Van Gogh is one of the most successful painters to have ever lived, with his paintings being some of the most expensive paintings ever sold. The highest sold for $180 million. But his success did not come easy. His life was wrought with struggle and hardships beyond our understanding.

When Vincent first told his parents he wanted to pursue art, his parents were shocked and unsupportive of his wish. They wanted him to lead a more conventional life. But Ol’ Vinny was stubborn. He refused to heed anyone who tried to dissuade him from his artistic goals. He knew what he wanted, and he was going to get it. This meant he was also stubbornly honest with himself, and he refused to do things that he did not believe in or have any passion for. It was this unyielding drive that gave him the courage to stand out and break out from conventional methods. By always remaining true to himself, Vincent eventually found success and acclaim, and it’s all because of one thing.

You see, Vincent followed his North Star — A concept we use in the Wizard of Ads with our clients. The North Star is your purpose. Your guiding light. That impossible dream. For Vincent, it was becoming an artist. For you, it’s what your heart tells you. However, be warned, like Vincent’s path, it will be lonely. You will be called mad, foolish, or insane. But remember, a fine line separates madness and genius. When you’ve finally manifested your dream into reality, you will be heralded as a hero. A pioneer. A genius!

Van Gogh’s work wasn’t recognized in the early days; He moved around a lot and lived in squalor. To give you an idea of his situation, when he lived in Antwerp, he stayed above a paint dealer’s shop. He ate very poorly and spent most of his money on painting materials and models. During this time, most of his efforts were in studying colour theory. Studying artists like Peter Paul Rubens and Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts. Then despite his distaste for academic teaching, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts. This did not go well. He clashed with every teacher he had. When finally, during a drawing class, tired of the arrogance of his professor, he flew into a rage and never returned. Labeled a madman and a failure, he struggled to stay afloat. Luckily he had help. Vincent had a supporter. His brother. Even though his brother didn’t make much money, he consistently sent money to support Vincent purely because he believed in him.

Van Gogh kept around people who believed in him and his work. In his case, it was his brother.

Surrounding yourself with people who believe in your dream makes the difference. Take an employee, for example. An employee that doesn’t believe will never move your needle, and an employee that does his work but doesn’t believe will look for greener pastures. But an employee that genuinely believes will build your business into a rocket ship. A rocket ship that will fly you to your North Star. And at Wizard of Ads, we are professional believers.

Unfortunately, Ol’ Vinny’s life ended when his genius finally caught up with him. Pointing a revolver to his chest, Vincent pulled the trigger and ended his life. Becoming a martyr for his art. Van Gogh has since been seen as a tortured artist in the realm of fine arts. Many people think tortured artists punish themselves with brooding, alcoholism, and self-loathing. I believe it’s an artist’s belief that tortures them. Brooding and alcoholism are just ways to cope with the torture of knowing your true purpose and being unable to settle for anything else. I remember having those frustrations.

Take a look at your own life, you could be working a nine-to-five desk job under an incompetent manager, but you don’t. You know that it would be agonizing and torturous. Why? Because you believe you’re destined for greater things. So, point in the direction of your North Star, and let’s make great things happen, starting with the nuts and bolts of your rocket ship.

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