Making a Modern Medici

 

The Mighty Medici

The Renaissance was a time of great intellectual and artistic prosperity; many people were pulled out of the mud and darkness of the Middle Ages and shown a bright, shiny, new future – one of endless possibilities.

This movement didn’t happen on its own, however. The epicenter of the movement was Florence, Italy, and the governmental system there was quite peculiar compared to the rest of Europe. The social values and geographic location of Florence also played a role.

But the real push for the movement came from a small group of people who had vision, influence and the desire to see what could happen if those with talent were allowed to focus on what they do best.

They were a family called Medici, and they changed everything.

Family Jewels

The Medici were bankers who gained massive amounts of political and social influence in Florence during the 14th Century.

They used this leverage to make sure civic policies that favored the arts, science, philosophy and other areas of study that suffered in the Middle Ages could flourish.

They sponsored and hired great artists like Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Michelangelo and Donatello. Leonardo da Vinci was a big recipient of aid and sponsorship from the Medici family. Pretty much anyone you can think of from the Renaissance period (in Florence and after it spread) somehow benefited from their influence.

Damnably impressive people, really.

Keeping Up with the Medici

The Medici are a perfect example of the kind of people we need more of. Their later years (filling the Papacy, eventually ruining their good name by turning again the Jews, etc) notwithstanding, during their heyday they made massive amounts of positive change by using their natural abilities and the resources they had available to bring out the best in others.

There are people who do this today, and they are names you likely know.

Seth Godin is a perfect example; his six month Alternative MBA program takes promising young people and helps refine them into even better versions of themselves.

Y Combinator is a good example of a venture firm that takes risks on people with good ideas from the very beginning. Since they provide what’s call ‘seed funding,’ they provide money to companies like Wufoo before anyone else, taking a very small number of shares in return, allowing people with talent to shake what their mama gave them without selling the car for gas money.

Kiva is an organization that helps impoverished people with good ideas collect money to fund their endeavors using what’s called microfinancing: a little money is collected from dozens or hundreds of people and then combined to make their plans possible.

All three are modern-day Medici, utilizing what they have – marketing knowledge, connections, money, networks – to help others reach the next level, a level that they may never be able to reach on their own because of financial or social limitations.

Making Our Own Renaissance

This is the kind of person I strive to be someday. The more successful people we have in the world, the better off we all are.

If we had hundreds of Albert Einsteins, Simone de Beauvoirs, Leonardo ad Vincis, Ayn Rands, Mohandas Gandhis, Bill Gates, Maya Angelous and Walt Disneys, the world would be a much grander place.

I would hazard to say that the great dearth of capable people in positions of power is one of the most unnecessary and harmful realities of the modern world. A fortunate few are able to leverage their abilities into notoriety and really reach their full potential, but most will never be able to do so, instead scrounging for food to stay alive while working on a cure for cancer or writing the next great philosophical treatise.

So my challenge to you is simple: this year, do everything you can to help other people succeed. Push those you know with talent and provide what assistance you can. Continue to work on your own endeavors, of course, but really make an extra effort to give others a leg up as well.

I think you’ll notice a significant difference in your own life within this year, and that different will carry over to everyone as more and more people bring out their inner Medici.

38 comments

  1. “This is the kind of person I strive to be someday.” Me too, dude! I’ve always appreciated the poetic (romantic?) Renaissance period, and there’s a certain allure to being known as the “Renaissance man” type. A friend recently told me that I would have found great success living during the supportive times of the Renaissance, but I’m with you – there’s nothing stopping me, or any of us, from achieving similar greatness today. It just takes a backpack of enthusiasm, and the encouraging support of others, to achieve all that we desire. Great post.

    “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. “This is the kind of person I strive to be someday.” Me too, dude! I’ve always appreciated the poetic (romantic?) Renaissance period, and there’s a certain allure to being known as the “Renaissance man” type. A friend recently told me that I would have found great success living during the supportive times of the Renaissance, but I’m with you – there’s nothing stopping me, or any of us, from achieving similar greatness today. It just takes a backpack of enthusiasm, and the encouraging support of others, to achieve all that we desire. Great post.

    “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. Colin, awesome post man. Reminds me of something I read in 50th Law by Robert Greene(you gotta check it out) where Da Vinci was discussed.

    He actually had no formal education, and in a sense it was a blessing, because “he was freed from all the prejudices and rigid categories of thinking that prevailed at the time.” He didn’t get trapped or cornered into any one way of thinking, or specialization of one form of knowledge (aka career anyone?). He was open to all knowledge, and widened his field of study/observation. He gave himself many options by expanding his horizons.

    Essentially, Greene suggests, Da Vinci was the first real Renaissance man.

    This is just one aspect of what you covered, Colin. I firmly believe that by taking your advice: Working hard on your own endeavors and also assisting/collaborating with others (even if its a totally different/new field), will jumpstart you to your own Renaissance.

  4. Colin, awesome post man. Reminds me of something I read in 50th Law by Robert Greene(you gotta check it out) where Da Vinci was discussed.

    He actually had no formal education, and in a sense it was a blessing, because “he was freed from all the prejudices and rigid categories of thinking that prevailed at the time.” He didn’t get trapped or cornered into any one way of thinking, or specialization of one form of knowledge (aka career anyone?). He was open to all knowledge, and widened his field of study/observation. He gave himself many options by expanding his horizons.

    Essentially, Greene suggests, Da Vinci was the first real Renaissance man.

    This is just one aspect of what you covered, Colin. I firmly believe that by taking your advice: Working hard on your own endeavors and also assisting/collaborating with others (even if its a totally different/new field), will jumpstart you to your own Renaissance.

  5. Awesome post, if you ask me, there is a great feeling of love when you see someone else triumph, even more when you aided them without hoping anything in return.

    Gladly, I can say that I’m already on the challenge you propose. I started by donating my design and coding skills to a local charity. I’m also gathering my cash for Kiva too. I’m glad to see it here.

    If you ask me it’s not only a good challenge but a living proof of Karma (or the golden rule) do good and you will always have good in your life.

    And don’t worry about becoming someone like that, you just lack one thing: To realize you already are someone like that.

    Thanks for the great post Colin!

  6. Awesome post, if you ask me, there is a great feeling of love when you see someone else triumph, even more when you aided them without hoping anything in return.

    Gladly, I can say that I’m already on the challenge you propose. I started by donating my design and coding skills to a local charity. I’m also gathering my cash for Kiva too. I’m glad to see it here.

    If you ask me it’s not only a good challenge but a living proof of Karma (or the golden rule) do good and you will always have good in your life.

    And don’t worry about becoming someone like that, you just lack one thing: To realize you already are someone like that.

    Thanks for the great post Colin!

  7. This is a beautiful comparison between the Medici family and modern day Medici-like companies or people such as Godin or Kiva.

    I lived in Florence, Italy so I not only felt the power of the family and their influence but seeing their palace, gardens and work thereafter is inspiring.

    I think that TechStars (http://www.techstars.org/) is a great example not to mention, many non-profits that I know. How come I could name a lot of non-profits that seem to give back “positive change by using their natural abilities and the resources they had available to bring out the best in others,” versus large corporate companies?

  8. This is a beautiful comparison between the Medici family and modern day Medici-like companies or people such as Godin or Kiva.

    I lived in Florence, Italy so I not only felt the power of the family and their influence but seeing their palace, gardens and work thereafter is inspiring.

    I think that TechStars (http://www.techstars.org/) is a great example not to mention, many non-profits that I know. How come I could name a lot of non-profits that seem to give back “positive change by using their natural abilities and the resources they had available to bring out the best in others,” versus large corporate companies?

  9. Wow.

    Slick post, Colin. I’ve always wanted to be a Renaissance man type, but making others into Renaissance man sounds like an amazing idea as well.

    I’d also add that we should seek to be the “great talent” that the Medici’s would recruit and support while also being a Medici ourselves. Do well on our own first, and use our talents to raise others up as well.

  10. Wow.

    Slick post, Colin. I’ve always wanted to be a Renaissance man type, but making others into Renaissance man sounds like an amazing idea as well.

    I’d also add that we should seek to be the “great talent” that the Medici’s would recruit and support while also being a Medici ourselves. Do well on our own first, and use our talents to raise others up as well.

  11. Great post Colin.

    Helping others is the only currency in this world of mass information overload. Kindness demands reciprocity. You can’t avoid someone that is always helping you.

    I think this is the future of marketing. Market everyone else first, then they will be there to promote you.

  12. Great post Colin.

    Helping others is the only currency in this world of mass information overload. Kindness demands reciprocity. You can’t avoid someone that is always helping you.

    I think this is the future of marketing. Market everyone else first, then they will be there to promote you.

  13. Perhaps my biggest goal in life is to empower other people to live the life they want. It didn’t become overly clear to me until quite recently. It’s why I’ve been working really hard to create an income that doesn’t require much of a time investment. I would love to focus primarily on helping others because as far as I can tell so far in my life there is nothing as rewarding. Really great post.

  14. Perhaps my biggest goal in life is to empower other people to live the life they want. It didn’t become overly clear to me until quite recently. It’s why I’ve been working really hard to create an income that doesn’t require much of a time investment. I would love to focus primarily on helping others because as far as I can tell so far in my life there is nothing as rewarding. Really great post.

  15. Colin
    When I saw medici and renaissance in your tweet I just couldn’t believe it! Had to check out this post and glad I did.
    Love the way you have connected the dots between history and the future.
    Cheers
    Anita

  16. Colin
    When I saw medici and renaissance in your tweet I just couldn’t believe it! Had to check out this post and glad I did.
    Love the way you have connected the dots between history and the future.
    Cheers
    Anita

  17. thanks for that reminder! i had been so busy focusing on the things i need to do to succeed, and my own “personal renaissance”, that i forgot about others.. selfish of me? well, i will be volunteering in india in 10 days but beyond that, i will try to figure out how to help others based on my talent/skills. it’s still fuzzy, but i want to figure out how i can help nonprofits or do some sort of activism with the new career path/direction that i’m taking. the sky’s the limit! i’m making 2010 my year to explore it all.

    ps: kiva is probably my favorite np. love them :)

  18. thanks for that reminder! i had been so busy focusing on the things i need to do to succeed, and my own “personal renaissance”, that i forgot about others.. selfish of me? well, i will be volunteering in india in 10 days but beyond that, i will try to figure out how to help others based on my talent/skills. it’s still fuzzy, but i want to figure out how i can help nonprofits or do some sort of activism with the new career path/direction that i’m taking. the sky’s the limit! i’m making 2010 my year to explore it all.

    ps: kiva is probably my favorite np. love them :)

  19. colin –

    i really like the comparison, but am not so sure that you can place the two groups in juxtaposition (the Seth Godin’s of the world vs. the Medici). Simply, it appears to me that this is exactly what is wrong with the world (namely the United States, today). People with wealth and influence are determining what IS art – what IS culture and what IS acceptable. who’s to say that the Medici’s concepts of what should flourish were the best ideas? just a thought? i’m no history buff. the difference that i see is that the Seth Godin’s and Kivas of the world are interested in growth and expansion from the bottom up (or at least from the middle) – from the “other” and not the status quo.

    maybe?

    again, excellent post and i enjoyed it very much, this is just the thought that came to mind as i read it and i hope that you value my feedback – even when i disagree. =)

    i continue to be inspired by your grace and generosity and agree with your message to help others in any way we can this year! thanks!

  20. colin –

    i really like the comparison, but am not so sure that you can place the two groups in juxtaposition (the Seth Godin’s of the world vs. the Medici). Simply, it appears to me that this is exactly what is wrong with the world (namely the United States, today). People with wealth and influence are determining what IS art – what IS culture and what IS acceptable. who’s to say that the Medici’s concepts of what should flourish were the best ideas? just a thought? i’m no history buff. the difference that i see is that the Seth Godin’s and Kivas of the world are interested in growth and expansion from the bottom up (or at least from the middle) – from the “other” and not the status quo.

    maybe?

    again, excellent post and i enjoyed it very much, this is just the thought that came to mind as i read it and i hope that you value my feedback – even when i disagree. =)

    i continue to be inspired by your grace and generosity and agree with your message to help others in any way we can this year! thanks!

  21. @Rob: Definitely something to strive for, and there’s no reason we can’t create a movement that will have people looking back on 2010 as the start of something really historically significant!

    @Ronnie: Absolutely! Da Vinci was an amazing person, and these are lessons to keep in mind. Why do things the way every else is? Why try to force yourself and others into the same molds? Instead, approach every new problem by thinking ‘how can I do this in a completely different way than everyone else?’ Sometimes you’ll fail miserably, but sometimes you’ll succeed in a way that changes EVERYTHING.

    @oG: No idea what that means, but thanks for stopping by and being French :)

    @Alejandro: Great to hear you’re already moving on this challenge! It’s really true..help people out, and generally they or others will help you when you need it. The best part is that you don’t even need to worry about the second part; no need to sit and count favors. Just help people and in doing so you’re already helping yourself.

    @Grace: Very good question…I think most corporations just don’t see the immediate benefits of helping others succeed, and so it’s hard to justify doing so in dollars and cents. When there is a board involved, and when the entire purpose is to make money as quickly as possible (which we’re all trying to do, just in different ways), it’s easy to overlook better plans that work in the long-term, rather than the short.

    @Brett: Absolutely, don’t give and give until you have nothing left, but if you can be an inspiring force, it will make you more capable of helping others do the same.

    @John: Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Calling it currency is a great metaphor, too.

    @Nate: It is incredibly rewarding to see someone else succeed, and even more so if you know that in some small way you helped out.

    @anita: Thanks anita! :)

    @floreta: There’s no harm in being selfish; in fact, if you make sure that YOU are personally happy and successful first, you’ll be much better and helping others achieve the same later. Don’t overinvest yourself, and make sure that you have a firm foundation before you try to give too much of yourself to others. After that, though, go crazy!

    @Tiffany: You raise a very good point, and I’m really glad that you brought it up! The fact is that those in power generally do have an unbalanced amount of sway when it comes to culture and what succeeds. Is it good? Is it bad? This is hard to say, because honestly it’s the way things have always been. Few and far between are the non-influential influencers, so what Joe Sixpack thinks about art isn’t likely to stir up the art auction community. Then again, the flattening of the world, caused most recently by the popularity of the Internet, has allowed people with little or no power in the real world to emerge as mighty voices in the digital world, so I’m thinking more and more we’ll have a bottom- and middle-up movement in many fields (definitely seeing this in music, movies, etc). That being said, I think that encouraging others to take it upon themselves to support what the believe in is probably the best way to get a wide-variety of voices out there. Godin might be able to rally 100,000 people in a day, but the rest of us can get that many in a few weeks with applied effort.

    Thanks for all the comments! You guys are always making me think!

  22. @Rob: Definitely something to strive for, and there’s no reason we can’t create a movement that will have people looking back on 2010 as the start of something really historically significant!

    @Ronnie: Absolutely! Da Vinci was an amazing person, and these are lessons to keep in mind. Why do things the way every else is? Why try to force yourself and others into the same molds? Instead, approach every new problem by thinking ‘how can I do this in a completely different way than everyone else?’ Sometimes you’ll fail miserably, but sometimes you’ll succeed in a way that changes EVERYTHING.

    @oG: No idea what that means, but thanks for stopping by and being French :)

    @Alejandro: Great to hear you’re already moving on this challenge! It’s really true..help people out, and generally they or others will help you when you need it. The best part is that you don’t even need to worry about the second part; no need to sit and count favors. Just help people and in doing so you’re already helping yourself.

    @Grace: Very good question…I think most corporations just don’t see the immediate benefits of helping others succeed, and so it’s hard to justify doing so in dollars and cents. When there is a board involved, and when the entire purpose is to make money as quickly as possible (which we’re all trying to do, just in different ways), it’s easy to overlook better plans that work in the long-term, rather than the short.

    @Brett: Absolutely, don’t give and give until you have nothing left, but if you can be an inspiring force, it will make you more capable of helping others do the same.

    @John: Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Calling it currency is a great metaphor, too.

    @Nate: It is incredibly rewarding to see someone else succeed, and even more so if you know that in some small way you helped out.

    @anita: Thanks anita! :)

    @floreta: There’s no harm in being selfish; in fact, if you make sure that YOU are personally happy and successful first, you’ll be much better and helping others achieve the same later. Don’t overinvest yourself, and make sure that you have a firm foundation before you try to give too much of yourself to others. After that, though, go crazy!

    @Tiffany: You raise a very good point, and I’m really glad that you brought it up! The fact is that those in power generally do have an unbalanced amount of sway when it comes to culture and what succeeds. Is it good? Is it bad? This is hard to say, because honestly it’s the way things have always been. Few and far between are the non-influential influencers, so what Joe Sixpack thinks about art isn’t likely to stir up the art auction community. Then again, the flattening of the world, caused most recently by the popularity of the Internet, has allowed people with little or no power in the real world to emerge as mighty voices in the digital world, so I’m thinking more and more we’ll have a bottom- and middle-up movement in many fields (definitely seeing this in music, movies, etc). That being said, I think that encouraging others to take it upon themselves to support what the believe in is probably the best way to get a wide-variety of voices out there. Godin might be able to rally 100,000 people in a day, but the rest of us can get that many in a few weeks with applied effort.

    Thanks for all the comments! You guys are always making me think!

  23. @Colin: True, there is no need to count favors. Counting favors takes time and energy which can be used to do something amazing!, who needs that when we can be writing more content or helping out someone else, even relaxing for a while is worth more than keeping track of who owes you.

    It’s always a pleasure to come here and have a nice conversation. I think it’s one of the best communities I belong to.

  24. @Colin: True, there is no need to count favors. Counting favors takes time and energy which can be used to do something amazing!, who needs that when we can be writing more content or helping out someone else, even relaxing for a while is worth more than keeping track of who owes you.

    It’s always a pleasure to come here and have a nice conversation. I think it’s one of the best communities I belong to.

  25. “Godin might be able to rally 100,000 people in a day, but the rest of us can get that many in a few weeks with applied effort.”

    i love your power of positive thinking! i appreciate your thoughtfulness and your response!

    =)

  26. “Godin might be able to rally 100,000 people in a day, but the rest of us can get that many in a few weeks with applied effort.”

    i love your power of positive thinking! i appreciate your thoughtfulness and your response!

    =)

  27. I have an idea that a scary number of “Albert Einsteins, Simone de Beauvoirs, Leonardo ad Vincis, Ayn Rands, et cetera” have slipped through the cracks of history due to a lack of connection and/or legitimization. I guarantee that there are many hundreds of brilliant people working in relative isolation today. Every connection has the potential to allow them to Medici the hell out of things by pulling an entrepreneurial Voltron maneuver.

    I guess what I’m thinking is that the internet has the potential to connect the great minds so that the artist and patron exist in a flattened hierarchy. So the modern Da Vinci’s cut out the middle man to power. That said… There’s also a ton of value in the modernized Medici dynamic you suggest.

  28. I have an idea that a scary number of “Albert Einsteins, Simone de Beauvoirs, Leonardo ad Vincis, Ayn Rands, et cetera” have slipped through the cracks of history due to a lack of connection and/or legitimization. I guarantee that there are many hundreds of brilliant people working in relative isolation today. Every connection has the potential to allow them to Medici the hell out of things by pulling an entrepreneurial Voltron maneuver.

    I guess what I’m thinking is that the internet has the potential to connect the great minds so that the artist and patron exist in a flattened hierarchy. So the modern Da Vinci’s cut out the middle man to power. That said… There’s also a ton of value in the modernized Medici dynamic you suggest.

  29. I totally agree, great post.

    I call it the quest to becoming ‘whole minded’.

    I’m a long way off so will take all the motivation I can get :)

    Thanks Colin!

  30. I totally agree, great post.

    I call it the quest to becoming ‘whole minded’.

    I’m a long way off so will take all the motivation I can get :)

    Thanks Colin!

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  32. One of the very important things that moved the Medici family was their patronage of Marsilio Ficino. Ficino – a scholar and philosopher of remarkable standing encouraged the Medicis to use their wealth in this way and to support finding ways of integrating ancient wisdom from Plato to Hermes Trismegestus into the modern days.

    So I would say that Medicis are important but also pure intentioned advisors are as well. Reading Ficino is one of the most uplifting things you can do.

  33. One of the very important things that moved the Medici family was their patronage of Marsilio Ficino. Ficino – a scholar and philosopher of remarkable standing encouraged the Medicis to use their wealth in this way and to support finding ways of integrating ancient wisdom from Plato to Hermes Trismegestus into the modern days.

    So I would say that Medicis are important but also pure intentioned advisors are as well. Reading Ficino is one of the most uplifting things you can do.

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  35. I don’t think I ever expected to see Albert Einstein and Ayn Rand in the same sentence… and I hope I never do again

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