In 1401, the Arte di Calimala in Florence held a competition for an artist to design the doors for the Florence Baptistry. These enormous bronze doors would celebrate, through biblical passages, the sparing of Florence by the recent Black Death plague in 1348. Seven sculptors, including Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, were given one year to come up with their version of the "Sacrifice of Isaac." These two artists were then selected as the finalists. Though Ghiberti was young and not as experienced as Brunelleschi, he gave an enormous effort and created a more simplistic, yet powerful composition. Brunelleschi on the other hand, chose a more busy and ambitious composition. The end result was that both artists were selected by the judging panel, each being offered a set of doors to complete.
For each artist this entailed over 20 years of work. Ghiberti remained silent and grateful for the win, Brunelleschi, on the other hand argued that if he did not receive both sides of the Baptistry he didn't want either. Ghiberti, in the end, received both commissions, sculpts the doors for over 40 years, goes onto fame and even receives great commissions from the Pope.
Sounds familiar, right? 600 years later we see the same thing going on competing against each other in this profession. So much talent and so few awards to give out. What I'd like to focus on here is the mentality of competition and how it affects the artist.
For many of us, comptetion can be devestating when it doesn't turn out in our favor. Over the years I've watched so many of my colleagues quit and move on to a "real" job because of the psychological effects of defeat. What you have to understand is that most of what you feel is fear. Fear derived from doubt, worry and a poor self-esteem can and will destroy us if we let it. That being said, we have NOTHING to fear when we lose. It has no bearing on our talent, how good we are, or if we are allowed to join the ranks of the "successful." If you fail to win a competition, you have to redirect your efforts and move on. Do not let fear tell you that it means anything more than something circumstantial. Worst of all, do not think that just because you haven't won something, that you aren't the best. If I had a nickle for every contests and portfolio submissions I sent out over the years I would be a very rich man.
So what ever happened to Brunelleschi? Well, he left Florence and along with Donatello he went to Rome to study. He emerges years later as an architect and goes onto accomplish one of the greatest feats of the Renaissance - the Dome on the Cathedral of Florence. Why is this so important? If Brunelleschi had allowed disappointment and fear to set in he may have crawled into a corner for the rest of his career and allowed Ghiberti to be the best. Instead, he returns to Florence and beats Ghiberti in a second competition. A true art world rematch! In the end, what is Florence known for? When looked at from afar, what do you see? The Dome. Brunelleschi lost the greatest competition of his lifetime but 20 years later, his art becomes the face of Florence.
We will all experience some failure in our lives. If you want to feel good in lieu of defeat, keep a positive mindset - always. Never let a setback take you away from all you believe is coming to you. Many times what may seem to be a setback is actually setting you up for the next big thing. Never let fear or doubt destroy your career. Stay on the path and expect something greater.