True Genius

It’s a matter of knowing what you don’t know

I just finished reading this delightful little article that discuses one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do lists from 1490. I’ve always been fascinated by Leonardo, because he had both an analytical, scientific mind and an artistic flair. That’s a rare combination indeed. It’s rather unusual for a genius to also be well-rounded.

What intrigued me most about his list was that the vast majority of the items thereon had something to do with asking someone else to teach him something. Whether it’s having a friar show him a medieval text, or a professor explain proportion, or an expert on hydraulics teaching him how to repair a lock, canal and mill, Leonardo, it seems, didn’t simply rely on his own mind. He asked questions. He opened himself up to learning something new. He realized that some people had pieces of the puzzle that he lacked.

Da Vinci’s obvious curiosity, coupled with an apparent humility, means that he seems to have mastered networking centuries before Facebook. Don’t know something? Find an expert and ask him or her. Drink from the font of human knowledge. Brilliant.

I’ve always believed that a true sign of genius is being able to make yourself understood by a variety of audiences. And I still believe that. But after reading this article, I think I’ll add to my philosophy by saying that it’s also a matter of knowing what you don’t know, and having the courage to consult with those who have other areas of expertise.

So, thanks, Leonardo, for once again expanding my horizons!

Leonardo Da Vinci

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The Fine Art of Begging

Recently I racked up $9,000.00 in debt by moving 3100 miles across country to start my life over after a series of setbacks that, frankly, are becoming too boring to even discuss. Everybody has problems, right? But a friend suggested I do a crowdfunding campaign through the Indiegogo website to help me get my head above water. I set a goal of 5k for my two month campaign, never really expecting to get a response.

The campaign ended just the other day, and much to my shock and awe I did reach 50 percent of my goal. But even more valuable than the money was all that I learned from the experience, about myself and about others. I never realized what a ride it would be until I hopped on.

First of all, as one might expect, it’s kind of humiliating to have to beg for money. Essentially, you are telling the entire world, “I can’t do this on my own.” No one likes to admit that.

Second, you spend a great deal of time dealing with the complex issue that a certain percentage of people are bound to assume that you are asking for something that you don’t really deserve because you’re lazy or you’re a scammer. There’s really no simple way to protest your innocence. “I am not a crook” didn’t work for Nixon, and it wouldn’t have worked for me, either.

And then, at least for me, there was a nagging feeling that maybe it was true. Maybe I didn’t really deserve help. I can think of at least a billion people who are worse off than I will ever be. Who do I think I am? What makes me so special? Those are really uncomfortable questions to have to wrestle with.

The moment the campaign was launched, the vultures started circling. “For just $200.00, I can make your campaign go viral!” “Sign up for tips on how to increase your visibility.” These e-mails made me really uncomfortable. It was like my financial desperation had somehow become a business opportunity. For me, this wasn’t business. This was my life.

Also, I got some really weird reactions from distant family members. One even told me that what I was doing was inappropriate and an embarrassment to the family. Wow. Several of them still aren’t speaking to me, and the irony is, none of them helped out, even emotionally, and I never expected that they would. They had never stepped up before, so it would have surprised me if they did now.

But the amazing thing, the thing that still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes, are the people who did step up. Many of them, I know for a fact, are struggling themselves, and they were often the most generous. Then there were the people from my distant past, many of whom I hadn’t had contact with in decades, who supported me without hesitation. And total strangers who said, “I’ve been where you are. Here. Good luck.” Some people said, “I wish I could contribute, but I have no money to give. But I wanted you to know that I heard your story and I’m pulling for you.” Even those who just shared a link to my campaign on their Facebook pages hold a special place in my heart.

I am humbled by everyone who supported me emotionally as well as financially. The memories of that will be more precious than gold long after this debt is nothing but a bad memory. And some day when I’m able, I plan to pay this generosity forward. That’s a promise.

It is when you have to bare your soul and humble yourself way beyond your comfort zone that you truly discover who your friends are, and that the world is a generous place, indeed. What a gift.

gratitude-printable

 

Humbly Reaching Out

From a recent conversation with my boyfriend:

Me: All of a sudden so many good things are happening in my life! I’ve got that job interview, I got a promotion in my captioning job, I got my 100th follower on my blog, and I just saved a couple hundred bucks by transferring a credit card balance. Could it be that the pendulum is swinging back the other way, finally? Could my luck be changing? I should buy a lottery ticket.

BF: Just remember that this is from YOU reaching out. Not the other way around. Keep reaching out and the way will show itself to you.

Me: You’re right. But, too, it DOES seem like it is the very times when I step back and surrender and stop trying to force things…that’s when things start to get better. Sometimes I just have to get out of my own way.

BF: I learned that from hitchhiking. The more you want and NEED a ride, the less chance someone will stop.

Me: Exactly! So, reach out by sticking your thumb out, but don’t add desperation into the mix. Don’t insist. Don’t expect everything at once. Just make yourself available to the abundance should it come your way, and then see what happens.

————–

That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Reaching out but not clutching, grasping, forcing it. Being humble without being passive. Being open without having expectations. Trying to reach a goal without anticipating an outcome. Having faith but taking responsibility for yourself.

I think finding the right balance will be something I’ll have to work on my entire life. But as it stands now, I did wind up getting the job!

On the other hand, I only matched two out of the six numbers on that lottery ticket. But hey, that’s one number more than is usual for me! Which is probably why I rarely buy them.

Hitchhiker Jericho

[Image credit: solanotempest.net]

P.S. Please do not take this as an endorsement of hitchhiking. In this day and age it’s entirely too dangerous. Getting across town, let alone across the country, isn’t worth your life. Unfortunately, this is not the world of my youth.