Chef Laura: Father of Invention reinvented himself

A few months ago, the insipidly named DaVinci Machines Exhibit came to the Denver Pavilions.  Despite its lackluster marketing efforts, I eagerly attended. 

To say Leonardo DaVinci was “busy” would be like calling the Brown Palace a “motel”.  Displayed in the warehouse-like space was a generous collection of replica creations he invented. 

We can credit DaVinci for gadgets we use every day: pulleys, levers, ball bearings, bridges, and bicycles. A team of Colorado School of Mines’ grad students didn’t craft this laundry list of engineering wonders…only Leo. 

But that was just the first room.

Traveling deeper into the cavernous exhibit hall, visitors discover his artistic side.  He did this real famous painting of a subtly smiling lady.  I don’t think it leaves the Louvre anymore, but yeah – at age 51, the same guy that designed deadly battle tanks, also delicately painted the Mona Lisa.  Oh, and Dan Brown fans around the world can thank DaVinci for whipping up the Last Supper.

But that was just the second room.

Turning a corner, we learn about his clandestined dissection of human corpses to understand how our insides work.  A little gory perhaps – and the church wasn’t too keen on it – but without an MRI machine handy in the 1500’s, you gotta make do. Because of DaVinci, posters of the original Grateful Dead are plastered on the walls of med students’ dorm rooms worldwide: The Vitruvian Man.

But that was just the third room.

Then he composed some music, penned some books, and just for kicks, he scribed everything backwards.  If they had trophies for singing, dancing and acting back then, I’m sure he would’ve pulled a Whoopi Goldberg and EGOT’ed too.

And that was the fourth room.  Please exit through the gift shop.

When we think of being a Renaissance Man – Leonardo, not Oprah – is the person who started it.  DaVinci (b. April 15, 1452 – d. May 2, 1519) died at 67: an insanely old age for that era, but only two years into retirement by today’s standards. 

Experiencing this exhibit got me thinking about career paths.  Assuming we get our first job in our teens, we could work for 50+ years.  Do you want to punch the same clock for five decades, or do you have a little Leo in you?

Career path aesthetics: If it were bedding, would your career path look like a kaleidoscopic, hand-stitched patchwork quilt?  Or a monochromatic, machine-made comforter purchased at a big box store in Beigeville?

Career path map: If it were a board game, would your path play like Candy Land: wiggling in circuitous manner – sometimes stuck in the Molasses Swamp – sometimes taking a shortcut through Gumdrop Pass?  Or would it play out more like Connect Four: linear, strategic, and ever-ascending?

Please don’t misunderstand.  A beige, linear career path is nothing to scoff at.  But what happens when you stop working (by choice or not)?  What will you do to earn a living or simply enjoy your golden years?  Although I’m sure he would receive every “Associate of the Month” certificate, I just can’t picture an elderly, blue-smocked Leonardo greeting customers at Wal-Mart.

There’s no shame in being content with your career and path as is.  If the term “reinventing yourself” makes you conjure up images of Madonna in a pointy bra, let’s call it something else.  An “enhancement” may suit you better.  Take what already exists and sculpt it (BTW, DaVinci was a master at that too) to complement the current and future you.

Fingers-crossed, there’s a lot of living left to do.  Perhaps you can’t go all “DaVinci” and tinker on flying machines in your spare time.  But what else in your toolbox is worth exploring, both professionally and personally, to diversify and sharpen your skill set?