I recently got back from an amazing summer vacation in Europe. While there, I indulged in visiting many art museums including the Uffizi Gallery, which has long been on my bucket list of places to go. Also on that list was the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which inspired me to write this post.
When I was younger, Van Gogh was my favourite artist. Being young and callow, I thought Van Gogh was the epitome of fine art and that having the IKEA-framed posters of his art in my room was oh-so-sophisticated decor. As I actually learned more about art and studied history, my perspective changed to "Van Gogh is so pedestrian" and I was embarrassed to admit otherwise. And now, it feels like I've come full circle. Being at the Van Gogh museum knowing about his life and the story behind his art led me to appreciate the vividness and beauty of his art anew. It wasn't just about his tragic story anymore, but about his passion for art, his method of learning how to paint and the personal growth in his craft. Perhaps there's also a level of maturity (hooray for growing older!) in that my enjoyment of the art doesn't come from some external desire to display knowledge or gain acceptance; it's just that I like it and I know why I like it.
Today, as I work with startups and listen in on pitch meetings, the companies and entrepreneurs that stand out for me the most are the ones that have absorbed this particular feeling. Just because something is popular, it doesn't mean that it's pedestrian. And just because something is unusual, it doesn't mean that it's great. For me, what it really comes down to is whether the founder is somebody who has a deep appreciation of the space in which she or he works, consciously and methodically improves in the craft and demonstrates that growth in the product.