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  • - I don't know about you but I have always had a problem

  • sticking with just one interest.

  • I wanna do everything

  • and I don't just want to do everything,

  • I want to get good at everything.

  • Now normally this is a pretty poor strategy

  • for building skills.

  • If you jump between things too frequently,

  • you never put in the number of hours needed

  • to get truly good at any one thing.

  • But given enough time, energy, and let's be honest here,

  • unhealthy obsession, one can become a Renaissance person.

  • Now one such Renaissance person,

  • probably the OG Renaissance person was Leonardo da Vinci.

  • You might have heard of him before

  • from this little-known project of his called the Mona Lisa,

  • or through his much more impressive accomplishment

  • of being immortalized as a ninja turtle.

  • More recently though he was also immortalized

  • in a huge biographical tome

  • called Simply Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.

  • This book gives us some fascinating insights

  • into what made Leonardo the man that he was.

  • And today I want to share some of those insights with you

  • so that you can use them to become more powerful

  • than you could possibly imagine or you know

  • at least a little bit more productive in your daily life.

  • So here are five lessons from the life of da Vinci,

  • or as my best friend Martin likes to call him.

  • - My boy, Leo DV.

  • - Lesson number one, present yourself

  • based on what you would like to become,

  • not just on what you are right now

  • or what you have been in the past.

  • Many of us know da Vinci as the mastermind

  • behind the Mona Lisa or his painting The Last Supper

  • but there were actually periods in Leonardo's life

  • where he didn't even want to look at a paintbrush.

  • During one of these episodes when he was looking

  • for a new patron in Milan, he drafted a letter

  • describing his various talents

  • mostly in engineering and military endeavors.

  • The letter he drafted lists 10 specific areas

  • in which he might be of service

  • before mentioning painting at all

  • of which he writes, likewise in painting,

  • I can do everything possible.

  • Basically this is an early example

  • of a custom-tailored resume which Leonardo wrote

  • to get the job that he wanted.

  • So here's what you can take with this,

  • when you're presenting yourself to others

  • whether it be in the form of a resume or even a Twitter bio,

  • don't talk about things that you don't want

  • to be known about or that you don't want to be doing

  • in the near future.

  • Instead work to highlight your current interests,

  • if you have to pad things out with your past experience,

  • you might need to do that

  • but don't put them first and foremost.

  • But on the other hand, don't list things

  • that you can't actually do yet

  • just because you want to do them.

  • You actually do have to be able to deliver to some degree.

  • As it turns out, Leonardo actually hadn't done

  • many of the things that he listed in his letter.

  • A lot of them were just ambitions or ideas

  • but because he had this genius ability to innovate

  • usually things worked out pretty well for him

  • but today things are a lot more competitive

  • and people don't want to waste time

  • with somebody who really doesn't have experience.

  • So make sure that you can back up what you're talking about,

  • make sure you have at least some of the skills

  • and experience that you want to present to the world.

  • Now that isn't to say that you need years of experience

  • in a particular discipline before you can present it

  • because many things can actually be learned

  • in a very short period of time.

  • For example, one of our friends was applying for a job

  • a few years ago in which having experience

  • with a LAMP Stack which is a web hosting stack

  • consisting of Apache, MySQL, and PHP all running on Linux

  • would have been very beneficial

  • so in just one weekend, he taught himself how to set this up

  • because it's a pretty easy skill to learn actually

  • and that experience actually helped him to land the job.

  • Lesson number two, become a T-shaped person

  • and luckily I've got a head start on this

  • because my name starts with T, for the rest of you guys,

  • you may have to put a little bit more work into this

  • but it's worth it.

  • Leonardo's willingness to shift his focus

  • to entirely new things is part of what made him great.

  • He didn't get caught up in past identities,

  • and he didn't limit himself based

  • on what he was already good at.

  • Instead, he relentlessly followed his curiosity

  • wherever it led him and he filled notebook after notebook

  • with constant observations and questions and thoughts.

  • And due to this constant practice,

  • he not only made himself familiar

  • with many different disciplines

  • but he became quite knowledgeable in several of them,

  • human anatomy, optics, military engineering,

  • hydrodynamics, and theatrical productions

  • just to name a few.

  • Oh yes and painting as well.

  • And it was partially due to this variety

  • that he was able to excel in so many talents.

  • His creativity and understanding was bolstered heavily

  • by his ability to see and apply patterns

  • from one discipline to another.

  • For just one example,

  • let's take a look at the Mona Lisa's smile.

  • The greatness of this smile in the painting

  • was not an accident,

  • it was informed by obsessive anatomical studies

  • and a desire to understand each of the muscles

  • that control facial expressions.

  • Without this extra layer of learning to pull from,

  • the greatness of the painting overall would have suffered.

  • Lesson number three, know when you are wrong.

  • Leonardo thought deeply and critically

  • about almost everything which means that he was bound

  • to be wrong at one point or another.

  • Now in some circles the practice of sticking to your guns

  • is seen as a good thing and people who change their mind

  • from one position to another

  • are often labeled flip-floppers but this kind of a mindset

  • can really keep you from growing

  • and reaching your highest potential.

  • An important part of what made Leonardo who he was

  • was his willingness to adjust his beliefs

  • to fit new information, not the other way around.

  • And he did this even with beliefs and theories

  • that he held dear.

  • For instance, he really liked finding comparisons

  • between the human body and the earth

  • and one theory that he held for a while

  • was that the earth's waters might circulate

  • similarly to that of the human body's blood vessels

  • but as meaningful as this analogy was to him,

  • as beautiful as it seemed,

  • once he realized that it did not fit the facts,

  • he dropped it and went looking for a new theory that did.

  • So follow in Leonardo's footsteps in this area.

  • Don't hold yourself to your past beliefs

  • if they do not fit the facts.

  • Use the facts to find a more accurate theory to live by.

  • Lesson number four is to collaborate with others.

  • Popular culture often sees genius as a lonely trait

  • but genius doesn't always hide out in solitude

  • just waiting for inspiration to strike.

  • Inspiration often comes from working with others

  • and even when genius comes up with an idea on its own,

  • a team is often needed to realize and perfect that vision.

  • For example, Terry Pratchett came together with Neil Gaiman

  • to write Good Omens.

  • All the engineers and technicians at NASA

  • put their collective heads together to get us to space

  • and of course where would Lil Jon be

  • without The East Side Boyz?

  • In da Vinci's time, paintings were often done

  • collaboratively in studio and because of this

  • determining whether or not a work is an original Leonardo

  • is difficult because many of his works weren't done alone.

  • Even if the original vision was his,

  • the work itself was often done by a team

  • both early in his career in his mentor Verrochio's studio

  • and then later on in his own studio.

  • Now this might seem crazy to think about at first

  • but given the time it's really not that different

  • than multiple people working together today

  • to create an animated character in a movie or a video game.

  • Most 3D characters are created by multiple artists,

  • some work on textures, others work on rigging,

  • and still others study reference material

  • to make sure the animation itself is realistic.

  • And even putting painting aside,

  • many of the other great ideas da Vinci had

  • were inspired by his conversations and his work with others.

  • Others whose names have been forgotten

  • but whose contributions live on.

  • As the Jesuit priest Father Strickland once said,

  • "A man may do an immense deal of good

  • "if he does not care who gets the credit for it."

  • Today we seem to have this particularly strong fixation

  • with building a personal brand both online and offline.

  • We wanna make sure that our work has our name on it

  • but if you can get away from this temptation a bit,

  • if you can embrace collaboration

  • and be quick to credit people

  • for their ideas and contributions,

  • you're gonna get a lot farther

  • because your work will be better.

  • Also, somewhat ironically, people will tend to like you more

  • if you're quick to credit others

  • because well you won't look selfish.

  • That brings us to lesson number five

  • which is to be wary of perfectionism.

  • Looking at Leonardo's accomplishments in retrospect

  • can make him look almost superhuman in his brilliance

  • but while he was still alive,

  • it wasn't the only thing he was known for.

  • The same perfectionism that drove him to new heights

  • also kept him from being very reliable to others.

  • He rarely finished anything including some large projects

  • that he had been paid to do and had agreed to finish.

  • After procrastinating in what could have been

  • one of his greatest achievements,

  • a mural commemorating The Battle of Anghiari,

  • eventually getting a new contract with a later deadline,

  • failing that deadline as well,

  • and then eventually just abandoning

  • the entire project altogether,

  • he never again received a public commission.

  • And not only did this trait make it difficult

  • for Leonardo to find work

  • compared to his more flexible peers,

  • it also didn't seem to sit well with Leonardo himself

  • as he obsessed with leaving a legacy while simultaneously

  • leaving project after project unfinished,

  • he repeatedly scrawled in his notebooks.

  • Tell me if anything was ever done.

  • Tell me, tell me, tell me if I ever did a thing.

  • Tell me if anything was ever made.

  • Hundreds of years later, Leonardo may now be more respected

  • for his unwillingness to produce work

  • that was just good enough

  • and you may well respect him for that yourself

  • but it's also important to know when to just be done.

  • It is okay to simply finish something

  • to the best of your ability right now and move forward

  • and it's far better than just not finishing it at all.

  • And this is especially true

  • because regardless of what you view as perfection right now,

  • what you're gonna be able to produce in the future

  • will be far better.

  • Every single time you finish a project,

  • you gain new skills, you gain new insight,

  • and you become more capable

  • of creating better and better work.

  • Now perfectionism is a big problem

  • so let me imperfectly solve it here with just one quick tip.

  • Give your perfectionism constraints,

  • don't say I'm going to set out to make the best thing ever

  • as that's impossible, you could always put more time

  • and energy and effort into it,

  • instead say I'm gonna make the best thing

  • that I can reasonably make within this timeframe

  • and this set of constraints.

  • In the long term, just remember that trying new things

  • and making mistakes is a large part