Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance. —Horace
I make no apologies for holding a degree in Italian art history. No, I didn’t major in business or journalism, the fields that would become my specialties. For several jobless years after graduating, I was marked with the scarlet letter A (for art history). But, still, I hold that choice dear.
Art is a good teacher. Its lessons are not solely of the canvas. I learned about history and culture, money, religion and philosophy, war, documentation, experimentation and creativity. I learned the business of politics. I can also identify obscure artworks in strange places. (Don’t discount how handy this is for trivia games.)
Above all, this education shed light on the importance of a renaissance—a rebirth of ideas and a celebration of new ways of seeing the world. I have no regrets. On paper, my degree is in art history; but to me, my expertise is in critical thought.
Renaissances are still happening. Take you, for example—as an entrepreneur, you are leading a rebirth in business that can affect the economy (local or beyond), society and perhaps even politics or science. Whoa! Entrepreneurs are shepherds of renaissance. You create the change.
With this responsibility comes a curious set of challenges. Foremost is staying relevant, not just over a few years, but over epochs. When you think about it, the ideas and innovations that were embraced in the Italian Renaissance are still relevant today, right at this very moment. The rise of banking, democracy and business; the study of space and the natural world; one-point perspective—all have made lasting impressions.
Relevance is something everyone considers over the course of a lifetime and a business cycle. If you haven’t, you will. It’s a topic I take very personally as I stand before you, not only a withering art historian but the editor of a print magazine. This is not news, but the medium in which I work is in the midst of tremendous change, as attention spans shrink and binary publishing proves a more lucrative business model.
But that’s where the idea of long-lasting influence comes in. There is no “delete” button on a magazine, and that’s a beautiful thing. The words we write are forever entombed in this magical medium delivered on paper that can be ripped from its binding. And I know that as long as our words can have an impact on someone’s day or life or business, we are relevant.
Just like you and your business. If you can affect someone’s life with your product, service or message (while making money), you have meaning. Package that with the knowledge of what you stand for, and you are relevant.
For me, it’s simply about doing what I love. It’s the fire in my belly. But you already know that. Plus, if you’re reading this, you’re helping to keep us relevant!
The May issue is all about that. Our own Jason Ankeny looks into the influential—and very young—face of a new leader in Silicon Valley who will no doubt have a lasting impact on the venture capital landscape. We turn to academics (sorry, no art history) in Michelle Goodman’s excellent piece on the topic of business-school BS. Are MBAs still relevant for would-be entrepreneurs?
You are responsible for your own relevance. If you fail, that failure is yours. But if you succeed, your influence can last for decades or more.
So go do epic shit, like Leonardo and Galileo before you. Make a lasting impression.