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How Chuck Close Turned a Challenge into an Opportunity

Chuck Close

I watched an extraordinary documentary the other day about American artist Chuck Close.

Chuck is not like any artist I’ve ever heard of. He has a truly exceptional way of painting.

When Chuck was 48 he suffered a catastrophic spinal artery collapse, which left him severely paralysed.

He was confined to a wheelchair and told that he would never paint again.

Did this deter him?

Quite the opposite.

Upon finding out he was paralysed, Chuck committed 100% to one thing: that no matter what anyone said, no matter what it took – he would paint again.

When reflecting about the moment after his stroke he said: “If I had to spit the paint on the canvas I would have done that”.

This is an example of an incredible man pursuing what’s important to him in the face of an unbelievably difficult challenge.

To this day, unable to grip a paintbrush due to his stroke, Chuck has paintbrushes physically taped to his hands so that he can paint.

He paints all of his work using a ‘grid’ system where his paintings are made up of hundreds of tiny squares which when viewed as a whole, create a single image.  If you look closely, you can see each individual square in the above self-portrait.

He paints using the grid system as a result of his stroke; he can only maneuver his hand to paint one tiny square at a time.

Yet, what’s fascinating is that this unique creative process is what has made him the famous artist that he is today.

If you see any video footage of Chuck he isn’t living in the past.

He isn’t feeling sorry for himself because he is paralysed in a wheelchair.

He isn’t saying to himself ‘WHY ME?”.

He is simply getting on with life.

And using his unique situation to his advantage.

How inspiring is that?

How many times has something happened in your life and you’ve felt like the world is against you?

How many times have you half halfheartedly tried to achieve something only to give up too early because it’s ‘too hard’?

Chuck is living proof that no matter what happens to you, you have the capacity to live through it, and more importantly turn it to your advantage.

The sooner we start viewing challenges as opportunities, the sooner we will achieve success in life.

Winston Churchill put it nicely with this quote:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

He was also renowned for saying:

“Never, never, never give up!”

Next time you’re facing a challenge, cast your mind back to Chuck and his incredible determination. It might just inspire you not to give up so early.

Simple Life Strategy: How to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

1. Think of Chuck. Next time you face a challenge, remember Chuck’s story. Remind yourself what’s possible when you put your mind to it

2. Duck & weave. Instead of letting the challenge beat you – duck & weave around it! Look for other ways to achieve your goal. Can the challenge its-self provide you with a unique way of meandering around the problem?

3. Refuse to give up! Remember the great Winston Churchill and Chuck Close. If you don’t give up, then how can you fail?

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? Share your story below in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below.

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8 Comments. Leave new

Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration. When I look at people like this, for a moment I feel guilty or pathetic for letting my troubles get me down. But than I bootstrap myself, and get moving, because if these people can overcome I HAVE NO EXCUSE!


Hi Shawn,
Thanks for the comment. It really is inspiring to see what people can achieve when they put their minds to it! Well done you for getting yourself moving!
Have a GREAT Monday 🙂
Zoë B


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