It was perhaps the greatest hoax in art history. Han van Meegeren was an artist with a grudge. Painting in the Netherlands pre World War 2, critics mercilessly panned his exhibitions. One critic described him as “A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality.” Stung, van Meegreen decided to strike back. He painted a work with flourishes of the style of the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, titled it “The Supper at Emmaus”, and submitted it to the prominent critic Abraham Bredius. Bredius took the bait, writing that “It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master… And what a picture! We have here a – I am inclined to say the – masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft.” The art world gasped, the painting was sold for the equivalent of millions of dollars, and displayed in the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterda.
Han van Meegren planned to expose the forgery at the opening of the Gallery’s 400 Years of European Art exhibition, in which his forgery was given pride of place. His critics would be humiliated and their reputations shattered. Greed, however, got the better of him. Rather than exposing the forgery, he made more, raking in millions more dollars. When the Nazis swept through Europe, he even managed to sell The Supper at Emmaus to them.
This almost proved his undoing.After the war the victorious Allied forces were determined to return the artworks collected by the Nazis to their previous owners. A receipy led two soldiers from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of vm Meegren. They wanted to know from whom van Meegran had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, van Megreen was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. Confined in prison, facing death, van Megreen had a change of heart. He confessed, but no-one believed him. Experts testified that the work was indeed an original by the Dutch master Vermeer. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake, anfd so he did, spending weeks literally painting for his life!
The final twist to the story is that van Meegren was not only acquitted, but became a national hero, for he had fooled the Nazis, shown them to be the corrupt regime everyone knew they were.
Source: information found in “The forger who fooled the world” The Telegraph, Aug 5, 2006
Wilbur and Orville Wright are well known for carrying out the first every successful air flight, at Kittyhawk in 1903. They came from a close family, even though their father, a bishop in United Brethren Church, was initially skeptical about their venture. Wilbur died at the age of 45. His father left a record of this tragic event in his diary. It reads:
May 30, 1912
This morning at 3:15, Wilbur passed away, aged 45 years, 1 month, and 14 days. A short life, full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadily, he lived and died.
For Wilbur’s father it was not making the first successful air flight that made Wilbur great, but his fine character.
Source: Diary entry found at wam.umd.edu/~stwright/WrBr/Wrights.html
Who am I?
When I was 7 years old my family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and I had to work to help support them.
At age 9 my mother died.
At 22 I lost my job as a store clerk. I wanted to go to law school, but my education wasn’t good enough.
At 23 I went into debt to become a partner in a small store.
At 26 my business partner died, leaving me a huge debt that took years to repay.
At 28, after courting a girl for four years I asked her to marry him. She said no.
At 37, on my third try, I was elected to the US Congress, but two years later I failed to be re-elected.
At 41 my four year old son died.
At 45 I ran for the Senate and lost.
At 47 I failed as the vice-presidential candidate.
At 51 I was elected president of the United States.
Who am I? My name was Abraham Lincoln
Wayne Bennett is one of the most successful coaches in rugby league history. For over a decade he coached the “Brisbane Bronco’s” (a club side in the Australian rugby league competition). Bennett is revered by players, notoriously difficult for journalists, and widely admired and respected. In 2002 he released a book Don’t Die With the Music In You. Present at the launch were News Limited Director, Lachlan Murdoch, Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, and a host of rugby league identities and corporate heavyweights. Yet when speaking of his greatest success in life he turned not to his achievements in football but to his home life. Bennett paid tribute to his wife Trish, saying “One of the greatest achievements is to be able to stay married to her, and I hope for the rest of my life that will remain my greatest achievement. It is the thing I want more than anything else. I want the relationship to be there forever and the relationship with my family to be there forever.”
Source: reported in The Sydney Morning Herald May 8, 2002
Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, “All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.”
Edison replied very confidently, “Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We now that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb.”
How a person reacts to criticism often means the difference between success and failure. Take the case of Ole Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist of the nineteenth century. His practical father, a chemist, sent him to the University of Christiania to study for the ministry and forbade him to play his beloved violin. He promptly flunked out and, defying his father, devoted all his time and energy to the violin. Unfortunately, though he had great ability, his teachers were relatively unskilled, so that by the time he was ready to start his concert tour he wasn’t prepared.
In Italy a Milan newspaper critic wrote: “He is an untrained musician. If he be a diamond, he is certainly in the rough and unpolished.”
There were two ways Ole Bull could have reacted to that criticism. He could let it make him angry, or he could learn from it. Fortunately he chose the latter. He went to the newspaper office and asked to see the critic. The astounded editor introduced him. Ole spent the evening with the 70-year-old critic, asked about his faults, and sought the older man’s advice on how to correct them. Then he cancelled the rest of his tour, returned home, and spent the next six months studying under really able teachers. He practiced hours upon hours to overcome his faults. Finally, he returned to his concerts and, when only 26, became the sensation of Europe.
Source: unknown. I have not been able to verify the accuracy of this story.
Marian Anderson was one of the great contralto singers of all time. An African-American born in Philadelphia USA, she was acclaimed across the world. Perhaps the most well remembered episode from her career was the occasion in 1939 when she was refused permission to sing in Washington’s Constitution Hall because of her race. The venue was shifted to a public forum, the steps of Washington’s Lincoln statue, where on Easter Sunday 75,000 people turned out to hear her sing. Toward the end of her career Anderson was asked by a reporter to name her greatest moment in life. She had many possibilities to select from – that Easter Sunday singing to 75,000 people, the night Toscanini told her she possessed the finest voice of the century, the concert she gave at the White House for President Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England. But none of these were Marian Anderson’s greatest moment. Marian told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore.
Sources: Biography.com and Alan Loy McGinnis, The Friendship Factor.
Kathy Poe and Esther Kim were best friends. They were also competing to represent the US in taekwondo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Working through separate sides of the draw they both made it to the final of the Olympic trials. Whichever of them won would go to the Games. Poe however dislocated her knee in the previous match and couldn’t compete. Then came an incredible act of friendship. Knowing her friend’s knee would be healed by the Games Esther Kim forfeited the match and her spot on the Olympic team.
“You will have the gold medal around your neck and I feel inside I have a gold medal in my heart,” she said. “There are other ways to be a champion. A real martial artist is a champion everyday in life, too.”
The movie Mr Holland’s Opus tells the story of a musician who struggles to find success in life. Mr Holland dreams of composing a magnificent symphony that will be played by orchestras across the world. The problem is the real world presents him with bills that have to be paid. He takes a job as a high school music teacher, figuring that after four years of teaching he’ll have saved enough to quit and do nothing but compose music. He absolutely hates teaching, but when his wife unexpectedly falls pregnant the savings earmarked for a life of composing have to be sacrificed to a mortgage. Throughout the course of the movie we see a remarkable change in Mr Holland. He comes to love teaching. He finds ways to inspire his students to love music, but not only that, to find their self confidence. This becomes his passion and his source of fulfilment. Thirty years pass, Mr Holland is about to retire, and his dream of becoming a famous composer remains unfulfilled. On his final day as a teacher he packs up his desk, and heads for his car. On the way he hears music coming from the auditorium. Intrigued he goes to see what’s happening. He opens the door to find the auditorium filled with his students from the past 30 years. They’re playing a piece of music he wrote. It’s a concert in his honour. One of Mr Holland’s former students delivers a speech:
“Mr Holland had a profound influence in my own life, yet I get the feeling that he considers the greater part of his own life misspent. Rumour had it that he was always working on that symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr Holland isn’t rich, and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our own little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he has achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life.”
The great novelist Rudyard Kipling, once gave a commencement address at McGill University in Montreal. He warned them about making money, position or glory their life ambition. “Some day,” he said, “you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.”
Source: Reported by Dale Turner in the Seattle Times, August 7, 1999
Did you know that a rope has greater strength than the combined individual strength of the strands that make it up? Why is this? The answer is quite simple. Individual strands have weak spots along them, points at which they easily break. But in a rope, the weak spots are randomly distributed along the length of the rope and the twist in the rope allows the surrounding strands to cancel out the weak spots of the individual fibres.
It’s the same with people. We all have strengths and weaknesses. On our own our weaknesses can break us, but together we work to achieve strength for all.
Source: Scientific information from New Scientist magazine
It’s often easy to look at “successful” people and think that it’s all come easily to them. In many cases this is not what happened. Colonel Sanders went to more than 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found an interested buyer. Thomas Edison tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light.
The original business plan for what was to become Federal Express was given a failing grade on Fred Smith’s college exam. And, in the early days, their employees would cash their pay checks at retail stores, rather than banks. This meant it would take longer for the money to clear, thereby giving Fed Ex more time to cover their payroll.
Sylvester Stallone had been turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600 before he found a company that would produce Rocky. The rest is history!
The poet Robert Forst had his first poetry submissions to The Atlantic Monthly returned unwanted.
Ray Kroc, the late founder of McDonalds, knew this too. “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence” he once said. “Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not. Un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and love are omnipotent.”
I want to give you a scenario. You’re 22 years old – it’s already attractive to many of you isn’t it? You do well at school and head off to Uni. You work hard and do so well that even before you finish your uni course you land a plum job in a merchant bank. You work hard in your new job and life is looking pretty good. One day your boss calls you into the office and greets you with the words, “We’ve decided to terminate your employment. Your work isn’t good enough, you’re a bit too different and you don’t fit in with the others.”
That’s what happened to a young Australian by the name of Brett Kelly. Brett’s world came tumbling in on him. This was the first time in his life anything had gone really wrong. He lost his confidence in himself, lost all sense of purpose and direction, and slipped into a routine of getting up late, watching the Midday show and wasting the afternoon.
Then one day Kerrie Ann Kennerly turned Brett’s life around. Sitting there day after day watching the Midday show Brett noticed Kerrie Ann’s passion for her job, the way she so obviously enjoyed what she was doing, and gained so much energy from it. “That’s what I want” he said to himself – “that type of energy, that type of passion.” But how? Where could he find it? How could he learn to have that type of success?
He had no answers but he figured people who were successful in their chosen career probably did. So he made up a list of prominent people he admired – from rock stars like Peter Garrett, to political leaders like Bob Hawke and Jeff Kennett, to entertainers like HG Nelson. The idea was to interview them, discover their secrets, then publish the interviews in a book. When he got through all his interviews Brett was startled at what he learned about success. Brett had always thought that success in work and life would come from skill and talent and so he had chased qualifications, skills, and experience. What he found was that the one thing all the people he interviewed shared was the ability to build high quality relationships.
You want to know the title of his book? Collective Wisdom.
Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Ghandi were three towering figures of the twentieth century.
Schweitzer was a brilliant German theologian and philosopher who felt the call of God to work as a missionary doctor in Africa. So to the highly esteemed professsor returned to his university as a student of medicine. Family and friends thought him crazy and tried to dissuade him. But Albert was true to God’s call. He entered medical school in 1905 and spent the next seven years studying, all with the goal of missionary service.
Albert and his wife, Helene, took the long journey to Africa. and set up a hospital in a remote region of Gabon. For the next four decades they treated patients, many walking hundreds of miles to receive help. Despite the remoteness of their location Schweitzer became a celebrated humanitarian and philosopher, so much so that he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.
Ghandi of course was the non-violent activist who brought the British to their knees in India and secured independence for his people.
The third member of our trio was Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist of his time, perhaps of any time. Why does he belong here? It’s said that throughout his life Albert Einstein had two portraits on the wall of his home – the great scientists Newton and Maxwell. They were an inspiration, they summed up the drive of his life – science. Towards the end of his life Einstein took their pictures down and replaced them with two others – two great humanitarians, Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer. He explained that it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service.
Source: story of the pictures reported in Sheronna Price, The Pastoral Partner