Message from the Morning Man: The Bad Artist

Dante Gabriel Rosetti was a famous 19th century English poet and artist, The story is told of an elderly man who once walked up to him, declared his desire to take up painting, and asked if the great artist would look over some of his work and give him feedback.

Dante glanced through some examples of the elderly amateur’s work and concluded that they were quite worthless, but, being a kind-hearted man, he didn’t want to totally crush the poor old guy’s spirit, so he said, “I’m afraid these won’t fetch much in the current market”.

To his surprise, the old man rummaged in his portfolio and brought out a few more sketches for Dante’s consideration. Immediately, the famed artist was intrigued. There was so much promise in this work. “Now these are good”, he proclaimed. With a little encouragement, this artist can be one of the greats. Who is he? I must meet him at once”.

The old man smiled, shook his head and said, “I did those too, Dante. I did them when I was your age”.

Dante was utterly confused. He looked from the old work to the new, and could see no relation whatsoever. “But… what happened to you?”

The old man looked up with tears in his eyes and said. “Nothing happened. I stopped pursuing my dream because I had nobody to encourage me, and by the time I found my own courage, my desire had outlived my ability”.

My friends, there’s something so tragic about wasted talent. To live your entire life without ever achieving your potential is perhaps the most tragic thing a human can have the fortune of experiencing. You see, when we are born, we come into this world with certain in-built resources, talents, skills and potentials. Different people come with different quantities of these. But once we get here, we all have exactly 24 hours per day with which we must execute our mandate here on earth.

In 2007, I woke up from a coma to find that I couldn’t move my arms or legs. Months of non-use had caused my muscles to atrophy, and I had to teach them all over again how to understand the signals my brain was sending to them. Talent is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. By the same token, if you stop using it, your talent will atrophy and become useless – just like an unused muscle.

Now, if someone gave you money each day for food – GHC100 on the first day, 99 on the next, 98 the day after that, in diminishing quantities, you would obviously buy the most food on the days you had the most money, wouldn’t you? And you’d probably stock up on some non-perishables while you’re at it, wouldn’t you? That’s how life is.

When you’re young, you’re full of the energy and drive to do more. Well, beyond a certain point, that energy diminishes every day until you die, so it’s while you have loads of vim that you must do loads of things. Sleep is nice, but while you’re young and don’t need much of it, trade it for productivity. That way, as you grow, you can sleep more each year, until you die.

We each have a mission here in life, my people. That mission is to be achieved with the talent and potential placed in you. Every day, every hour, every minute you spend not pursuing the fulfilment of your potential is a minute spent deviating from your life’s journey. While we’re young, let’s do more, because, once we’re older, we will have lots of ideas, but less energy to pursue them. Our energy diminishes every day. Let’s act accordingly and make hay while the sun shines.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I pray my desire doesn’t outlive my ability.