The Image

Michelangelo once went at night to look at the near finished sculpture of a friend. As he examined it, he watched the man fiddle with the window for favorable light. Michelangelo stopped him and said “Don’t trouble yourself, the important thing will be the light of the Piazza.” Meaning that the public decides whether the work is good or bad. His posturing in the shop late at night was irrelevant.

I was thinking about how often we go around trying to just that. Have you ever heard someone describe themselves as eccentric? Or some community college professor put “philosopher” after his name? People like to revel in the status of titles that are inherently not theirs to give.

But it’s all just masturbation. In other words, they’re living in unreality. I’m not saying that someone else gets to decide if you’re a writer or not, but maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t call yourself a “social media expert” unless you get a paycheck with those words on it.

Here’s the thing: the delusion is your loss. Self-fulfilling prophecies are a joke. Giving yourself credit for something in advance does the opposite of encouraging growth, it breeds atrophy. And foolishness. And arrogance. And everything but the thing you want so badly to happen; that is, for people to respect you on your merits.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.