The Shadow Side


When I discovered that Picasso lived to be 91 years old, I decided to do the math. Picasso lived for a total of 33,403 days. With 26,075 published works, that means Picasso averaged 1 new piece of artwork every day of his life from age 20 until his death at age 91.

He created something new, every day, for 71 years.

via James Clear

And although we’d like to applaud this, we have to be aware that there was a “cost” associated with this intense level of productivity and output – there was a shadow side:

Many of the qualities that make people great have shadow sides as well. Picasso’s singular focus on art meant that everything else in life had to take a back seat, including his relationships and his children.

This was the shadow side of his strength as an artist. The qualities that made Picasso one of the greatest artists of all-time may very well have made him a terrible life partner too. They are like two sides of the same coin. You couldn’t have one without the other.


Success in one area is often tied to failure in another area, especially at the extreme end of performance. The more extreme the greatness, the longer the shadow it casts.

I can’t help but think of entrepreneurship and the cost associated with being a startup founder. There is nothing easy about this job and the lifestyle that inevitably comes with it.

You see, there’s simply nothing in my life that isn’t directly impacted by the work that I do and the time that I give to my work; most things take an enormous back seat when it comes to ensuring that my company survives. When I’m not too careful, even my health can go sideways, even when I know what the true costs are!

The Shadow Side is just that – it’s a shadow of what’s really going on, not just the things that we do with our hands but also with our heads and our hearts.

Oftentimes the only way we’ll know if we’re managing this well is if we have the tough (but necessary) conversations with good friends and partners who are willing to tell us that we’re executing and living out of our shadow sides or if we’re squarely in the light.

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