Be audacious to reenergize

by | Jun 7, 2015 | Blog | 1 comment

Churchill bookThink you’re too busy with work and personal obligations to spend time on hobbies?

Think again.

A pastime you enjoy could be just what you and–your brain–crave to feel good, feed your soul and contribute to your performance.

That’s what Sir Winston Churchill, the preeminent statesman of the 20th century, discovered 100 years ago when he picked up a paintbrush at the “old age of 40.”

In this engrossing 1932 essay, Painting as a Pastime, which I read after recently seeing an exhibit of his oil paintings, the statesman/author/amateur painter describes the joy—and value of—painting to his psyche.

Churchill, a self-taught artist, could completely distract himself from the stress and strain of his political life and his increasing concerns about fascism when he picked up his paintbrush. The change from his regular “brain work” was such an extreme contrast that it gave him real relief.

When he squeezed paint out a tube and slapped it on the canvas, the canvas didn’t fight back. Nor did anything or anyone else engage him in battle.

And by being audacious— that is, by making bold strokes without fearing criticism that he wasn’t yet an artist creating a masterpiece—Churchill was able to enjoy himself more.

Soon he discovered that every time he went for a “joyride in a paint-box,” he could divert his mind from the pressures of war, politics and other turmoil. He would return to work refreshed with his “psychic equilibrium” restored.

Churchill’s new hobby provided him more profound benefits too that influenced his philosophy and approach to leadership.

As he traveled with his paint-box supplies around Europe, painted landscapes and practiced sharpening his painter’s eye and focus, his evolution as an artist gave him greater insights into the art of leadership.

In this essay about painting, Churchill wrote that his hobby taught him about the power of audacity as well as humility and foresight and the advantages of a keen memory. These skills helped him improve his painting as well as make better strategic decisions.

The traveling exhibit The Art of Diplomacy: Winston Churchill and the Pursuit of Painting, which features about 30 of his oil landscapes, also suggests that Churchill’s painting may have helped save Western civilization. As he painted, he also developed his thinking about the rising dangers of Hitler and Germany.

Churchill himself was too humble to make such a claim.

However, after viewing his 30 oil paintings on display and reading his essay, I was fascinated about the impact this hobby had on Churchill both personally and professionally.

His essay also was striking in its contemporary attitude—at least from the neuroscientists’ perspectives—about the health benefits of pursuing enjoyable diversions to refresh, reengage and reenergize the mind.

Churchill was the ultimate “brain worker” (his term in his essay). On this own, he discovered the value of making an effort to “introduce change and contrast to divert his mind” to relieve stress. For him, working with his hands and eyes as a painter provided the greatest relief and enjoyment.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death. In honor of this amazing individual whose influence is still felt today, we knowledge/brain workers should be more like him and take time to enjoy diversions.

Do you have an audacious hobby that you’re pursuing that reenergizes you?

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