The link between Michelangelo & Ecommerce Entrepreneurs
Having spent the last week in Rome I was reminded of the incredible talent and achievements attained by numerous artists, none more so than Michelangelo. It got me thinking about the similarities between Renaissance Artists and modern day Ecommerce Entrepreneurs.
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So here’s some thoughts on the traits and characteristics that Ecommerce Entrepreneurs share with Michelangelo:
Talent aside, Michelangelo was an incredibly determined person. When Raphael turned the Pope down in 1505 to paint the Sistine Chapel he recommended Michelangelo, he did so thinking that it would be a disaster giving the monumental task at hand.
Eventually, Michelangelo accepted the project and set about learning how to create a Fresco – Michelangelo was a Sculptor, not a Fresco Artist. During the first few months of the Sistine Chapel project Michelangelo employed Fresco Students and observed as they painted with plaster and paint. When he sacked them he removed their work, confident that he could now paint Frescos.
Ecommerce Entrepreneurs are no different. Many companies were established by determined Entrepreneurs who observed others and created their own Fresco.
For an insight into Michelangelo’s mindset, allow me to share one of his quotations:
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”
From 1505 until 1512 Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel, leaving behind a work of Art for generations to enjoy. Like determination, Michelangelo’s resilience is captured in his work. Let’s not forget that a Sculptor created one of the most famous and enduring works of Art known around the world.
Ecommerce Entrepreneurs share the same resilience as Michelangelo and strive to achieve their vision. Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Girl, is one such example of an Ecommerce founder who demonstrated sheer resilience to see her vision become reality.
The name Michelangelo is synonymous with Creativity. The Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam (see image above), it wasn’t until recently it considered that their fingers touched. When the ceiling of Sistine Chapel was cleaned this century, academics learned that their fingers did in fact not touch, rather connected by a spark, a light, an energy source.
Creativity is fundamental to Ecommerce Entrepreneurs, from product design, Web design, user-experience, bundles, discounts, kitting, fulfilment and shipping … the list is endless. The point is that E-commerce Entrepreneurs are where they are due to a healthy serving of creativity.
Michelangelo had innovative mindset in abundance. Innovators intuitively know when to leap from one learning curve to the next. For Michelangelo the Sistine Chapel was one such event, jumping from a Sculptor to a Fresco painter. Innovators tend to get restless when a curve starts to plateau. Instead of enjoying the flat part of the curve where it takes less effort for more output, innovators get bored and seek new learning curves where they can benefit from a rapidly changing rate of learning – stimulation. In fact, boredom or lack of a challenge (the Plateau phase) is a trigger for Innovators.
Ecommerce Entrepreneurs regularly demonstrate innovative traits. Take Crua Outdoors for example, who’s recent Crowdfunding campaign to finance a new product exceeded all expectations - the Crua Koala, a Hammock. As of today Crua Outdoors has raised $625k via Kickstarter, far beyond their initial goal of $20k – To put this into perspective, that’s over 3,000% above their funding target. Crua Outdoors is an Irish Company, located in the beautiful county of Kerry.
5) Strong Work ethic
Michelangelo spent 18 hours a day working on the Sistine Chapel and it took him 4 years to complete – the ceiling. So, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week over 4 years adds up to 26,208 hours of work. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claimed that anyone can be an expert in any field after 10,000 hours. Michelangelo said:
“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”
It’s worth noting that Michelangelo painted the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while lying on his back … for 18 hours a day … he often slept on the same scaffolding he was working on. When Michelangelo finished the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel he started on the walls,, which took another 3-4 years to complete.
Ecommerce Entrepreneurs like Boohoo.com, founded in 2006, is a modern day comparison. Reminiscing on the move to e-commerce, Adam Kamani said: “I think my Dad realised that online was becoming more of a thing and if someone else could do it then so could we, and we could do it better. .” (Manchester Evening News, 2018)
Kamani noted that “The word losing isn’t in my Dad’s vocabulary. He had a tough upbringing in terms of having to work hard and sleep in the van and travelling to various cities through the night. He really had to work his backside off but that is what has made him the businessman he is today - he’s been through those hard times.” (Manchester Evening News, 2018)
Historians have well documented that Michelangelo was very competitive with other artists. Remember the Raphael scenario above?
To demonstrate this lets’ analyse his work on David. When other artists considered the David project, many opted-out, believing the piece of Marble chosen was not good enough; Not Michelangelo. No, he took on the project.
Up until this point in time, David was depicted as a boy, small and clothed. Michelangelo had vision and separated himself from his competitors. He created David as Man, 17 foot tall and naked!
Ecommerce Entrepreneurs have the same competitive streak as Michelangelo. Some are even ex-athletes, and like Michelangelo they have a tendency to push boundaries.
In 1990, two weeks after his mother died, Buster Douglas shocked the world by beating Mike Tyson. At 42-to-1 he was the underdog but KO’d Tyson in the tenth round — the first time Tyson ever went down. Douglas became the highest paid athlete that year. He wrote Buster’s Backyard Bar-B-Q and the Knockout Diabetes Diet, featured on Oprah, Martha Stewart, Fox and ESPN. His brand has since branched out Foreman-style, adding cookware, producing a new line of barbecue products.
Closer to home, Ireland’s Derval O’Rourke (Former World Indoor Champion and European Medalist) said that “My life as a professional athlete gave me the idea to write a healthy cookbook called “Food For the Fast Lane”, this book became a number one bestseller”. From the outside looking in it seems that this was one of Dervals’ Michelangelo moments. In her Blog Derval offers great tips for fit-foodies with an Ecommerce subscription for healthy living.
“Empower yourself to Run your life”
- Derval O’Rourke
7) Self Starter
This trait is easy to demonstrate through numerous examples online, but difficult to execute. Think of this – For 4 years Michelangelo awoke to spend 18 hours a day on his back painting the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The CEO of Autofulfil, Andy Byrne, is a modern day example of a Self-Starter. In 2008 Andy went bust, losing an incredibly viable property development business in London to creditors due to cashflow challenges. In 2009 Andy picked himself up and set about creating new ventures in E-commerce and Fulfilment services - Michelangelo moments!
I had the opportunity to interview Andy for a Thesis back in 2014, above all the following quote resonated with what it means to be an Entrepreneur:
“It was never about the money for me. While my personal 'net worth' was probably around the 10m (GBP) mark at one point, I didn't even own car and lived in rented accommodation.”
- Andy Byrne, 2014
Ayn Rand said:
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”
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