If you are a Zebra, be a Zebra

We are in the process of learning new ways to make our lives work and to become OK with the way our brains are wired. The da Vinci Soul’s brain is oriented toward exploring the wonders around them. This can look scattered to the outside world but you find it exciting and fun.

Pressure from parents, teachers and friends has forced many of us to try to be more like Mozart and follow the path to being an expert. There are even some da Vinci souls who are ‘serial experts’ as Barbara Sher calls them in her book ‘Refuse to Choose’. Whether you are forced by circumstance or inclination, you focus on climbing the ladder to expert. Once you have made it to the top of the ladder you relax. Immediately other passions begin shouting for their time in the sun.

Changing your basic wiring is like coloring your hair. It takes effort, costs money, and it isn’t permanent. If you are a zebra then painting over your stripes only disguises who you are. It doesn’t change it.

Those people who find one or two things endlessly fascinating have an easier time discovering the path to a successful life. These people are able to find books and role models to tell them how to become a singer or a photographer or a chef or a police officer.

On the other hand, you want to be a singer, a photographer, a chef AND a police officer. The ‘and’ makes a big difference. It requires you to develop skills in logistics and planning to change the environment we live in to support us. The key is not to try to force ourselves to change to fit other’s expectations. It’s not impossible to ‘make it work’, but it is harder to find role models and books to help you out along the way.

There is no cosmic rule that says you are limited to one main passion. Today, there is a bit more tolerance for a person who comes out of the ‘Expert Closet’ and shows they are a da Vinci Soul. They have climbed a mountain and now they are looking for the next one.

Coming out into the light of day successfully requires accepting that you are more like da Vinci than Mozart. Having the passion and drive to master multiple things doesn’t make you better or worse than a person focused on a single goal. It truly is only different.

Being who you really are will make you happy. My belief is: increasing the number of happy, fulfilled people in the world, makes it a better place. Help a planet out—become one.

ZEBRAs rule!

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Don’t buy the equipment, yet.

I was doing an exercise in Barbara Sher’s Book ‘Refuse to Choose” where you go around the house and list all your unfinished projects. To my horror I found supplies and equipment that I’d bought for a project I couldn’t even remember.

I wish that I could blame it on some exotic brain disease but sadly, I can’t. In the heat of the moment, when a new idea of strikes I run out and buy all the stuff I need to do the project. This also can happen when I’ve taken a class, seen a demonstration or read a book. I’m hooked. If I’m at workshop or class the instructor has, for sale, all the equipment and supplies you need to continue on. There is usually a discount for this day/weekend only. You know what happens next. Yup, load me up, I’ve going to go home and plunge into this new passion immediately. This is the one.

We talked about the fact that when you throw yourself into a new passion, the one thing you don’t know is how long you will be riveted by it.

As a da Vinci Soul that lives in the NOW the new passion feels like this will be the one. The one I will do forever. So I buy all the equipment and supplies. Then many times when I get home it sits in the corner and gathers dust.

If my family or friends notice then the shaming begins. “I can’t believe you bought all this stuff and there it sits…”

It’s hard to resist the one time offer of getting all the equipment you need today and at a discount. Try not to buy. Try really hard.

If possible find ways to use someone else’s equipment. I found a wonderful man that lets me rent his blacksmithing, welding and metal working equipment for a fee. For months I trekked to his shop and worked on my projects. When the urge to do steel sculpture went from wildfire to glowing furnace, I knew this was one of my passions that will come back around at irregular intervals for years to come. I gave myself permission to buy the tools I need most and continue to rent the use of those I use infrequently.

A new passion is like a new love. It consumed you. The lure of having everything available at your fingertips is overwhelming. Unfortunately it’s not worth the punishment you receive from yourself and others if you bring it home and never use it again.

Be strong. Use that big da Vinci Soul brain to find ways to work with the new passion with a minimum investment. If that’s not possible, then buy the tools and supplies. If anyone gives you grief, invoke cat rules.

Cat rule number one: If I did it, I meant to do it. So (insert name or relationship), get over yourself. When invoking cat rules, remember that it’s an attitude not a verbal statement.

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Not every interest you have must be a job.

The common wisdom tells you to find your one true passion and make it your job. The saying goes, ‘If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.’

Which sounds good and will easily work for a person who has only one main passion. A da Vinci Soul who is managing (or not) anywhere from two to twenty passions it’s a bit more difficult.  A fortunate Soul who has found an career that isn’t the same every day, like being a writer or movie producer, more easily falls into that category. Barbara Sher calls this having an ‘Umbrella Career’ which we will discuss in another blog. The ones who are not lucky enough to find an Umbrella Career need to learn ways to make enough money to pay the bills and support their passions.

When you have multiple interests/passions finding the most compelling one isn’t difficult. It just doesn’t last. If you are like me that thought can be depressing, a portion of my mind wants to find one thing to do forever. I want to finally know where I’m going and not have to defend myself for my newest riveting interest. However, the thought of doing the same thing forever makes the core of my brain want to run screaming from the building.

Society, your family and friends want you to be happy. Unfortunately for you, they believe happiness will only come when you settle on one interest and stick to it. Happy to the da Vince Soul is having a new toy to play with or discovering a new aspect of an old one.

Almost all my interests last longer than a day. Some of my fascinators can last two or three years before I’ve gotten what I want. A few I’ve gone from novice to expert. The longer term passions can be particularly stressful to the outside world. When it takes a long time to reach my saturation point, they believe this must be the one. When I announce that I’m moving on, the howling begins.

Other interests are limited to one book or class. The focus is no less intense just shorter. Infrequently the shorter ones can pass unnoticed by the judges. I will confess that I cause most of my own troubles. When I find something fascinating, I tell everyone. Usually in the annoying perky way of the true fanatic until the disappointed and disgusted looks register. Then I shut up (which is really DIFFICULT).

Know that if you are choosing a single passion, it is a true thing. The problem stems from not knowing how long it will keep your attention. I can’t tell you the control it takes not to scream when I hear ‘maybe this is the one you will stick with.’ To some friends I can tell the truth, “Probably not, although I might come back to it in a month or a year.” With the rest I smile and change the subject. Know your audience.

 

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Idea Garden

I call the container for all my new and growing interests the Idea Garden.

When a new exciting idea arrives in the middle of working on another project, do you become angry, sad, pissed, depressed? Don’t shout at the voice of your creativity. Don’t switch to the new project, so you won’t forget it. Don’t annoy your family and neighbors by screaming.

The Idea Garden is a place where you can keep your ideas safe until you are ready to work on it. A single spot to capture all those ideas, designs, and interesting articles from magazines or content from the internet.

Collect in one place the tools you will use to record your ideas. Paper (lined, blank, three hole punched or not), pens (black, blue or multicolored), pencils (lead or colored), scissors, and glue.

The container of your garden can be a three ring binder, a box or any other device that will keep them safe.

If you use a three ring binder I recommend getting sheet protectors to put articles, notecards, or the pieces of napkin on which you drew an amazing design at dinner last night.

A box will require some way to keep your interests separate so manila envelopes would do the trick.

Now collect all the pieces of paper, notecards, sticky notes, pages torn out of magazines and printouts of research you’ve done. Sort the chaos into piles by interest.

Take a deep breath. Congratulate yourself on taking the first step toward making your life work for YOU.

Pull over the first pile and begin inserting papers into sheet protectors or envelopes. This is not a race. When you tire of the activity set it aside and take a break.

Make it a fun as possible. Sitting in front of the television comes to mind. Think how virtuous you will feel to be getting something done while you’re indulging that secret craving for entertainment.

If you can’t make it fun, look at it as a problem to solve. Use your idea generator mind and transform the task until it’s the easy thing to do.

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Challenge

You’ve decided that you might be a da Vinci Soul or you know someone who might qualify. Welcome!

Other names for a da Vinci Soul are Renaissance Soul or Scanner.

Currently people who are attracted to a single subject, like Mozart, are worshiped and those with multiple interests and talents, like Leonardo da Vinci, are criticized for their lack of discipline.

Today’s employers, our friends and family, and the majority of books tell you to choose one subject. If you chose one path you will be successful and happy.

In search of happiness I read many books on how to find your passion. That one thing you will stick with for the rest of your life. Each time I would do all the exercises and find my passion. A few weeks later I had turned into an angry snapping turtle. My passion for all time had turned into a passion for the moment or the month. Determined that I had just done it wrong, I would find another book and try again.

It took (too) many years to figure out that I wasn’t a failure I was just different. Barbara Sher in her book ‘Refuse to Choose’ says that people who have multiple interests have brains that are wired differently. We are programmed to learn. The world is a fascinating place and we want the keys to the entire candy shop not just the licorice jar. There is nothing wrong with licorice; it’s just not all we want forever.

So what does a da Vinci Soul need to thrive in this universe that worships experts? Tools, tools that will help us shape our lives to work for us. So we can pay our bills, feel good about ourselves and yes, even have FUN.

If there are days you feel like a two legged version of the dog in ‘Up’, who is distracted by every shiny new interest (squirrel!), it is possible to make your life work, as long as you have the tools to shape it in a way that celebrates you and your hungry brain.

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Are you a da Vinci Soul?

Ask yourself these questions.

1. Once I learn something I want to want to move on to something else?

2. Are there parts of several projects lying around the house waiting to be  finished?

3. Do you hate to do something over and over?

4. When you learn something new do you buy all the tools and then not use them  much.

5. Are you an expert in a field and now want to move on, to the horror of your  family?

If you answered yes to two or more questions you may be a da Vinci Soul. A person whose brain is wired to crave new things to learn and do.

Stay tuned as I develop this theme with a new post every Monday.

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