The Confession of Michelangelo has all of us on the hook for our own greatness. Here are 4 steps to help you follow in his footsteps in your craft of becoming extraordinary.

Video Transcript

Hi, James here and I wanted to make you a quick video. In fact, I’m not too far from my house but I wanted to show you something most locals who live around here have never actually seen. I didn’t even know if was here until a few months ago and I’ve lived here for years. It’s hiding right behind this hedge, in a sense, it’s so big it’s hiding in plain sight. Let’s me show you because what I’m about to reveal to you has a very powerful lesson behind it and here it is. It’s Michelangelo’s statute, “David.” Well not quite but it is one of two in the world… exact replicas. And what makes it so cool, besides it’s an exact replica, it’s carved from one block or Carrara marble that is from the same quarry that Michelangelo carved his famous statue, “David,” back in the 1500’s. And this one was actually made for the World’s Fair in New York back in 1964 by the world famous Sollazzini & Sons Studio

Now I can’t show you the whole statue because well, after all it’s a 17 foot statue of a naked man and everything is built to scale. And I don’t want this video flagged as not safe for work, but Michelangelo, who sculpted the original when he was in his early 20’s, went on to become one of the most famous artists in the world and millions of people every year still are drawn to view his work in places like the Sistine Chapel.
But Michelangelo said something that was so profound and we need to hear it. And it’s one of my favorite quotes. In fact, what he said was… “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”

This is incredible. He’s telling us that he had to work so hard to create what he created that if people knew actually how hard it would take all the mystique… all the mystery out of what everyone perceived was just his natural talent.

But is it just hard work that makes someone a master? Is it just a matter of putting in the hours? You’ve all heard of the “10,000 Hours Rule.”
Well turns out, its more than that. And when you get what I’m about to tell you, you can experience some incredible growth in your life that is going to lead to much more success in whatever domain that you’re in. But when you don’t do what I’m about to tell you, you are selling yourself short of your true potential and there’s no way I’m going to let that happen.

Anders Ericsson who is the world’s expert on the science of peak performance in his new book “Peak,” again makes the case that any of us can improve at most things but we do but we have to engage in what he calls, deliberate practice.

So what is that? Well it involves multiple things but let me give you what I think are the three main ideas.

First of all, It means getting clear on what activities and skills actually lead to your success. In other words, you can’t be an expert at everything. Michelangelo isn’t known for his equestrian skills or his archery, but his art. Did he do other things, I’m sure, but when he poured himself into his craft… that’s where he lit up the world.

You have to get clear so you know where to direct your valuable energy.

Secondly, it’s setting goals to improve in these few key areas, but these goals have to challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone. No one ever became a master of anything without some kind of struggle. We generally don’t like this, but challenging goals ensures that we have to put in maximal effort to succeed and that’s what it takes. Also when our goals are challenging, we’ll often fail, forcing us to think creatively about finding other ways to do it. And that’s actually a good thing.

And Thirdly, there has to be some form of feedback. Whether that’s reviewing your performance yourself or, better still, having an outside perspective like a coach, or mentor, or a co-worker who can comment on your progress. And this is important so you can make adjustments and course correct.

So now that I’ve outlined the basics, it’s your turn. And if you’re watching this with your team, and I hope that you are, I want you to do this together because I think it will make for a great team discussion.

So step 1, identify your craft. I know a lot of us have many different things we need to do but there are only a few things that bring about 80% of your success. What are those things? For example, If you’re in sales, it’s probably something to do with sales or sales presentations or closing. If you’re a CEO it might building an inspiring work culture. Or you’re a manager and you need to master how to build a great team… that is going to be the key to your success. This is often the hardest part for us, it’s just narrowing down into the few things we need to master in order to ensure our success.

Then once you have that, you move on to step #2. In step #2 I want you to take your craft and break it down into micro skills. For example, if someone paints portraits they need to know how to do skin tone, paint eyes, hair, texture, lips, etc. And each one of those has specific techniques that are going to help them become a master.

If you’re a speaker like me, then there’s so many different elements to master. There’s openings, connection with the crowd, use of space on stage, body language, vocal pitch, intonations of words, and then there’s the world of storytelling, I mean the list goes on. But it shows you can always get better at something.

So I think you get the point… but take your craft, break it into chunks of these micro skills. This is going to give you a good sized list and these are the skills that you want to start practicing deliberately.

And this brings us to step #3 which is to set some goals each week to deliberately practice. For example, this week I am meeting with a bunch of store managers for a national chain, to train them in leadership. But I’m not going to simply show up and deliver the training that I’ve done 100 times before. It’s also a chance for me to work on my craft so I have a couple of areas that I’m going to push my own boundaries on. This is the key, to push yourself out of your own comfort zone in order to improve.

And finally, step #4 is to engage in some form of feedback. Whether it’s your own evaluation or, better yet, having outside eyes who can weigh in on your performance. You see, the feedback is not a pass or fail, but rather feedback. It’s information to help make course corrections you need to. And this is the cycle you keep repeating.
So to help you do this I’ve actually made you a hand out, a worksheet, that you can use to identify your craft and break it down into micro skills which you then set out to deliberately practice. You will find that handout right below this video, and if you don’t because your viewing this a different website, then head on over to

So in closing, what you will find when you devote yourself to the mastery of your craft it is actually a time where it lights your fire, especially as you see how your own growth begins to impact others.

As Michelangelo said…”If people knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”

So remember… pursue mastery, pursue mastery in your craft because those who do become masters… and masters produce masterpieces.

James Robbins
James Robbins helps busy leaders increase the motivation and engagement of their staff. For more information visit