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Lessons From History’s Most Persistent Loser – Vincent Van Gogh

Lessons From History’s Most Persistent Loser – Vincent Van Gogh

He was mentally ill; tried to live off just coffee, smoke and alcohol; almost never slept; and was regarded as a total failure for selling only one of his paintings while he was alive.

But Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh refused to back down, going on to create hundreds of paintings, each worth millions today. This is why his learnings matter.


His relentless persistence, in the face of his personal demons, has lessons for us all.

In spite of everything, I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.

Often, when we don’t get the applause we seek from our passion, we quickly become discouraged and give up. We even resent our talent, believing that nobody sees it except us. But give things time. Quality always wins in the end.

Loving Things

Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much, performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done is done well.

It is said that van Gogh was able to overcome his depression – if only briefly – by exercising his love of painting. Doing what we love puts us in the right place. The love spreads to the point where all of life appears good.

Not Giving Into Dejection

If you hear a voice within you say ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Our mind fears embarrassment, so rather than try something we want to do, we back off. Van Gogh was a tortured soul, far more than most people. Despite his insecurities, he painted – and the more he painted, the better he felt. The lesson here: do it for yourself. Worry not what others think. It is YOU who must be pleased.

Be Brave

What would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?

Our lives consist of accomplishments made possible only because we had the courage to step out of our comfort zone. If you want to start a business, learn new skills or meet new people – go out and do it. Know this: You will always be able to adjust and refine as your adventure unfolds.

Vincent van Gogh was largely ignored by art critics when alive – viewed as a troubled loner. It was only after he committed suicide in 1890 that people began to see the genius in his work. The amazing thing about van Gogh: Despite a tough life of poverty and illness, he was able to produce over 2,000 pieces of artwork, including almost 900 paintings.

Never give up on your passion. Hold on to it dearly. For it gives life meaning.

Vincent van Gogh loved painting nature but was most proud of his portraits – including those of himself. In fact, van Gogh painted himself many times, careful to hide his mutilated ear, which he had cut off and given to a prostitute. He went so far as to paint himself with his bandaged ear.

[This post by Cory Galbraith first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.


Cory Galbraith is the President of Galbraith Communications, an international IT company specializing in online streaming.

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