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If you ask anyone you encounter to name one of the 10 greatest artists of all time, inevitably they will name Rembrandt.
What is amazing about that is that next year we will be marking the 350th anniversary of the Dutch artist’s death.
Talk about a brand that has lasting power!
There isn’t a marketing agency on the planet Earth today that could promise you that kind of performance for your marketing dollar.
Three and a half centuries of top of mind name recognition aside, what can Rembrandt teach all small business about keeping our names alive in an increasingly crowded popular culture?
What was his formula for success and how did he make it work for him? What can we emulate to build such a powerful brand ourselves?
Success Secret #1. Do what you know and perfect it
Rembrandt was a continual learner in his field, and it is his passion to uncover his own areas of weakness that gave him such strength.
“Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.”
It is surprising that as gifted as he was, he continued to practice and seek out what he was not as good at. Too often today we are told to simply do what we are good at doing, without understanding that by practice, we also learn what we are not so good at.
Success Secret #2: Let your talent be your guide
As soon as you hang up your professional practice shingle, there are people advising you what you should and should not be doing.
Rembrandt taught us that we need to let our own talent be the ultimate guide for our products and creations.
He wrote to those who hounded him to do something different:
“Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can’t do it. I just can’t do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy.”
You cannot please everyone. You can try, but you will not succeed. Do what you do best and stick with it.
Success Secret #3: Practice until it looks easy
Professionalism is intriguing and intoxicating in its own way. People cannot help but be impressed when they see a person so accomplished that they can perform difficult tasks and make them appear easy.
Rembrandt understood that and explained how difficult it was to make the movement look like it flowed easily through his work. He wrote:
“For in these two paintings the greatest and most natural movement has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.”
If you want to impress, sweat over what you do so long that you can finally achieve an artful state where it appears easy.
Success Secret #4: Build an enticing customer experience
Remember that people have to feel an emotional connection to you and your work if you are to fully engage the customer experience and turn your buyers into your ambassadors.
As Rembrandt knew: “Without atmosphere, a painting is nothing.”
He knew his pictures had to be more than well done and beautiful. They also had to have an atmosphere, a way of drawing on the observer’s emotions and pulling them into the narrative on canvas.
Success Secret #5: Practice your own quality control
Don’t release your work until you feel it is the best that you can provide. As Rembrandt once declared:
“A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.”
We must be mindful that we know when our work is complete, and not be encouraged to produce something that is almost good enough, but not the best of what we have to offer.
Success Secret #6: Stay true to your purpose
Know the point of what you are doing and what success in reaching your goal looks like. If people want to mislead you and lead you down a different track that mistakes your product or idea for something it is not intended to be, stand up to protect the integrity of what you are producing.
Again, to quote Rembrandt: “A painting is not made to be sniffed.”
He knew what his work was supposed to do and what kind of reaction should not be encouraged.
Success Secret #7: Share the knowledge you accrue
Knowledge that is not shared is a stagnant pool that does not sustain life or serve as an environment for growth and change.
When your hard work teaches you important lessons, share those with others, such as those you mentor or those who are part of your team.
Few people are aware that although Rembrandt was an amazing artist and producer of art in his own right, for 20 of his most productive years he also taught many important Dutch painters and was a major force for art education in his time.
Success Secret #8: Stay up on the latest technology
Every age has its own version of “high tech.” Although we live in the digital age, it would be egotistical to assume that we have cornered the market on technical change in a generation.
Besides the creation of amazing, lasting masterpieces, another of Rembrandt’s contributions was to the history of printmaking. He transformed the etching process from a relatively new reproductive technique into a true art form, along with Jacques Callot.
Rembrandt’s reputation as the greatest etcher in the history of the medium was firmly established in his lifetime and has never been questioned since.
Success Secret #9: Believe in your business
Rembrandt wasn’t just an artist and an etcher, but he was also an avid art collector and dealer.
At every level, he believed in the business that he dedicated his life to. He saw its value and he invested in it.
Success Secret #10: Continue to explore and try new things
Rembrandt did not simply find a niche in art and stay comfortably within it, as did most of the other Dutch artists of his time.
Instead, he constantly explored. His works show his constant forays into different styles and subject matter, from portraits and self-portraits to allegorical and historical scenes to landscapes, to genre scenes, to animal studies and Biblical and mythological themes.
He taught us that just because we might be extraordinarily proficient at one thing, we should not fall into a rut of doing it over and over.
His exploration kept him sharp and provided the means for him to constantly grow his range of talents.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, take good care.
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