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Self-stimulate like Leonardo

Self-stimulate like Leonardo

When I think about Leonardo da Vinci, one word comes to mind: self-stimulation.

No, not that kind. Let me explain.

Inspiring quotes, inspiring messages, and inspiring videos abound around the Internet. They are meant to inspire us to take action. Inspire us to aspire, lift 500 pounds and or make 5 000 000 pounds.

I think it's another case of the medium defeating the message. 95% of the time, the person scrolling won't suddenly jump into action, but just become vaguely disatisfied about a 100 different potential endeavors, pursuing none.

All this "content" is stimulating, however. Discovering new information lights up our brain like discovering long-thought-eaten ice cream in the freezer that you forgot about. And so, because we're looking for mental stimulation, often as a means to escape our own seemingly dreary mundane reality, we tap into the online world to be stimulated by others for a moment.

Now back to Leonardo. I see the man, strolling through Florence one late afternoon. A particular play of light and shadow on the surface of a pond catches his eye. So he takes out his notebook and sketches for half an hour or so, and then continues on his stroll. He's constantly observing, thinking, hypothesising, and writing in his famous notebooks. The notebooks contain thousands of ideas, sketches, mechanical designs and more. What I see is a man who could be bored easily, and so he used his perception and imagination to construct an infinite world of inspiration of his own making. He constructed his own interconnected web of ideas, 100% relevant for him, that was centered around the things he was creating or wished to create. He ran on his own self-generated inputs. That's what I mean by self-stimulation. Of course, I wonder if Leonardo would become the famous "Il Florentine" today with all the stimulation offered by others, on tap 24/7. I'm not sure.

I keep returning to this idea of Leonardo ever since I've thought of it a few years back. I called this the Da Vinci mode:

Da Vinci mode:

  • your actions originate from your own mind
  • you are curious about your surroundings
  • you experiment, prototype, and probe
  • you notice details in your craft that others don't

(Since Da Vinci means from Vinci, I'd perhaps change this to Leonardo Mode, or Il Florentine Mode.)

Looking for others-stimulation is so easy and so luring, yet ultimately not constructive. It leads us away from our surroundings, instead of inhabiting them, and away from our own talents, instead of developing them.

So instead, I invite you to self-stimulate today. (You know what I mean.)