The Danger of Setting Your Aim Too Low

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark…” — Michelangelo

“Without a doubt there are not many of us with the natural gifts, talent, and skills of Michelangelo. His contribution to the world of art, architecture, and the sciences has left a profound impact on the world, even to this day. Few have even come close to matching his contributions to the furthering of the arts and sciences. His works of art: the paintings, sculptures, and drawings were extraordinary even in today’s standards. His architectural design abilities were amazing. Surely, during these many hundreds of years there are others that have been born with at least as much talent if not more yet, they have not achieved as much. Why is it, his life has had such an impact while others have not?…”

The obvious first thought is it was simply due to his natural abilities and gifts. On the other hand many are born just as gifted yet, never do much more than to feed their face, let alone achieve anything of significance. There is always an excuse as to why it couldn’t or didn’t happen. There is always a reason they could not achieve such as an obstacle that blocked them from getting it done. Truth is, most see the obstacle and never start. To the contrary, Michelangelo encountered an overwhelming amount of obstacles during his long life. A majority of these obstacles would have taken down or stopped even the most dedicated yet he continued to produce works in many facets of the arts as well as made significant contributions to the sciences of architecture and medicine. The bottom line was in spite of the many obstacles he faced, he chose never to stop or quit trying. He did so by continually aiming higher and higher.

From the age of seven when his mother died he was sent to live with a stone cutter and his wife at a quarry his father owned. From that time on Michelangelo spent the rest of his childhood living from one place to the next and under the apprenticeship of either a painter or sculpture. During one of his apprenticeships he was struck on the nose by another trainee leaving his nose disfigured and very obvious as can be seen in all his portraits. But he was not one to whine choosing instead to respond correctly by working on himself instead of blaming others; this helped him to continue to move forward in life. It seems quite obvious he understood life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent your response. He knew his correct response would make the difference. He chose to be harder on himself than he was on others although he was very hard on any who choose to apprentice under him. One of the ways he was hard on himself was by choosing to live a life of simplicity rather than one of affluence (a fasted life if you will); even though born to parents that were fairly well to do for his time. In choosing to live his life in this manner it may have helped him to stay focused on dreaming as well as achieving his dreams; whereas, had he enjoyed a life of affluence, he might have gotten too caught up in the pleasure and missed out on further achievements.

The reason many may not be over achievers is a failure to recognize as well as understand the need of setting their aim as high as possible. That is because what happens to those who set their aim on an easy target is the resulting easy achievement. Those achieving easy targets fail to grow personally. Having achieved they believe there is no more to conquer. Because they have hit their target there is no more reason to dream. They become complacent and lazy due to the fact their drive to achieve is no longer a motivator because in their minds they have nothing more to accomplish. This is what Michelangelo was talking about when he said the danger for most lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving the mark. This is the issue that many of us face when we stop pushing ourselves to become more; to be more; to achieve and accomplish more. We become complacent no longer driven by our dreams and aspirations – for having hit the target there are no other targets at which to shoot.

Some of you may remember Sammy Davis Jr., who like Michelangelo was quite driven, becoming accomplished in many fields. What Michelangelo was to art and the sciences Sammy was to entertainment; he was the consummate entertainer: a dancer, singer, actor, comedian, impersonator, and after playing a part on, “The Rifleman,” he became highly skilled at the quick draw of a six gun as well as having the ability to do amazing tricks such as twirling the gun around his finger forward and backward, then tossing it up in the air only to grab it again placing it in the holster without a hitch. His ability to imitate the speaking and singing voices of famous people before and during his time was uncanny as was his gift to captivate a crowd; here he was second to none always driven by setting his aim higher than he thought possible to reach. He was always trying to do better and was never satisfied with status quo. He too faced overwhelming obstacles such as being raised in a severely dysfunctional family; starting in the entertainment business at three; losing his left eye in a car crash; dealing with the double standard of racism-for when he or other black entertainers performed in Las Vegas they were made to sleep in a rooming house on the west side of the city (and this happened all over America). It appears that Sammy also knew life is ten percent what happens and ninety percent your response. He used what happened to him to fuel himself to greater heights continuing to aim higher and higher.

Often we do not use what happens to us as fuel rather, we allow what happens to us to bring our ultimate defeat. We become fearful of setting too high of an aim. Why, because when we tried in the past we tried, but did not reach our target we became discouraged. With discouragement came the decision to lower of our aim, which would give us a better chance of hitting the target and remove the discouragement. What really happens is we stop trying. The key is to think like a child for a child never stops trying. They never stop dreaming. They focus on a hero and decide they are going to grow up and be like that hero. They dream of being the best at whatever it is they want to be. Somehow along the way this becomes a downtrodden and mislaid hope. How would this attitude have affected Michelangelo, Sammy Davis Jr. or even Thomas Edison? All of these faced major obstacles yet, in the face of each and every obstacle they continued to aim higher and higher. By aiming higher, by continuing to move forward, they enjoyed a life filled with accomplishment and achievement instead of fear and defeat.

What “insignificant” thing, can you or will you accomplish, by setting your aim too low? Yes, you may not face the discouragement of missing the target, but you will not live a life of fulfillment or achievement. Your life will be ordinary, not having touched those around you with the gifts that lay dormant inside. Aiming high will cause your gifts to come forth; it will cause your gifts to become skills wherewith you can touch the world and positively affect those around you. It is time to take aim – as high as you can – even higher than you thought possible…

Best of LUCK as you
Labor Under Correct Knowledge…


Rick Cox