Painting Numbers

I met Lorenzo Lotto at the Villa Borghese recently. As I heard his sad tale, I found myself thinking about contemporaries of mine who are headed down his path.

In case you don’t remember Mr. Lotto, let me give you a thumbnail sketch of his story. Born in Renaissance Venice, he became known in some circles as an exceptionally gifted painter. Some say that Lotto could have risen to the highest ranks of Italian artists but for one fatal flaw: he lacked the skills and disposition necessary to win commissions.  Unlike his more successful competitors, he had difficulty cultivating and keeping patrons. Consequently, he was unable to make a living creating the great art promised by his talent. In fact, at the low point of his career he was reduced to painting numbers on hospital beds in order to make ends meet.

Some deride people skills as soft touchy-feely tricks that have no place in the rough and tumble of the business world. While you are entitled to your opinion, consider the fact that as long as we have to deal with humans at work, the person with superior people skills will always have an advantage. Even if you are an “lone ranger” when it comes to your work, consider the many times you need the assistance or support of others. Recruiting others and keeping them on side requires people skills and good management. These are tough to master — there’s nothing soft about them.

Of course, you can ignore this and continue in splendid isolation. Just be sure you don’t mind spending your time painting numbers on beds.

[Photo Credit:  Self-Portrait by Lorenzo Lotto]

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