Omega: What is your definition of a personal or professional Renaissance?
Michael: We are all born with the capacity for genius. Every healthy child displays boundless energy, wild imagination, and delightful creativity. But then we go to school and get de-geniused.
Renaissance means “rebirth.” I’m devoted to helping my students experience a rebirth or Renaissance of their original energy, imagination, and creativity.
Omega: You’ve studied Leonardo da Vinci’s approach to optimizing human potential. How is his work still relevant to us today?
John: I combed through Leonardo’s notebooks looking for the advice he offered to his students, and then I translated his wisdom into contemporary terms. The Italians refer to Leonardo as the Uomo Universale—the Universal Man. His wisdom is universal and timeless. The seven principles I extrapolated serve as a map for anyone who wishes to apply this universal wisdom in their lives now, both personally and professionally.
1. Curiosità – an insatiable quest for knowledge and continuous improvement
2. Dimostrazione – learning from experience and cultivating independent thinking
3. Sensazione – sharpening the senses, awakening mindfulness, and appreciating beauty
4. Sfumato – managing ambiguity and change
5. Arte/Scienza – whole-brain thinking
6. Corporalità – body-mind fitness
7. Connessione – systems thinking
Omega: Number 4, managing change, is challenging for many people who are afraid of uncertainty. How can we work with that in the modern world?
Michael: The ability to embrace ambiguity and endure confusion is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of highly creative people. Leonardo understood this 500 years ago. His Mona Lisa is the most famous work of art in human history, renowned for her mysterious smile. What is the secret of her smile? Mona Lisa’s fame, in addition to the unprecedented mastery in her execution, rests on the ambiguity that da Vinci creates, the sense of dynamic tension. The creative process, in art or business or any aspect of life, demands that we embrace this dynamic tension.
Omega: In addition to being a great artist, da Vinci was also a scientist and inventor. What do you think was his greatest invention?
Michael: The parachute. Leonardo invented the parachute before anyone could fly. Now that’s thinking ahead!
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies