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.


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


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.

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.

Why The Leonardo Trait Can Change Your Life—And How It Can’t

Why The Leonardo Trait Can Change Your Life—And How It Can’tI’ve had this post planned for a while and I’ve really been looking forward to it. Here’s why.

I’ve seen remarkable changes in the lives of my readers, both of my book and of my blog, when they realize that they’re Leonardos and that they’re exactly who, what, where and when they’re supposed to be.

Why can The Leonardo Trait change your life?

The fact is that The Leonardo Trait can, in a manner of speaking, change your life—but it’s not quite that simple.

What The Leonardo Trait, including the concept, the book and the blog, can do for you is help you realize that you’re special. There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to keep trying to be “normal.” You need to be more of who you are.

I can help you with that, through my writing, the coaching and other programs I’m planning to offer, and a certain amount of personal interaction.

I can help you figure out a direction and some ideas for what to do to get where you want to be.

That’s why The Leonardo Trait can change your life—because it adds something to your life that you’ve never had before—knowledge of your true nature and the support to be that person.

How can’t it change your life?

In the same way that joining a gym, buying a copy of Rosetta Stone software or stuffing your garage full of woodworking equipment can’t change your life, neither can The Leonardo Trait. Not on its own, anyway.

Your life can change only because of a change you make in your beliefs and actions. But with my help and The Leonardo Trait, you’ll be in a position to make amazing changes when you’re ready.