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“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”
–Leonardo da Vinci
There are only a small number of people who can claim to be the best in their field. The world is not overflowing with virtuosos, experts, and masters in any area of human endeavor. There are probably just as few people who have mastered their talents or become the best possible versions of themselves. It may be an impossible feat, requiring constant effort and a clear understanding of oneself, but it is something to strive for nonetheless.
Leonardo da Vinci’s quote interests me because he was a true master of so many subjects — art, science, mathematics — and one of history’s most innovative thinkers, the original Renaissance man. In these few words, he makes the bold assertion that what is truly important is being the best at being you and understanding yourself. This concept, while simple, is important to understand in the context of defining success in our lives.
Competition and winning is essential to many parts of our lives and a core tenet of our American way of life. I have learned that competition pushes me to always try to improve myself. Since elementary school, I have been taught to be competitive in all of my sports and academics, always striving to be the best. In middle school, however, I started competitive year-round swimming and began to realize that there was no way I could become the “best” swimmer. I could practice for hours and still not win the race. At first this was extremely frustrating to me. However, I began to appreciate that while I was not winning races, I was improving. Swim meets became a competition against myself, a gauge of my own improvement. It was no longer a race against other people. Bettering myself and improving my skills became more gratifying to me than beating the other swimmers.
After years of swimming, I began to shift my passion toward art. I started spending my hours in art classes and drawing with an even stronger fervor than I’d ever had for swimming. I know I may not be the best artist, but that doesn’t discourage me. I want to be the best artist I can be, creating art that will push my boundaries and improve my skills and creativity.
Through trial and error, learning about my talents is what makes me the happiest, and over time I’ve come to the conclusion that Leonardo had it right: mastering one’s self is the greatest way to achieve self-fulfillment. I plan to use the tools I glean from my time at Drake to help me find and understand myself more clearly, allowing me to become the most creative artist, intellectual student, and analytical thinker that I can be. I am still nowhere near mastering myself, but I am on the path, and I look forward to the rest of my journey.
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