The 5 Most Important Things I’ve Learned (To Date)

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I absolutely love learning

Two thousand and sixteen was my best year. I intended it to be. It was not 100% perfect or without difficulty by any means. Part of the reason it was my best is that throughout the year I prioritized learning and investing in self-improvement.

These are the top 5 things I learned in my quest for self-awareness, creativity, fitness, fulfillment and happiness.

“If you know about something but nothing’s changed, then you haven’t learned it.”

–Tony Robbins

 

1. Reading is Not Synonymous with Retention

THE PROBLEM:

It’s not what you’ve read, it’s what you remember and comprehend. Just because we read a piece of information does not mean that we actually stored it for later use or application. That “top 6 productivity tricks” article you read 6 months ago—try and recall more than 2 out of 6. Not so easy. Turns out that wasn’t a very productive read after all.

WHAT I LEARNED:

This was a major area of learning for me that has been building for some time now but crystallized in 2016. I love to read, but at best I can remember a few key takeaways from books and articles. That deteriorates over time. Pretty soon I’ve forgotten what I invested those minutes and hours in, or can barely share a concise summary, let alone repeatedly apply it to my own life. In our modern digital age, we are barraged with information constantly and this is only valuable if we can utilize this information and recall it when the opportunity arises.

SOLUTIONS/BREAKTHROUGHS:

The real productivity hack is to write everything valuable down and review it. Now when I read I take notes on 4×6 index cards. I also frequently and liberally underline or take notes within the book itself. Periodically I review these and refresh my memory of the most valuable insights I deemed worthy to write down or underline. I did not create these systems by any means, I directly modeled them from two amazing people. Ryan Holiday and Maria Popova. Just click their names and I’ve linked to two articles that got me going in this direction.

Book Notes

Taking notes when I read on index cards and within the books has helped me TREMENDOUSLY!

2. Action Bias—From Wishing to Willing

THE PROBLEM:

I have a large scale vision of what I want to become, contribute, and accomplish in life. That isn’t a problem—unless I’m not taking action towards it. It is easy to have dreams. It is easy to wish. We need our willpower, effort, and action to ever make it real.

“…Huge difference between knowing about something and knowing how to do it.

–Tony Robbins

WHAT I LEARNED:

Starting is half the battle. Look up Lao Tzu’s famous quotes and you’ll see the 1000 mile journey one. Beginning something that is important to us when we feel under-qualified, under-confident, and under-funded is not easy, but it is necessary. Everyone who’s ever accomplished or created anything started somewhere. Their conditions were not perfect, even if they have a tremendous success story that makes it seem like they are holier than thou. Starting wasn’t easy for them, but they did it. I had to start my writing dream for real in 2016. I just did it one Wednesday. Now the ball is rolling, now the momentum is building.

Action Bias

Be ready to act!

SOLUTIONS/BREAKTHROUGHS:

Simplicity. Start practicing with low stakes frequently. As skills build, raise the stakes. Think about what life will be like looking back with gratitude for having begun something that matters. Now imagine looking back knowing you never started and feel the pain of regret. My solution was asking myself the question: Do I want it or not?

3. Consistency

THE PROBLEM:

I’m intense. I relish this as a strength, but it is also a weakness. Intensity can be draining, it’s a pace that’s past sustaining. In my past, I frequently have given everything I have for as long as I can, and then burnout. After I’m exhausted I find myself still with mountains to climb.

Consistency

The consistency has to be right for the vision to work…just like with food.

WHAT I LEARNED:

Pace is the name of the game. Two runners embark on a 5-mile run—the one who sustains a consistent output will have better results than the one who sprints until exhaustion and needs time to recover then repeats the same pattern. Consistency was a weakness of mine in many areas  I aimed to reverse this and make it a strength.

SOLUTIONS/BREAKTHROUGHS:

“Intensity cannot replace consistency.” —Simon Sinek

I will keep my intensity but aim to practice and produce continually at a pace that I can handle. Intensity is an asset, but it cannot be all I rely on. My solution is to be intentional and decisive with my time—always making time for what really matters. Chipping away at the bigger picture, rather than swinging a 100lb sledgehammer trying to do it all at once.

4. The Importance of Priorities

Priorities

Priorities are what we are actually doing…not what we know we SHOULD be doing.

THE PROBLEM:

I want so much in life. Not materialistically, but experientially. There is a finite amount of time for all of us. 24 hours in a day, and ballpark 80 years to live if we take adequate care of ourselves. The problem is when to do what. What to be patient with and what to do now. My problem is doing too many things at the same time, not truly focused on the deep work it requires to manifest what I’m after.

WHAT I LEARNED:

I would rather accomplish or take action towards the key factors that make me happiest and most fulfilled. That means eliminating things. That means not everything will get done. That means learning to ignore the part of my brain that spurns me towards attacking 10 projects at a time and cutting that down to 3 at most. My personal bandwidth is exceeded by my ambitions. I download faster than I upload. My ideas come in tremendous flashes of insight, but my actions and ability to execute on these ideas are more like building a fire with friction—lots of time and energy must be expended before it starts to become real.

SOLUTIONS/BREAKTHROUGHS:

Continually asking what is most important? I do this several times a day, and it is now my go-to question when I have a major decision. There are secondary questions that stem from this too. What is most important right now? What is the most important long term? (1 week? 1 month? 6 months? 1 year? 6 years?) What is most important for others? The last question I need to ask a lot more. I’m overcoming a selfish behavior bias and it’s not all about me. I wrote more about The Reality of Priorities here.

5. Frame of Reference

THE PROBLEM:

“What things mean to you is always determined by what you compare them to, or contrast them against.”

—Tony Robbins

We are constantly filtering what comes into our experience through our own beliefs, past experiences, and our prejudices or fears. We need the ability to detach from our default frame of reference to understand and empathize with others. Looking at our own flaws in our worldview is not easy.

WHAT I LEARNED:

This is going to be something I write a lot more about in coming pieces. Frame of reference is like a thesis I plan on spending a lot of time on. I think I learned this based on my expectations of myself and how generally I can’t expect the same from others. I have put myself through some very challenging situations, seen some extreme wealth from up close, and explored who I am as an individual in depth. These factors determine how I view the world and interact with others. I can’t expect someone who’s never challenged themselves to completely relate to who I am or what I’m working towards. I can’t expect someone who’s never seen the insidious dark side of wealth to understand my growing admiration of minimalism and anti-consumer rhetoric. I definitely can’t expect someone to understand me who doesn’t understand themselves.

SOLUTIONS/BREAKTHROUGHS:

“To influence someone you need to understand what already influences them.”

—Tony Robbins

This quote helped bring awareness beyond my own frame of reference. I have a somewhat optimistic and positive bias (deliberately) that many do not share. The worldview we bring with us can be of great service, but we need the awareness of what influences our own worldview. Where did it come from? Did I consciously choose it or was it just what I became by default? Two people can look at the same event, and see different things. One might perceive an opportunity, the other a crisis. If part of our belief structure is not beneficial we can put in the work to re-evaluate and re-create our own beliefs. How do you see the world?

Frame

The way we view the world is malleable. It can change. It can also change what we are looking at.



 

This list of 5 learning experiences has all been part of a journey towards self-actualization. I am not perfect. I am not better than anyone.

I am learning.

I am growing.

I am working on giving and contributing more, at levels beyond myself.

That’s why I wrote this. To share some things I’ve been focused on and have helped me dramatically with happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace. I wish the same for you.

Defining Your Renaissance with 27th Renaissance and Modern da Vinci

Pantheon is derived from the Ancient Greek
Pantheon is derived from the Ancient Greek “Pantheon” (Πάνθεον) meaning “of, relating to, or common to all the gods” —Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome

Polymath, expert generalist, renaissance man. All representative of the life-long learners quest, the quest for full potential. Is a person made to fit into a narrow niche? Or, to expand across all fields of achievement? I believe everybody can have more than just one skill, talent, or ability that can be developed to a high level. Not everybody who chooses a singular role and perfects it is settling in life. Personally, I would feel like I was settling for less than I’m truly capable of, by going for one thing. Not going after all the things that fascinate me would haunt me. I enjoy learning, practicing, and immersing myself in many diverse realms. Many true experts are without a doubt some of the most disciplined and committed individuals to live throughout human history. But, countless souls may never even reach their full potential in any one endeavor. Falling into the grey and forgotten hinterlands between amateur and master. There is however, a rare breed: a breed that is diverse yet singular, masterful yet child like, competent and curious. This rare breed is the Renaissance (Wo)man. The path of renaissance is not reserved for the masculine. Truth be told woman are just as adept if not better at becoming skilled in a wide repertoire of capabilities. Anybody can choose to learn, practice and master many things.

Within everybody, there is a higher calling (or callings). For many they may have gone dormant, but deep within it remains. A spark of inspiration, or a faint voice saying—“Imagine that! Go. Go after that!” Listen to that voice and try what you’ve always wanted. Your path to renaissance begins with the clear understanding of what the ultimate version of yourself would look like. And, what capabilities they would have. Can you imagine if you were able to do everything that you’d ever dreamed of? Do this as an exercise: write down notes, record audio, or even make a video…what would I be able to do if I’d learned everything that interested me? What if I let all my passions express themselves? What things when looking back on your life in it’s last stages you’d regret not doing, or wonder to yourself what you could have done had you just tried. Those are the things to consider when defining your Renaissance. If I look at my list it’s the ultimate realization of allowing myself to have dreams and share them. Building the skills necessary to reach even 50% of what I’ve listed will make me into a much better man. There’s something cool about working on a list like this. Once certain skills become absorbed, practiced, and repeated until enough mastery  has been attained something interesting happens, the list becomes shorter. Shorter because mastering the right skills first, can speed up the ability to learn and absorb others. Learning how to learn is the gift and ultimate reward from defining and pursuing your own renaissance. Learn a second language like French; Italian and Spanish become that much easier. Understand how to de-bone a chicken, and duck, pheasant, and turkey become simplified. Learn oratory, and political power can follow. Some abilities  may seem completely separate or disconnected, but their connectivity reveals itself through pursuing deep and diverse learning. Masters can draw inspiration from anywhere. Their brains remain connected to the core of their abilities and  constantly curious. A trip to the cinema could spark a new painting, essay, or piece of music. A view to an art gallery may give the Master Chef insight into a new dish. Learning how to learn, keeps the brain fully active, and a lifetime of enjoyment can ensue.

The intricacies of a Tibetan Sand Mandala--complex, masterful and with multitudes of individual aspects making a complete entity.

The intricacies of a Tibetan Sand Mandala–complex, masterful and with multitudes of individual aspects making a complete entity.

I compel you to define what your renaissance means—if you’re reading this you’ve got one to craft. Become part of the under-recognized Renaissance Period we’re all currently a part of. Every industry and field is having a renaissance as technology and information become widespread. It’s easier now to be a person of renaissance than ever before. Leonardo Da Vinci would absolutely be Crushing it today. Just imagine what someone who was so diversely masterful could do in our day and age. Then think of what we the individual are doing. Can we do more, be more and become more? Yes. Let’s craft our own renaissance. Are you with me?
As it turns out, I’m not alone on this pursuit. There are others already pursuing their renaissance, and I’m always thrilled to meet another striver and polymath. Serendipitously through Twitter I met such an individual: Michael Mehlberg who runs Modern Da Vinci is actualizing his own renaissance and, like myself, helping others do the same through his blog–Enter: Modern Da Vinci:

What goals drive your behavior? Which challenges excite your passions? Can you name a few activities that renew and revive you?

With a little thought, these answers will come. We all have driving goals, exciting challenges, and reviving activities. Whether we consciously know what these goals, challenges, and activities are, they motivate us. But until we make them conscious, they are nothing more than motivators. By forcing them to be a part of our daily routine, we can turn them into a personal renaissance.

I’d be lying if I claimed to completely understood my own personal renaissance. No matter how much we simplify, life is complicated. No matter how easy they seem at first blush, our goals end up being loftier than expected. But I recognized that I needed to tame these complications and overconfidence. It took a specific exercise to provide the insight that allowed my personal renaissance to take shape.

Sitting at work, tired of countless emails and interruptions, I took a “thinking day” to redefine important priorities in my work. Many thoughts raced through my head that day. But one imaginative exercise in which I pictured myself 10 years in the future, set the stage for my renaissance and Modern da Vinci.

Take the time to think...

Taking a thinking day helped define my personal renaissance… a life-long pursuit of discovering learning and creating.

Surprisingly, I pictured myself doing something quite different than my current profession. I pictured myself studying, learning, inventing, and working to help people solve complex problems with creative solutions. I pictured myself healthy, confident, and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics–a true modern renaissance man–always interesting, and always helpful.

Of course, not all men picture themselves studying and inventing in their day job. Those aspirations were my own; personal in nature and driven by my character. But many of us do picture ourselves as healthy, confident, and knowledgeable people. I knew that I could pursue these goals myself, but I also wondered if I could help others to the same. I knew that, if I were to do so, I would have to make this pursuit public. Hence, Modern da Vinci was born. It was a way to publicize new knowledge, discuss new experiences, and help others find their own path to becoming a confident, interesting, helpful, lifelong learner.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the incredible period of history in which we live. We have never before better understood freedom, technology, culture, art, or science. Like the classical 14th century European renaissance period, modern art, music, and technology flourish. At times, it feels like we are crossing a bridge between our age and the ultra-modern, high-tech, culturally beautiful future.

I often wonder if, looking through history books 500 years from now, children learn about the 21st century as a modern renaissance period. I often wonder if we should recognize this for ourselves today. Perhaps by recognizing it we can build a bridge to such a future. Perhaps by staying curious, by constantly learning, and by following our passions we can better recognize opportunities and live a fuller life with fewer regrets.

The World Awaits.

We live in a time where nearly every city is full of countless possibilities. Art, music, and technology flourish all around us. We live in an amazing time where all of us can create, learn and follow our passions.

Now more than ever, it’s important to study, learn, invent, stay healthy, and push yourself to grow. You have limitless opportunities at your fingertips with which to inspire yourself and others. Through Modern da Vinci, I hope to inspire others to push themselves to become more knowledgeable, grow more confident, and achieve more. It all starts with defining your own personal renaissance.

I sincerely hope you are inspired to create and maintain your own personal renaissance. Find your passions and explore them. Maintain your curiosity dig into life. Most importantly, never stop learning. And while your renaissance will change (sometimes daily), you will clear your path through life and be able to seize any opportunity along the journey.


Life is a great journey. Defining, and pursuing your Renaissance will make it a more rich experience. Thank you to my friend Modern Da Vinci for his insights and thoughts. We hope you find all the things you want in life and learn to become a true master of your own Renaissance.