“I’ve Read The Leonardo Trait—When Do Things Get Easier?”

EasierI get a lot of email about The Leonardo Trait. No one has ever asked, “When do things start getting easier?” I know that a lot of people wonder, though. When does the hard part stop?

I’ve got some bad news, but also some great news.

The bad part is that the hard part never really stops.

Being creative in a world where most people think you’re eccentric, weird or even crazy will always be hard in some ways.

You’re not going to suddenly morph into someone who fits in the world, and not fitting is always going to be a little tough.

The great news is that once you know you’re a Leonardo things get, if not all that much easier, then better.

Once you know who and what you are and that there’s nothing wrong with you or about you…

You start to care less about fitting in the world.

You start to find the people who care about you because of who you are.

You start to value your creativity, and your personality, a lot more.

You start to let the hard stuff roll off your shoulders—at least once in a while.

And I promise this next one:

You will never be the same.

Easy? Probably not. But better? Oh hell yeah.

The Moving Finish Line: The Leonardo Right to Change Your Mind

[This is a reworking of a chapter from the first edition of The Leonardo Trait]

[Yes, I’m aware the photo is a starting line. I like it]

Understand that “people” may expect you to choose a life and lie in it. Know, even if no one has never told you before, that you have the right to change your mind. Learn to explain that to the few who have a right to know, and learn to ignore the rest.

My mother, bless her heart, will swear to her dying day this never happened (so please don’t tell her about it), but I know it did happen, because I was there. It happened to me.

A little background: When I was eight, I got a Kodak 110 camera for Christmas, and I was in love.

I don’t know if I’d ever used a camera before, but I’d certainly seen one. My family had one of those old Polaroids where you had to peel off the paper and then, at least in my family, wave the photo around until the image appeared.

But this was my camera. I was a photographer. I was an artiste. It was an awakening for me, one I’ll never forget.

In the summer of my twelfth year, my brother’s girlfriend was in journalism school and suggested I might want to be a photojournalist. Of course I did. I dreamed of nothing else for three solid years. At the library every week I stared at old issues of magazines and dreamed of being a National Geographic staff photographer.

Then I joined Future Teachers of America; I’m still not sure why. But suddenly I was in love again. I was assigned as a student aide to Mr. Felker, the best elementary teacher I’ve ever known. In 1984, he had a computer in his classroom. Now, in 1984, where I lived, computers were like aliens from outer space. We’d heard of them He had one, and knew how to use it. He was a fantastic teacher and a dear man. His students adored him. I wanted to be him.

Now back to my story. During my junior year of high school, I went with my mother to a doctor’s appointment (hers). The doctor asked me what I wanted to do after high school, and I said I wanted to teach English. My mother, whom I love dearly, honestly said, “What she really wants to do is be a photojournalist.” I swear. I remember it like it was 21 years ago.

I’ll come back to this story later, because it’s very important.

Short-Term Project Kind of Gal

Leonardos can take on long-term projects. We write books, raise children, grow roses and go to college.

But most of our projects are short-term. We thrive on change. We thrill at beginnings. We’re energized by starting something new.

I think a lot of this is due to our creativity. We can generate a lot of ideas at the beginning of a project, and we have that “beginner’s mind energy” to work with. It’s very exciting to start something new.

In case you don’t already know, people who are “not like us” hate that short-term thing. Makes them want to pull their hair out. Through their ears.

My son is entering sixth grade. Middle school. His new school has two “majors.” In sixth grade.

In a way this is not so bad; Jack is interested in computers (which is like saying a fish is “interested” in water), and his new school has an information technology curriculum. He can still do just about anything. It’s just the idea that startles me a little.

People will tell you that “part of being an adult is settling down.”

You’ll hear that you’re supposed to know what you want to do after college by your junior year, and then you’re supposed to do it. Forever.

You’ll be informed that life is not a dress rehearsal.

Humbug.

Life is its very own dress rehearsal. Change is why we’re here. What else is there?

You only get one shot. You have to live while you’re alive. And if you could do it over, you’d have even more reason to try new things, not less.

Live your life like it’s a buffet but you only get one trip through. It is. You do.

“Finish What You Start”

Let me give you just a few thoughts on finishing what you start.

First, you finish, or continue, a lot of what you start. You’re still alive, you’re in relationships, maybe you have kids, maybe you’re in school, maybe you have a job.

You haven’t quit those things. You’re doing what you started out to do, at least in some form.

And you’re still reading this book.

You finish more than you may get credit for.

Second, you don’t have to use anyone else’s standard for when something is “finished.”

Finishing vs. “Getting Done”

About a year ago, I decided that I really wanted to learn to draw. I had always wanted to learn. So I started teaching myself. I taught myself from books, web sites, and just doing it. I worked really hard for a couple of months.

At the end of that two months I was great at line drawings. I had a very nice toucan hanging on my wall, and had made gifts to a couple of friends, of my drawings. I was “ready” for perspective drawing.

But I was not interested in that kind of drawing, and I really didn’t want to continue with my drawing at that point, so I didn’t. I was done.

The Great Secret

There is a secret that unhappy people never learn, and if they did, they wouldn’t want anyone else to learn it.

You have the right to change your mind.

If you really think about it, you’ll realize what a liberating statement that is. If you have the right to do something else, you’re not stuck.

If you realize that “photojournalism” means something very different from what you love to do, you can choose to become a teacher—or an astronaut.

With Great Freedom…

What you have to remember, though, is that you cannot just go around changing your mind and darn the consequences.

You have to take care of your responsibilities. Your real ones, not the ones everyone wants to force on you.

Mainly, you can’t hurt yourself and you can’t intentionally hurt another person. There’s more to it than that, but if you stick with, “First, do no harm,” you’re probably on the right track.

Sidebar: It’s All About Choice

One of my best friends, who’s been around long enough to say things like this, often says, “The worst choices I ever made were when I felt I had no other choice.”

Sometimes people believe that if you have the right to change your mind, you’ll be changing it all the time, you’ll have no stability, and your life will be a wreck.

Maybe it will. Maybe some people act that way.

But I’ve known many, many people for whom knowing they could do something different kept them happy with the way things were.

When you’re choosing to do something, even if it’s not what you’d hoped it would be right now, it’s easier to hang in there and wait for things to get better. If you’re stuck in quicksand, I’m told the best thing to do is wait, not flail. But if you discover the quicksand is actually just water, you can swim.

Jack of All Trades

If I could find the person who first said, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” I would cheerfully strangle him. Or her. I’m an equal opportunity outraged Leonardo.

I know people believe it. I just don’t want you to believe it.

How many things are you really good at? For myself, in five seconds I counted six:

  1. Mommying
  2. Writing
  3. Web design
  4. Marketing
  5. Computer graphics
  6. Cooking (which I cordially hate, but am great at)

You know the thing about being “master of none” is not true. You’ve always known it. You’ve just never had permission to not believe it. I hereby give you that permission.

 

Sidebar: Some Jacks of All Trades No One’s Complaining About

By the time you read this, maybe I’ll be famous enough, and Leonardos will be respected enough, that this whole section will be unnecessary. Until then, here are just four names of people who do more than one thing and do it well. I’ll leave the commentary to you:

Bette Midler

Paul Newman

Bo Jackson

Cher

Dealing with Difficult People

So now you know all this, but your brother still thinks you’re a dilettante, and he says that like it’s a bad thing. What do you do?

Here’s one solution I used once, very successfully. A friend told me I should settle down and do something with my life.

In response, I sent her a list of my accomplishments over the last twelve months, including writing and completely rewriting (twice) a mystery novel and finding an agent for it. I’m still waiting for a reply to that email.

You may not wish to be that blunt, or you may not be able to, for reasons like trying to keep your job.

Some other good responses are:

 

“Yeah, I know I don’t finish everything I start. But I start a lot of things. I finish more than most people.”

“Some things are just better left unfinished.”

“Yes, I flit around a lot. Like a butterfly. Life’s sweeter when you can smell all the different flowers.”

 

Or, if possible, ignore them. Maybe they’ll go away.

The Leonardo/Straight-Liner Relationship Guide, Part 2:

The Leonardo’s Guide to Straight-Liner Friends and How Both Parties Can Make It Work

[This is a reworking of part of a chapter from the first edition of The Leonardo Trait]

The Leonardo/Straight-Liner Relationships Guide, Part 2 - The Leonardo Trait - Angie DixonWhat We Love About You

We love you. And these are some of the reasons.

You’re Solid and Stable.

We need to know something in our lives is going to last and always be there. That something is you.

You’re Intelligent.

We want someone we can carry on an intelligent conversation with. We know you’re intelligent because we don’t suffer fools.

You Try to Understand Us

We know you don’t get us. It’s okay. You try. You celebrate with us when we have victories and offer sympathy when we have setbacks. You do your best, and that’s all we can ask.

You Love Us.

‘Nuff said.

This is part 1 of a series on Leonardo/Straight Liner relationships. Part 2, “The Leonardo’s Guide to Straight-Liner Friends and Family,” is technically coming next Monday, but you can read it here if you’re impatient and it’s not next Monday yet J

What Makes Us Wail and Gnash Our Teeth

We’re not going to go into a lot of detail here, just sort of a list. Sometimes you drive us crazy.

  • You’re too predictable.
  • You’re too organized.
  • You just don’t get us sometimes.
  • We just don’t get you sometimes.

 Living Happily Every After

I think, with some adjustments and coping strategies in a few areas, most Straight Line/Leonardo partnerships can be very successful. My husband and I are very extreme in opposite directions, and have been happy together for 14 years now. In fact, we’ve been together over 14 years and happy all of it. Just to clarify.

Finances

Unless there’s a good reason not to, the Straight Liner should probably handle the finances, and the Leonardo should probably do the best he/she can just to write down checks, control spending, and stay in the budget. I’m generalizing, but that’s often the way it goes, and finances can be very tough on a relationship.

Work and Downtime

Straight Liners tend to work regular hours, mostly, and take weekends and evenings off. Leonardos, often, don’t. You may need to come to some agreement about when will be work time, when will be downtime, and when those traditions can be changed to accommodate a project. One thing I try to do, even if I’m planning to come back down and work, is to go to bed when Jim does, and talk to him until he turns out his light. Then I come back to my office. That is one of our few “our” times to talk, and I don’t miss it.

At the same time, the Straight Liner may need to make some allowances for the Leonardo’s need to hibernate. It’s not something we can control; sometimes we use all our energy and have to make more. Please be patient with us while we do that.

Reminders About HoneyDew Lists

No, you shouldn’t have to remind your Leonardo spouse to do things around the house. In an ideal world, we’d remember. We often don’t. But most of us, if you’ll remind us, send us a quick email, put a note on our computer monitor, will do it, and we’ll do it gladly. We just get sidetracked. Please try to understand.

Making Family a Priority

Something I am guilty of at times is not being with my family enough because I’m working. That’s sometimes a Straight Liner problem, too. You’ll have to figure out your own solution, of course, but do be aware that it can be a problem and you do need to address it.

Trying to Accept Each Other’s Passions

Straight Liners have passions. They’re called hobbies. Leonardos’ passions are called our life. We’ll try to understand you, if you’ll try to understand us. In fact, let’s talk about it.

The Most Important Thing

If I could only give you one, single, solitary piece of advice on living in a Straight Line/Leonardo couple, it would be this. Remember you love each other.

Sidebar: You’re Both Right

One thing I want to make abundantly clear here is that both sides are right, and neither is “wrong.” We are the way we are, and we love each other that way, but sometimes it’s easier if we can work something out to deal with the differences.

But we’re both okay just the way we are.

[This is part 2 of a series on Leonardo/Straight Liner relationships. You can read Part 2, “The Spouse’s Guide to Leonardos,” here.

Raising Young Leonardos [From the First Edition of The Leonardo Trait

Raising Young Leonardos – The Leonardo Trait – Angie Dixon[This is a reworking of a chapter from the first edition of The Leonardo Trait. My kids are 17 and almost 20 now, and they’re amazing people, just as I knew they would be. Well, except for that one bad habit, but we won’t go into that.]

I heard a great speaker recently who talked about how each time she changed her mind about what she wanted to be, her parents “watered her dreams” by telling her what a good idea and how good she would be at it.

Young children are natural Leonardos, and as parents we nurture that. We let them do the various things they want to do. When they want to be a fireman one day and a lawyer the next, we say that’s great. When they’re 5. Even when they’re 8. But up around 10, 12, we start thinking maybe they should grow up a little bit.

As They Get Older…

As kids get older, parents and teachers start talking about what they’re going to be when they grow up. Of course it’s the child’s decision, but wouldn’t he be a great…wouldn’t she be fabulous at…

Do We Push the Straight and Narrow?

I would be the absolute last person in the world to try to tell my kids they have to do one thing for the rest of their lives, but I find myself pushing the “Straight Line” path on my daughter, especially. She’s very dramatic, at eight. She’ll be a great actress someday, but she wants to be a teacher, and I praise that every time I get the chance.

My son will be many things, and I just pray one of them isn’t a clown in a traveling circus, because it seems like a hard life. I try to let them both be who and what they are, but being a Leonardo, I can see how if they turned out to be Straight Liners, they might have easier lives in some ways. It’s too late for my son. But too soon to tell for his baby sister.

My Little Leonardo

While I was making my notes for this chapter, my son, Jack, was building a guitar from a shoebox, a ruler and all the rubber bands in my office. Half an hour before that, he was building his own video game using a program from the Internet. Before that, I have no idea. I can’t keep up with him.

Jack came to me, after I started The Leonardo Trait, and told me he’s a Leonardo and why. He’s right, he is. He’s not just ten years old. He’s a true Young Leonardo. He’s a marvelously enjoyable child and I’m lucky to have him.

The Best Part of Young Leonardos

You know what I really love about Young Leonardos? They haven’t lost the spirit yet. You know, the certain amount of your spirit that got trampled out of you by parents, or high school teachers, or college advisors, or bosses.

Leonardo Kids still have that. They still believe they can do it. Whatever it is. And because they believe they can, they do. My son makes amazing contraptions. At four, he built a set of tools from Tinker Toys. Hammer, wrench, saw, pliers. One time he took the tools apart, for parts, and built a vacuum cleaner/lawn mower.

They’re incredible kids. They need us to be incredible parents.

Why It’s Hard for Us As Parents

We remember what it was like being a Young Leonardo, being misunderstood, being stepped on and laughed at and put down. It’s hard. We want them to be “normal” kids. Happy kids.

They are, generally, happy kids. They aren’t “normal,” and that’s what makes them so incredible. They’re special kids. They’re our kids.

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings.

Hodding Carter

Let Them Be…

We have to let them be Young Leonardos, because they are and there’s nothing we can do about it. But here are three tips for how to do that, without driving them or yourself crazy.

Encourage.

Teach.

Enjoy.

Yes, as your child grows and moves closer to college and real life, it can be difficult to watch him want to be a veterinarian today, a physicist tomorrow and a novelist the next day. But you have to let him be as he is. You just do.

Sidebar-Ways to Help Kids Learn About All Their Selves

I encourage you to get your child into as many activities as you have time for and can afford. Many times local churches offer gymnastics, sports, and other activities to non-members and members alike. Schools offer art and music as electives; encourage your kids to take them. Help your Leonardo find books on topics he’s interested in, and make sure she has time to read them all.

Mainly, just be there, be supportive, and if your child says, “I want to be a governor,” go to the library with him to figure out how one becomes a governor.Raising Young Leonardos - A Blog Post from LeonardoTrait.com - The Leonardo Trait - Angie Dixon