Career Lessons from History’s Biggest Perfectionist


He cut, burned and kicked 500 of his paintings because he felt they weren’t good enough.

Later in life, he threatened to destroy every one of his famous paintings. French painter Claude Monet, founder of the impressionist painting style, was a perfectionist, insecure and prone to depression.

But Monet also loved life and his work, forever striving to be the best. Today, from this brilliant but troubled painter of history, we too can learn to reach for the stars, despite our shortcomings.

1. Keep going no matter what.

“No one but myself knows the anxiety I go through and the trouble I give myself…”

We are all like Monet, sometimes going through our own private hell. Insecurities, lack of self-confidence and excessive self-criticism can stop us in our tracks. Or, we can keep going anyway, as did Monet. He refused to let his own tortured mind stifle his imagination and love for his craft.

2. Shoot high, as high as you can.

“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” 

Monet was always trying to better himself. His inspiration came from nature, wanting his paintings to be as amazing as life itself. He painted the way he saw things, making the canvas an emotional experience. To gain inspiration, Monet was constantly on the move, searching for places where the light of day would cast a wide range of shadows to paint. Release your mind from its self-imposed bondage. Be open to all things. Travel to gain new perspectives. Above all, keep reaching.




Water Lilies were a favorite subject for Monet. Some of these paintings were 6 feet high and 25 feet long.

3. Be humble

“I’m not performing miracles, I’m using up and wasting a lot of paint.”

While he was poor much of his life, Monet did receive critical acclaim in his later years, attracting a degree of wealth which had previously eluded him. But all the while, he maintained a sense of modesty. In Monet’s case, he took it to an extreme, calling himself a complete failure. While we must never put ourselves down, we must also lead ourselves with humility.

4. Have no hidden agenda

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.”

Our career can skyrocket when people trust us. Tell it like it is. Have no secret agenda. If we take away our mask and let the world sees us as we are, we can achieve the authenticity so lacking in many business people of today. Monet did not see his paintings as complex or symbolic, but rather, natural, simple and honest.



Monet wanted to paint practically everything he saw, even his first wife on her deathbed.

5. Embrace your passion

“Every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all – my head is bursting.”

Keep your passion alive. Nurture it by learning as much as you can. Monet’s intoxication with flowers, water, light and nature never waned. He wanted to paint literally everything. Let your career be fueled by your passion.

Claude Monet, one of the greatest painters of history, was filled with self-doubt. But this was countered by relentless passion for his work and a dedication to excellence.

Today, we can do as Monet, and respect our passion to pursue our dreams, no matter what.


This 1872 painting is generally believed to have started the impressionist movement. Monet called the painting “Impression, Sunrise” or, in other words, his impression of a sunrise. His loose brush strokes and emphasis on light and color were in stark contrast to the more detailed life-like approach to painting. Monet was among several artists at the time who practiced this style – Renoir being another.

Top image: The image at the top of this post is a self-portrait Monet painted in 1886 when he was 46 years old. Completely absorbed in his work, he painted almost up to the time of his death in 1926.


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