First 30 Days Blog

25 apr

What Is in Your Block of Stone?

JayForteMichelangelo Buonarroti is famous for the extraordinary sculptures of The David and Pietà. And despite the magnificence of these works, his best works, though less well known, are four statutes called The Slaves. Not only do they showcase his exceptional ability but they demonstrate what he believed the role of the sculptor to be. Michelangelo is reported to have said the sculptor does not create. Rather, the sculptor studies and learns about the stone to determine what is in it that needs to be released. The Slaves are male torsos struggling to be released from their block of marble – not created, released.

I believe the same about life. We are each a unique and very specific combination of talents, passions and strengths; they are already present in us. Our role in life is to learn about and know ourselves to build our best life and to share these with our world.

We have been divinely created to be something exceptional, though the full explanation of this is not readily apparent. But part of the plan requires that we spend time getting to know ourselves, our block of stone, to know what we have been given. The more we learn about our passions, talents and strengths, the more we can play to these, create a life that is happier and more authentic, and bring our best to share with the world.

Would you agree that the world is better because of the Michelangelo’s work? He in fact, looked into himself, understood his block of stone, and allowed what was inside to be released. And from this, we have the gifts of his sculpture and painting.

As a student in college I studied in Florence, Italy. I remember the emotion on the faces, the tears and the awestruck silence as I watched person after person approach the statue of The David in the Galleria dell’Acccademia (museum). I spent time with cousins in Rome and found the same event as people stood for hours in front of the Pietà at St Peter’s Basilica. People were moved by his work. They saw a glimpse of the divine in his sculptures; his work expanded their worlds.

Our gifts are of equal significance. Our gifts, when released from our stone, can impact our world in a significant way.

What should be released from your stone? Consider these ways to better understand what is in your stone – your unique talents, passions and strengths:

  1. Select 5 people who know you well (from work or life). Ask each to identify 3 things you are good at. Keep a list and see which items repeat.
  2. When you feel capable and confident, what are you doing?
  3. If you could spend all day doing something (and never look at the time), what would it be?
  4. When you feel excited, fired up and energized, what are you doing?

Your gifts will generally be obvious in what you are good at and what you love to do. When you know these, you can start to release your best to the world.

Michelangelo is an inspiration for two reasons. His perspective teaches us that we must know ourselves to know our gifts (talents, passions and strengths) – what is in our stone. Once known, we must then release what we find in our stone to the world. This allows us to sculpt our masterpiece – ourselves. It is a masterpiece because we use our gifts to be our best, then bring this best to expand our world.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, and the on-line resources, Stand Out and Get Hired, and The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual. He has just completed his new book, The End of Average; Know Yourself, Find Your Fit and Transform Your World; chapter downloads will soon be available on his website. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to live fired up! More information at

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Posted by Jay Forte on April 25th, 2010 in Career, General, Global/Social Change, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Spirituality, Things We Love | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

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  • This article moved me so much that it brought me to tears. Being close to retirement (40 yrs w/NYS), I realize that I have not released what I am good at. I’ve let life consume me and don’t pursue hobbies or passions. The one passion that I would like to pursue after retiring is advocating for people. After advocating for our 8 yr old Son, who I discovered could not read because he was dyslexic but is now a very successful journalist at the age of 24, and for our other Son, who had special needs and is still on his journey to find his strengths and passion, I know that helping others makes me feel the most fulfilled. This journey for us, I believe, does not end but continues throughout our life. Thank you for reminding me what is necessary to release my gifts from “my” block of stone……Crystal

    — Added by MaryPoppins on April 26th, 2010
  • Crystal,
    Thanks for your inspiring comment. I agree that it takes a lifetime to see and fully release our best. There are times I wish we came with an owner’s manual that fully identified our gifts – so we could get right to them. But I don’t think that is the intent. We are meant to meander our way through their discovery. This gives us time and practice with them. We then see them in a more significant way.

    So I hope you find a way to reconnect to your passion for advocacy. We need it.

    Be well. Be great. Be happy.

    — Added by Jay Forte on May 1st, 2010

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