A man who loves to paint has put decades of his life into refining his skills with a brush. He has watched the techniques of the master painters that he looks up to and has poured countless hours as well as a lot of money into his own artwork. Whenever he is finished with a work of art, he puts it on display in the front window of his house so that everyone can see as they pass by, hoping that someone will want to purchase it or at least give him some sort of critique.
Over the years he has seen many people look at his thousands of paintings, but only one person has ever purchased one. As his older paintings began to stack up, he would put them out with the trash to make room in his studio to make more. None his paintings ever made it to the city dump though because they never remained on the curb for very long. A few people who just glanced briefly at the paintings in the window would pick them up from the curb and take them home, but not to display them. They would use them as their own canvases, painting over what the man had worked so hard on.
One day, an artist knocked on the man’s door and asked him to stretch some canvases for him. The artist offered the man more money for the stretched canvases than the man had ever asked for his paintings, so he agreed. As the artist waited, he told the man that he liked some of his paintings but he was much more impressed with the quality of the canvases. He had never seen a canvas stretched more perfectly, and on his way out he recommended that the man make a business out of stretching canvas for the other artists of the town.
Over the next few weeks the man did nothing but stretch canvases and it did not take long for the artists around town to take notice. They began requesting more and more canvases in custom shapes and sizes, and the man filled every order. He was truly gifted at his trade, but he felt like something was missing. He longed to make paintings of his own that people would truly appreciate. The artists appreciated the quality of his work and often bragged about his canvases to their friends, but they never mentioned the artwork that they saw around his studio. The man saw the artists critiquing each other’s work and working together on great murals, but he felt as though he was an outsider even though they were using his canvases.
He felt like he could do so much more than just be a canvas maker for the town artists. Some of his friends recommended that he make canvases for the artists of other towns. Others thought that he should start teaching others how to make great canvases. The problem was that them man just wanted to paint. He did not want to be known for his canvases, he wanted to be known for his artwork. People had told him in the past that his paintings were good, but no one ever commissioned him to paint anything. Only one person ever bought a painting from him, and that was many years ago.
Where should the man go from here? Should he continue to pursue his dream of becoming a great painter? Should he get over his dreams and just focus on making canvases that the people are looking for? Should he try to do both and risk not doing either of them very well?