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Picking a career with Leonardo da Vinci

(Writer’s Note: This article is probably going to be more cerebral and academic than my usual lacrosse art creativity. So I apologize in advance if boring, but I’m going all the way back to my sophomore year in high school. Hey, not everything happens in the present, most often the past is revisited for a clearer picture. There’s always a story and reason behind it.)

 

We’ve been told that a traditional education will help open a way for life after school. Maybe so, but to me, not definitely. Back in 1994, an accident slipping on an icy set of stairs in prep school enabled me to open my mind to a different outlook. It helped me choose a career.

First off, Winter in New England is picturesque, but no joke. The steps looked wet but the ice was disguised for a lack of a better term and the slip came quick because I was talking to a friend of mine. A sudden tug on my left knee came about and I found myself lying on the landing of the steps. With the help of two students to keep me stable, the school nurse decided to get me to the New Milford Hospital right away.

On the way to the hospital I kept on thinking if I was going to be ready for lacrosse season? That was my worry. I was kind of glad that I wasn’t sitting in a boring class at school but when you’re a patient in a hospital, the next and only thought on your mind is your health. Soon enough, Dr. Andrew Bazos, came in to check on my x-rays and asked me to lift my leg, which I couldn’t. That’s when he told me about the next process: surgery.

Dr. Andrew Bazos, MD

Dr. Bazos, an orthopedist who holds practices in both NYC and CT, was telling me of his background in Sports Medicine and being a doctor for Madison Square Garden. The NY Rangers in 1994 were going on a complete tear in the NHL and it was so exciting to have him as a doctor. But I knew medicine, or a surgeon, wasn’t something I wanted to pursue due to two things: the amount of school you needed, the other: blood.

On the morning of my surgery I had a fever and they decided that I was going to be put on local anesthesia. The anesthesiologist knew that I was scared because it was my first surgery. He calmed me down by telling me of his background playing high school lacrosse and getting cut from tryouts where he did his pre-med studies, Johns Hopkins University (a.k.a. the New York Yankees of college lacrosse). He told me that Hopkins during his time went to 4 straight championship games, winning 3. Again, while I felt like I was in good company I did not want the job of an anesthesiologist.

While the surgery was taking place music was being played from a stereo, and the conversations from the medical staff was as typical as any office ‘water cooler conversation’. Regardless, the most uncomfortable sound was the drilling of the two screws that held my knee in place. Just imagine the sound of an electric power tool in an auto body shop. But the worst part of it all, was the post-op recovery and the pain of your knee being ‘on fire’ due to foreign objects placed inside. Something that I will never forget.

The Renaissance Man.

I’m not a big fan of watching too much TV – still to this day I do not have regular shows – but when you’re in a hospital room recovering, cable TV is your distraction. There’s only so much VH1, MTV and Jerry Springer to absorb that it made me succumb to ask the nurse for the one thing I am NOT a big fan of doing – reading. Yes, so that also meant lawyer and politician were out of the question. She returned with a stack of magazines, one of them an issue of Discover with an article about renowned Renaissance figure, Leonardo Da Vinci.

In pop culture, you may be thinking of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle who fought with two swords. As far as Leonardo Da Vinci, there are two prime pieces of art that he is known for: ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’. In fact Leonardo only did around 20 or so paintings during his time. That’s it. It was the ‘everything else’ that he is highly known for, or was highly sought after, back then.

Leonardo da Vinci:  Artist. Painter. Draftsman. Sculptor. Engineer. Architect. Mathematician. Scientist. Inventor. Dreamer

Talk about wearing multiple hats! Leonardo didn’t settle for one thing and always pushed the envelope and questioned theory with research and practice. In my mind he took a lot of the things learned and applied it to other interests, or polar opposites – the cross-disciplines.

As an artist Leonardo did more sketches and drawings prior to his final execution. In fact those sketches are highly valued and sought after. He constantly looked at existing things, habits and techniques and experimented on how to make them better. This practice became, I think, his true staple. To me, it illustrates that there’s never one way to do anything, but many versions and attempts – a process. Something to keep in mind in a world where mostly the end result, is considered the only result from a spectator’s point of view.

For me, as an artist and athlete, Leonardo’s name, talents and characteristics obviously stuck with me for a very long time and truly inspired me as a person. He became not only my favorite figure from the Renaissance period, but a historical hero – somebody whom I wanted to highly emulate.

The Books.

Ever since that magazine article landed next to my hospital bed after surgery, a collection of books on Leonardo da Vinci slowly grew, as I grew into adulthood. Here are the books and the quick rundown on each of them:

Leonardo‘ was a book that I got during college that I had on my shelf as inspiration to look over in between class assignments. The roles he had says it all.

Fortune Is A River‘ is about one of Leonardo’s failures – that’s right! You would think two highly smart people can work together? Lesson here is to check your ego at the door.

Leonardo da Vinci‘ is your standard book showcasing his accolades and his background building up to his achievements. Below, is the interior of the inside cover showing his research drawings.

How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci‘ is one of my favorite books on him. I got this as a present on my 20th birthday from my parents. In this book is his professional resume, which we will see in this article.

Leonardo da Vinci – the flights of the mind’ is a book that belonged to a hotel lobby shelf in one of my past work trips abroad in Italy. The staff would notice my reading it in the mornings and at night before going to my room. Before I left, they gave me a copy as a present to read on the plane ride home.

 

Leonardo’s Resume. The book ‘How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci’ by Michael J. Gelb stands out because it starts with Leonardo’s resume, or ‘pitch’ to a Royal person. It’s considered to be the BEST resume ever written.

Translation:  

“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance. 8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvelous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may. Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency — to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”

 

This to me is not about Leonardo’s listing his innovations, accomplishments or abilities, rather his ability to identify the Royal person’s weaknesses, needs and how to help him. This is something that I have took and added into my Rolodex of ‘professional game plans’.

“Don’t be a one-dimensional person.”

This was a saying from an old boss who told me that he usually didn’t hire people from art schools due to a one dimensional environment. He mentioned what stood out in my resume was the fact that I listed ‘lacrosse’ as a deep interest in a field that was artsy and creative. Leonardo’s interests spanned so many topics that it made me question how much brain capacity does the average human use during a lifetime? Do we each have what it takes to do more? Are we only going to do what’s expected from us, or labeled as in our ‘wheelhouse’? Are we open to other things? Can we go beyond our limits not just to better ourselves, but the lives of people around us? You don’t know if you try. Which brings me to my next topic…

“Have a life outside of your life.”

That quote was from one of my favorite books by Phil Dusenberry who wrote ‘Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising.’

Wait, didn’t I say earlier in this article that I didn’t like reading? Leonardo’s interests found a way to make himself interesting due to a constant state of learning. It’s no secret that his juggling many ideas enabled him to find a way to adapt, or reinvent himself in many capacities that were out of his league as an outsider.

Of all the things that history knows from Leonardo to this day – the creations, discoveries and inventions – I wonder if he had any hobbies, outlets or releases from the daily grind? I don’t think his famous journals with his sketches ever show an entry where he mentioned having a favorite sports team? I highly believe in the Phil Dusenberry quote. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Doing art and playing lacrosse each have their limits and both have burned me out numerous times. That’s why they co-exist in my world.

Leave a mark.

Going back to the very beginning of this article, my worry was wondering if would be able to play lacrosse after slipping on ice. After healing and some physical therapy I did make it back onto the lacrosse field and things seemed to be back to normal in my world.

But, would my world or professional career be different if that accident did not happen? Would Leonardo appear on my radar in some other way or form down the line? I really don’t know. The only thing I do know is that a person like Leonardo not only inspired me but a list of generations on how we think, operate, function, create and grow in each of our own personal worlds, no matter the differences or backgrounds. He left many marks.

But with his intellectual and creative capacity, I still wonder if Leonardo could have designed an amazing lacrosse stick?

Who are some of your heroes in the past? How have they inspired, influenced and shaped you as a person?

@TheArtofLax

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