An excerpt from the book by Jerome Wade, UNLEASHED: Dominate Your Limitations, Break Through Your Barriers, Live An Extraordinary Life

It isn’t until you’re walking down the main corridor of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy that you understand the magnitude of what stands before you.  At the end of the hall you see him, towering seventeen feet tall, sculpted from marble and finely crafted by the hand of Michelangelo.

Painted and photographed images cannot convey the greatness of this statue. It is only when you are at an arm’s length from it that you can truly grasp the majesty of this masterpiece. Standing at the feet of the statue of David is spellbinding. For a moment you get lost in its grandeur, its profound presence, its refined beauty, its shear greatness.

The work involved in a masterpiece of this magnitude is hard to comprehend. How did Michelangelo take such an enormous slab of marble to uncover the greatness within? How did he know where to place each tip of the chisel? How did he know the precise force to use as he released the energy of the hammer? How was he able to stay so focused on such meticulous and protracted work to create his David?

Michelangelo unleashed greatness on the world by fully leveraging everything he was, within and without, and then transferring that into his work. David was only one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces. There are many works of art that were created by his hands, each one demonstrating what one person can do when they unleash greatness on the world.

As you pass through the doors of the Gallerie dell’Accademia and enter the main hall where David stands, you first pass several unfinished sculptures. Each of these have their own story, but none of them is complete. They have been called “Michelangelo’s Prisoners.” They are unfinished, incomplete, rough and raw works, imprisoned in an unfinished state.  Although still far from completed, in their own right, they are still masterpieces.

My favorite “prisoner” is the one they call Atlas. In him you see strength, you see resolve, you see greatness waiting to be unleashed. What you also see in each of them, in a very real way, is the state of their confinement. They are held captive in stone. They are bound to only reflect a part of their true majesty and never to be fully realized. They stand in a perpetual state of waiting to be revealed and unleashed from their prison. Each one of them was intended to be as masterfully done as David. Each one of them was created to be a fine piece of art on display for the world. Each one of them was meant to be a completed work of art.

As I stood in the main hall, I couldn’t help but see myself in the “prisoners.” David was just a few meters away, standing majestically, towering in a glorious display of greatness. Each of the “prisoners” stood in the shadows of what could be. Each “prisoner” only reflected a small degree of his potential, bound to the disappointment of what could have been.

I found myself identifying with the “prisoners” much more than I could with David. David was the goal, the dream–the state of being fully present, fully aware, and fully complete.  He was the model of unleashed greatness. The “prisoners,” on the other hand, represent the vast majority of people today: good people who are bound and imprisoned by self-imposed limitations and waiting for the day when someone will take a hammer to chisel and complete the work.

“Take the chisel and hammer and do the work of creating a masterpiece of life.”

You may find yourself identifying with the “prisoners” as well. You too are a rough, raw, and incomplete work of art that is waiting to be great but not knowing how to get there. You are wanting to live fully and make your life count. You want to achieve the success you believe you were meant for, and you want to realize your potential but do not know how to break out of the stone cage that holds you. You too find yourself in suspended animation somewhere between the unfinished “prisoner” and the masterpiece David.

If this is you, you’re not alone. In fact, you stand in a very long line of people who know they were meant for more. If this is you, I’ve got great news: you can still unleash your greatness on the world. You are about to break free from the stone prison that has kept you at a distance from greatness.

Here is the important difference from the stone “prisoners” and you: they will only be released if someone finishes what the sculptor began. For the “prisoners” to be released someone must hold a chisel in their hand and put force to the hammer, whittling away everything that is keeping them from greatness. They are dependent on someone else’s work. You, on the other hand, cannot wait for someone else to take a hammer and chisel in hand and get to work. You must muster the courage to hold the chisel and then swing the hammer. You are only a “prisoner” because you have chosen to be one. Your greatness is in your hands, so unleash yourself on the world.

“Your greatness is in your hands, so unleash yourself on the world.” 

I have had a front row seat to witness the release of many “prisoners,” as I have helped people find the tools and courage to change the entire course of their lives. It is possible. I have seen many put chisel and hammer in their hands and begin to do the hard work of unleashing their greatness. There are a few key practices that I have discovered that will empower you to turn from your disadvantages and empower you to be unleashed. All of these practices are dependent on you taking the hammer and chisel in hand and committing to do the hard work.

For you to unleash your greatness on the world, more will be required of you than you have ever known. You have what it takes, you have the goods to become the person you were meant to become, but you must want it and want it with resolve.

“You have what it takes to live an extraordinarily great life.”

Let’s take inventory and think through where you find yourself right now. There will be a few of you who have found the inner strength and wherewithal to pick up the chisel and hammer, and you have been working diligently to free yourself from your limitations. It is a glorious day when you own the task and do the work of setting yourself free.

There are many others, quite probably most of you reading this, who are trapped in your own marble slab encasement, wanting things to be different but exhausted or despairing from trying to figure a way to a bigger, brighter, and better future, but to no avail.

The very first step is to identify what it is that holds you prisoner. When I say you must identify it, I am not saying that you simply acknowledge that you are trapped by limitations; you must get specific, call it out, give it a name or a label and be crystal clear about what it is. When you don’t know who your enemy is, you can’t fight an intelligent battle to defeat it.

Taken from the book by Jerome Wade, UNLEASHED: Dominate Your Limitations, Break Through Your Barriers, Live An Extraordinary Life