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.

The Motivation Behind The Three Leonardo Trait Books

The Motivation Behind The Three Leonardo Trait Books - The Leonardo Trait - Angie DixonI get emails saying, “Thank you for writing The Leonardo Trait.”

I always respond the same way—“You’re welcome. I’m glad it helped you.”

What I don’t say, and will from now on, is this:

You’re welcome. And thank you for reading The Leonardo Trait.

I’m excited that my book helped you, and excited for you that you’ve discovered you’re a Leonardo and that you now have some context for who you are and why you’re rare and special.

The thing is, I have to admit that I didn’t write the first edition of The Leonardo Trait to help anyone else.

I wrote it because I had come up with an idea that might explain my life and help me make my life work.

I hoped that my book would reach others and help them the way writing it helped me.

But I wrote it for myself. I wrote all three editions for myself.

And I believe that the best books are the ones written for the author, not for the reader.

When I wrote a book that would help me, I think that’s how I created a book that could help anyone.

Here are some excerpts from the introductions of the various editions, which I thought you might enjoy:

From the First Edition:

Why This Book and Why Now

Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of exploring into my personality, work habits and general uniquosity, as my husband would say.

In doing that, and talking to other people, I discovered that I’m really not that unique, that a lot of people share the qualities I have, of doing “too many things,” not settling down, and generally being multipassionate, multitalented, multitaskers.

As soon as I realized this, I saw the potential for a book. And I wanted to write it because Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Now is as soon as I could get it done. I’m sorry, for those of you who’ve been waiting for so long to find out that you’re absolutely okay and that all hope is not lost. But here it is. I hope it helps.

What I Hope For You from This Book

I hope you will read this book and discover that something you’ve always suspected is true – that you are a special, incredible, creative genius.

I hope this book will set you free to be your Leonardo self.

A Magnificent Discovery

For me, the Leonardo Trait has been a magnificent discovery, and I’m eternally grateful that I was able to discover these things about myself and share them with others. It gives me goose bumps every time someone calls themselves a Leonardo. I hope you’ll share my delight with this concept.

From the Second Edition:

I believe that some people exhibit a much stronger Leonardo Trait than others. These are the profoundly imaginative, curious and creative individuals I call (and who now often call themselves) Leonardos.

My favorite discoveries around the Leonardo Trait are that everyone has a natural creative ability and everyone can improve this innate ability.

This book helps Leonardos—and those who simply want to improve their creative ability—effectively live a “multipassionate life.”

I hope this book will spark an “aha” moment, when you realize you’re a Leonardo, that it’s a great thing to be, and that you’re not alone.

For me, that moment came slowly, but it did come, and I have led a fuller, richer life since realizing that I am a Leonardo and everything that means.

From the Third Edition:

Seven Years and Many Months Ago…

The Leonardo Trait concept popped into my head, almost completely evolved, during a conversation on March 25, 2006.

The first edition of The Leonardo Trait saw the light of day on October 20, 2006.

As I write this, it’s now September 9, 2013.

It’s been an interesting and exciting seven years.

Instead of going into a lot of detail in this introduction about why I wrote this book and what I hope you will take away from it, I’ve included the introductions from the first two editions, right after the foreword to the first edition. I thought it would be nice to include a little of each book in this one.

Why I Wrote a Third Edition

I’ve written several million words since I wrote the second edition of The Leonardo Trait. Before that I wrote several million after the first edition.

I have new ideas, and I have more skill and experience writing those ideas.

That’s one reason I wrote this edition.

The second reason is that I felt that some parts of the second edition weren’t authentically me, due to a variety of factors, and I wanted to correct that in this edition.

The third, and final, reason I wrote this edition is that I felt that the first two editions were about an idea, and I wanted The Leonardo Trait to be about a solution.

I do not believe we need a solution to being Leonardos; that’s not where I’m going with this.

I believe that The Leonardo Trait needs to focus more on becoming the person you want to be and living your dream. Everything else—spouses, young Leonardos, time management and organization—is surplus information.

Some of that surplus information is useful and valuable, but not in this book. I’ll be putting that information into free reports available soon for download from LeonardoTrait.com.

This third edition is uniquely and authentically me, in ways that the first two editions were not.

I hope you find it both useful and hilarious, not necessarily in that order.

How Writing The Leonardo Trait Changed My Life—And Why You Might Care

How Writing The Leonardo Trait Changed My Life—And Why You Might Care - The Leonardo Trait - Angie DixonLet me say this up front:

I hate blog post and article headlines that begin with “Why I…” or “How I…” or something similar.

I hate those headlines because my immediate, involuntary question is, “Who are you and why should I care why you did that or how you did it?”

I don’t think I’m alone in that. Most people want to read a blog post or an article that they’re going to find interesting. And most of us are tuned to radio station WIIFM – What’s In It For Me.

There’s nothing abnormal or selfish about wanting to read something that you can relate to and that holds value to you. That’s normal. It’s human.

So who am I and why should you care, first?

I’m the author of this blog and of three editions of The Leonardo Trait. The latest edition is subtitled “How Creative People Can Turn Creative Eccentricity into a Life You Love.

In this blog post I’m going to show you five ways writing The Leonardo Trait (three times) changed my life.

You should care, or rather you might care, because The Leonardo Trait can bring these same changes to the life of any extreme creative. If you want your life to work without giving up your creativity, The Leonardo Trait can help you get there.

And here’s a hint: Giving up your creativity won’t work anyway.

So here are those five changes:

  1. I realized that there was nothing “wrong” with me. Well, there are things “wrong.” I get bad migraines. I have a bad knee now, though I didn’t when I wrote the first book. I don’t have a filter between my brain and my mouth. But my creativity is not something that is “wrong” with me.
  2. I realized that I am not “wrong” because of my creativity. Sometimes it felt like more than just having something wrong with me. Sometimes it felt like I was wrong or bad. I’m not. And neither are you.
  3. I realized that not only is my brain not like everyone else’s, it’s not supposed to be. This is the way I’m made. And after I discovered the Leonardo Trait, a friend said, “That’s why we love you.”
  4. I wrapped my head around the idea that what I am and what I can do, as a creative Leonardo, is pretty damn cool. Pardon my French. I realized that instead of thinking I’m a freak, people think I’m awesome and amazing and that I rock—their words, not mine.
  5. I started finding other people like me. And that was the best thing of all.