The building project was a total disaster. It had been underway for decades and was nowhere near completion. In fact, it looked more like a ruin than a building under construction. A half-dozen architects had already worked on the project, and the multiple designs were incompatible and badly conceived.

There was more. The project was so complicated that new engineering processes needed to be invented. There were labor issues. The supply chain was in disarray. And to top it all, the project was in the middle of a congested city, and the backer was a very powerful and demanding man.

Someone had to take the project over – someone with huge energy and a broad array of skills. The backer cast his eye around and selected the artisan he thought was right for the job. And the artisan refused. He had never managed a project like this, he was not an architect, and he happened to be 71 years old at the time. He wanted to retire to his hometown and lead a quiet life of spiritual contemplation.  

But the backer would not take no for an answer. And so, over the next seventeen years until his death, the artisan oversaw the project, providing not only strategic guidance but also hands-on daily management of the process. He did not live to see its completion, but it was his vision, leadership, and energy that made it happen.

The building project was St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The backer was Pope Paul III. And the engineer/visionary/project manager was Michelangelo.

Seventy-one years old! At a time when most people died at 45! Next time someone tells you you’re too old, or for that matter, next time you tell yourself you’re too old, think of Michelangelo and how he lived his last decades with peak energy and creativity. And then, go for the gusto!

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