come through, their representation. If I wanted a drawing or painting to look EXACTLY like a tree, a mountain, or a simple nude figure…I would rather just look at a stunning black and white photo.
Picasso nailed imperfection, perfectly. He hit on emotions that lie deep within us, and that is why his art has resonated with us ever since he started to paint or draw.
When you look at many of his paintings, they are very abstract. Very odd. Lines are jagged. Colors go from blue to red. But what he gives you in return is a new way to look at a beautiful woman, a lonely guitar player, or even a simple rooster. He has made reality explode with detail. He has emphasized the emotion behind it, the dominant aspects of what he is looking at, and more. It is not a perfect representation, but in so many ways, it just feels right.
Lesson: Learn to love imperfection. Learn to love your life and you, just as you are, and when you are striving for that “perfect body” the “perfect job” the “perfect mate”…realize they do not exist. Only YOUR idea of what makes them perfect TO YOU does. Perfection is a mental label, not actual reality.
2. Be Different, Be Bold
Picasso = bold and different. Not only is this reflected in his life, but also his paintings. Picasso was not afraid to use bold brush strokes, lines, and to completely change the rules when it comes to the way we view life through art. To demonstrate this, simply take a look at some of his abstract portraits. Eyes are in odd places, noses jet out at weird angles…it is almost like he deconstructed the human face, and then just threw it back together.
Nothing like this had ever been seen at that time and it was very bold and broke all the rules.
The key to Picasso being bold and different was courage, fearlessness and letting go of ego.
Do you live your life by what everyone thinks the way things “should be” done, the way things “should be” created, etc. Be like Picasso, bend the rules. Do something different. Do something no one has ever thought of, or simply do something you have always been afraid of. Be bold. Be different in YOUR world. If you are shy, talk to 3 strangers today. If you wear average looking clothes, wear a tshirt that makes a statement instead. The possibilities are endless. It may just open up your world and make it a bit more colorful and vibrant.
Lesson: Be different. Do different and bold things. When you do this, your world will shift a bit, and so will the world around you. Happiness and creativity will also likely rise within you, and walls of fear will drop.
3. Create New Paths
Picasso, not only did one type of art, he had his hands in various types of art movements. Many think he was just this abstract painter, but he was more than that. He created MULTIPLE new paths in art. He was the co-founder of Cubism, he also sculpted and he put a whole new angle on Surrealism.
His overall bold and different approach to putting images on canvas created new paths for all artists that came after him. He was original. He was fearless. He tried new approaches.
What new paths can you create in your life?
Right now, you can step out in a new path with your job, your love life, your health and so much more. The trick is, what MOTIVATES you? What is your intention or purpose? Follow that and the right path will be laid out before you.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to blaze new trails, start new unknown paths. The only way you will know if will enjoy something is to try it. As they say, you will most likely regret the things you DON’T do versus the ones you DO. Start a new path today…it can be a small one. You might be amazed how big that path may grow once you take the courage to walk down it.
4. Find Your Talent or Passion, Then Pursue It Frequently
Picasso discovered at an early age he could draw, but most of all…he liked it. Art came natural too him. I truly believe every person on this planet has some sort of talent, or something the can share with humankind to make the world a better place. I believe that is our purpose.
Picasso did what he loved, and he pursued it day in and day out. He was passionate!
What I’ve learned from Picasso is that life is too short to be stuck in a cubicle 40 hours a week. Do you know how much of that time takes up your life? Way too much in my book.
If you have a passion for something, a talent, use it and pursue it. By doing so you not only become a more fulfilled human being, but life will open up to you and good things start to happen. It is as if you are falling in line with your natural self, your natural abilities and the universe creates positive things for you.
Your talent could be art, it could be singing, it could be dancing, it could be helping people at a local shelter, it could be poetry, it could be blogging, it could be a million things.
The key is discovering it.
How do you find it? You have to start trying things you think you would enjoy. Simple as that. When you find what you like and what you are good at, your soul will perk up. The main thing is you enjoy it, and not compare yourself to others as you will ALWAYS find someone who is “better”.
Lesson: Ignite your passion and find what you like to do. Do it often, and keep doing it. Watch what happens in your own universe. Pay attention to the people that get attracted to you. Pay attention to the doors that open up. The key is, you have to start trying and experiencing.
5. Seek to Be Prolific, Leave a Legacy
Picasso, once he discovered his passion and desire for art, he did it full force. His red-hot passion left a prolific amount of work once he had died and it still touches those who see his work today.
When you are passionate about what you do, you will usually leave a trail behind for others to follow. When you do what you like, and you do it well, others soon take notice and become influenced and the effect on people can grow exponentially. Picasso is a fine example of this. Not only was he prolific, his work left a legacy and will now and forever.
What if you could do or create something today, that you love, and it could have a positive impact on others way after you are gone? Would that inspire you? You could write a great book, a powerful article, a note to someone you love, create a small playground for kids to enjoy for years, plant a tree that could provide shade for a bench, etc.
The point I’m trying to make is, once you find your talent, how can you leave your trail behind? How can you put your fingerprint on something that will touch others for years to come?
There are thousands of things you could do.
If you do it out of love, and out of passion, your work and effort will naturally leave a legacy for others to admire for years to come.
Lesson: Follow your heart, follow your passion. When you do it well, and it resonates with you, it will also resonate with others out there. Be sure to leave something important behind for them. Leave a trail. Leave a legacy to inspire.
6. Love…a Lot
Let’s just face the truth on Picasso and love. When it came to women, he changed them about as often as he changed his paint brushes. He was a passionate guy, he loved beauty, and he was unafraid to show it or pursue it. Now I’m not saying one should go out there and date every guy or girl out there, or to have many lovers, etc. What I’m saying is you need to harness the power of love with all it’s power and FEEL it in your life.
This love could be for another human being, the work or talent you posses, but most of all…for yourself. Learn to fully love you, to love what you do, and to be proud of it.
Picasso was a guy who had raging passion and love not only for women, but for his art. Learn from that, and learn to find what sparks love within you and go for it full force. Just don’t get yourself in trouble.
Lesson: Love will find you when you love yourself. Learn to love, learn to give love, and learn to allow yourself to feel it fully with every ounce of your soul. A life without love is not a life at all.
7. Keep Things Simple
It is amazing to me how simple a Picasso line drawing could be, yet how powerful it could be. He had a knack to draw out the most dominant or prevalent features out of his subjects and greatly exaggerate them, but did it simply. There was no more need for other details, he just focused on a few aspects and really made them stand out. It was a very simple method, but it worked charmingly.
I’ve learned that keeping things simple like Picasso did in many of his drawings and paintings is the best way to live life.
In many cases, we do not need to focus on all the small, mundane details in life. Many of these things only cause us stress and worry. The main thing is to keep things simple, and focus on the aspects that stand out the most and can have the greatest impact of change in our lives.
If something can take 3 steps to complete it, why turn it into 10? Simplify. Simplify the clutter you have in your house, your closets, the backseat of your car, etc.
When you keep it simple, life becomes a bit more simple…and you free yourself and your awareness around you.
Lesson: Use the KISS Method…Keep It Simple Stupid. Why not simplify? Never underestimate the power of doing simple steps, taking simple actions toward what you want, or taking the simple approach to your work, your interests, or your life.
I will leave you with this fantastic quote from Picasso, it sums it all up very well about the importance of life, its simplicity, and simply being fully present with it (and ourselves)…
“Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can’t explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.” – Pablo Picasso
“The proper function of man is to live – not to exist.” — Jack London
Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before it.
That’s fine, and comfortable, until you have gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life.
That’s fine, until you have reached old age and look back on life with regrets.
That’s fine, until you see your kids go off to college and realize that you missed their childhoods.
It’s not fine. If you want to truly live life, to really experience it, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from the mold and drink from life.
What follows is just a list of ideas, obvious ones mostly that you could have thought of yourself, but that I hope are useful reminders. We all need reminders sometimes. If you find this useful, print it out, and start using it. Today.
- Love. Perhaps the most important. Fall in love, if you aren’t already. If you have, fall in love with your partner all over again. Abandon caution and let your heart be broken. Or love family members, friends, anyone — it doesn’t have to be romantic love. Love all of humanity, one person at a time.
- Get outside. Don’t let yourself be shut indoors. Go out when it’s raining. Walk on the beach. Hike through the woods. Swim in a freezing lake. Bask in the sun. Play sports, or walk barefoot through grass. Pay close attention to nature.
- Savor food. Don’t just eat your food, but really enjoy it. Feel the texture, the bursts of flavors. Savor every bite. If you limit your intake of sweets, it will make the small treats you give yourself (berries or dark chocolate are my favorites) even more enjoyable. And when you do have them, really, really savor them. Slowly.
- Create a morning ritual. Wake early and greet the day. Watch the sun rise. Out loud, tell yourself that you will not waste this day, which is a gift. You will be compassionate to your fellow human beings, and live every moment to its fullest. Stretch or meditate or exercise as part of your ritual. Enjoy some coffee.
- Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, worried about what might go wrong. Be bold, risk it all. Quit your job and go to business for yourself (plan it out first!), or go up to that girl you’ve liked for a long time and ask her out. What do you have to lose?
- Follow excitement. Try to find the things in life that excite you, and then go after them. Make life one exciting adventure after another (with perhaps some quiet times in between).
- Find your passion. Similar to the above tip, this one asks you to find your calling. Make your living by doing the thing you love to do. First, think about what you really love to do. There may be many things. Find out how you can make a living doing it. It may be difficult, but you only live once.
- Get out of your cubicle. Do you sit all day in front of computer, shuffling papers and taking phone calls and chatting on the Internet? Don’t waste your days like this. Break free from the cubicle environment, and do your work on a laptop, in a coffee shop, or on a boat, or in a log cabin. This may require a change of jobs, or becoming a freelancer. It’s worth it.
- Turn off the TV. How many hours will we waste away in front of the boob tube? How many hours do we have to live? Do the math, then unplug the TV. Only plug it back in when you have a DVD of a movie you love. Otherwise, keep it off and find other stuff to do. Don’t know what to do? Read further.
- Pull away from Internet. You’re reading something on the Internet right now. And, with the exception of this article, it is just more wasting away of your precious time. You cannot get these minutes back. Unplug the Internet, then get out of your office or house. Right now! And go and do something.
- Travel. Sure, you want to travel some day. When you have vacation time, or when you’re older. Well, what are you waiting for? Find a way to take a trip, if not this month, then sometime soon. You may need to sell your car or stop your cable bill and stop eating out to do it, but make it happen. You are too young to not see the world. If need be, find a way to make a living by freelancing, then work while you travel. Only work an hour or two a day. Don’t check email but once a week. Then use the rest of the time to see the world.
- Rediscover what’s important. Take an hour and make a list of everything that’s important to you. Add to it everything that you want to do in life. Now cut that list down to 4-5 things. Just the most important things in your life. This is your core list. This is what matters. Focus your life on these things. Make time for them.
- Eliminate everything else. What’s going on in your life that’s not on that short list? All that stuff is wasting your time, pulling your attention from what’s important. As much as possible, simplify your life by eliminating the stuff that’s not on your short list, or minimizing it.
- Exercise. Get off the couch and go for a walk. Eventually try running. Or do some push ups and crunches. Or swim or bike or row. Or go for a hike. Whatever you do, get active, and you’ll love it. And life will be more alive.
- Be positive. Learn to recognize the negative thoughts you have. These are the self-doubts, the criticisms of others, the complaints, the reasons you can’t do something. Then stop yourself when you have these thoughts, and replace them with positive thoughts. Solutions. You can do this!
- Open your heart. Is your heart a closed bundle of scar tissue? Learn to open it, have it ready to receive love, to give love unconditionally. If you have a problem with this, talk to someone about it. And practice makes perfect.
- Kiss in the rain. Seize the moment and be romantic. Raining outside? Grab your lover and give her a passionate kiss. Driving home? Stop the car and pick some wildflowers. Send her a love note. Dress sexy for him.
- Face your fears. What are you most afraid of? What is holding you back? Whatever it is, recognize it, and face it. Do what you are most afraid of. Afraid of heights? Go to the tallest building, and look down over the edge. Only by facing our fears can we be free of them.
- When you suffer, suffer. Life isn’t all about fun and games. Suffering is an inevitable part of life. We lose our jobs. We lose our lovers. We lose our pets. We get physically injured or sick. A loved one becomes sick. A parent dies. Learn to feel the pain intensely, and really grieve. This is a part of life — really feel the pain. And when you’re done, move on, and find joy.
- Slow down. Life moves along at such a rapid pace these days. It’s not healthy, and it’s not conducive to living. Practice doing everything slowly — everything, from eating to walking to driving to working to reading. Enjoy what you do. Learn to move at a snail’s pace.
- Touch humanity. Get out of your house and manicured neighborhoods, and find those who live in worse conditions. Meet them, talk to them, understand them. Live among them. Be one of them. Give up your materialistic lifestyle.
- Volunteer. Help at homeless soup kitchens. Learn compassion, and learn to help ease the suffering of others. Help the sick, those with disabilities, those who are dying.
- Play with children. Children, more than anyone else, know how to live. They experience everything in the moment, fully. When they get hurt, they really cry. When they play, they really have fun. Learn from them, instead of thinking you know so much more than them. Play with them, and learn to be joyful like them.
- Talk to old people. There is no one wiser, more experienced, more learned, than those who have lived through life. They can tell you amazing stories. Give you advice on making a marriage last or staying out of debt. Tell you about their regrets, so you can learn from them and avoid the same mistakes. They are the wisdom of our society — take advantage of their existence while they’re still around.
- Learn new skills. Constantly improve yourself instead of standing still — not because you’re so imperfect now, but because it is gratifying and satisfying. You should accept yourself as you are, and learn to love who you are, but still try to improve — if only because the process of improvement is life itself.
- Find spirituality. For some, this means finding God or Jesus or Allah or Buddha. For others, this means becoming in tune with the spirits of our ancestors, or with nature. For still others, this just means an inner energy. Whatever spirituality means for you, rediscover it, and its power.
- Take mini-retirements. Don’t leave the joy of retirement until you are too old to enjoy it. Do it now, while you’re young. It makes working that much more worth it. Find ways to take a year off every few years. Save up, sell your home, your possessions, and travel. Live simply, but live, without having to work. Enjoy life, then go back to work and save up enough money to do it again in a couple of years.
- Do nothing. Despite the tip above that we should find excitement, there is value in doing nothing as well. Not doing nothing as in reading, or taking a nap, or watching TV, or meditating. Doing nothing as in sitting there, doing nothing. Just learning to be still, in silence, to hear our inner voice, to be in tune with life. Do this daily if possible.
- Stop playing video games. They might be fun, but they can take up way too much time. If you spend a lot of time playing online games, or computer solitaire, or Wii or Gameboy or whatever, consider going a week without it. Then find something else to do, outside.
- Watch sunsets, daily. One of the most beautiful times of day. Make it a daily ritual to find a good spot to watch the sunset, perhaps having a light dinner while you do so.
- Stop reading magazines. They’re basically crap. And they waste your time and money. Cancel your subscriptions and walk past them at the news stands. If you have to read something, read a trashy novel or even better, read Dumb Little Man once a day and be done.
- Break out from ruts. Do you do things the same way every day? Change it up. Try something new. Take a different route to work. Start your day out differently. Approach work from a new angle. Look at things from new perspectives.
- Stop watching the news. It’s depressing and useless. If you’re a news junky, this may be difficult. I haven’t watch TV news or read a newspaper regularly in about two years. It hasn’t hurt me a bit. Anything important, my mom tells me about.
- Laugh till you cry. Laughing is one of the best ways to live. Tell jokes and laugh your head off. Watch an awesome comedy. Learn to laugh at anything. Roll on the ground laughing. You’ll love it.
- Lose control. Not only control over yourself, but control over others. It’s a bad habit to try to control others — it will only lead to stress and unhappiness for yourself and those you try to control. Let others live, and live for yourself. And lose control of yourself now and then too.
- Cry. Men, especially, tend to hold in our tears, but crying is an amazing release. Cry at sad movies. Cry at a funeral. Cry when you are hurt, or when somebody you love is hurt. It releases these emotions and allows us to cleanse ourselves.
- Make an awesome dessert. I like to make warm, soft chocolate cake. But even berries dipped in chocolate, or crepes with ice cream and fruit, or fresh apple pie, or homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies, are great. This isn’t an every day thing, but an occasional treat thing. But it’s wonderful.
- Try something new, every week. Ask yourself: “What new thing shall I try this week?” Then be sure to do it. You don’t have to learn a new language in one week, but seek new experiences. Give it a try. You might decide you want to keep it in your life.
Be in the moment. Instead of thinking about things you need to do, or things that have happened to you, or worrying or planning or regretting, think about what you are doing, right now. What is around you? What smells and sounds and sights and feelings are you experiencing? Learn to do this as much as possible through meditation, but also through bringing your focus back to the present as much as you can in everything you do.