Sarah Lewis: The phenomenon of the near win.

Posted by on May 6, 2014

 “We thrive when we stay at our

own leading edge.”

Art historian Sarah Lewis was surprised while working at the Museum of Modern Art, to discover the regular discrepancy between an artist’s view of much of their work and the way it was perceived by the public.
 “How many times have we designated something a classic – a masterpiece even, while its creator considers it hopelessly unfinished, riddled with difficulties and flaws.”

These contrasting views of success inspired her to explore what motivates people to work towards mastery in their pursuits, and how they evaluate their progress. Cezanne, she reminds us, “so often felt  that his works were incomplete that he would leave them aside with the intention of picking then back up again, but at the end of his life, the result was that he had only signed ten percent of his paintings”. 

Franz Kafka was so critical of his work that he wanted all his notes, diaries and sketches burned upon his death.

“Mastery is not just the same as excellence though. It’s not the same as success which I see as an event, a moment in time and a label that the world confers upon you. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal but to a constant pursuit…”

Sarah Lewis’s book “The Rise” was published earlier this year.

“It is one of the enduring enigmas of the human experience: many of our most iconic, creative endeavors—from NobelPrize-winning discoveries to entrepreneurial inventions and works in the arts—are not achievements, but conversions, corrections after failed attempts.

The gift of failure is a riddle. Like the number zero, it will always be both the void and the start of infinite possibility. The Rise—part investigation into a psychological mystery, part an argument about creativity and art, and part a soulful celebration of the determination and courage of the human spirit—makes the case that many of our greatest achievements come from understanding the importance of this mystery. “

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