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Review of “Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day” by Ken Mogi

 

Japan Land ofthe Rising SunReview of “Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day” by Ken Mogi

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism lately, even if I can’t force myself into owning less books and magazines. A seriously small closet has made me consider every piece of clothing I own, and the Marie Condo movement similarly inspired me. This led me to a book I reviewed earlier about lessons from elderly Japanese adults, available here.”Awakening your Ikigai” by Ken Mogi, which I found while browsing the shelves at my favorite bookstore, Politics and Prose in Washington, DC, seemed like a natural fit for my recent interest. The author is a neuroscientist, who the jacket notes has written many books, most of which do not appear to be available in translation.

My favorite parts of this book.

The book is beautifully designed, in hardback, at a reasonable price. It would be a fantastic gift for someone interested in self-improvement. There were sections I loved- about taiso, the unique form of Japanese exercise; about the concept of starry bowls, and of tradition. The idea of slow, satisfying progress. As an American, I was fascinated by the historical concept of outward luxury and ostentation being harmful for a cohesive society. Having luxury in the lining of clothing rather than outside is a really interesting concept. I think a lot of people are starting to be less interested in items that have giant brand name logos all over them, but the thought that this started hundreds of years ago for different reasons is intriguing to me.

Not my favorite parts.

I felt like sometimes it was unclear where the author was going in each chapter. Each chapter was a like individual jewels, but without any unifying idea to hold the chapter together. The concept for Ikigai is that there are five essential parts (pillars):

  1. Starting small,
  2. releasing yourself (accept who you are),
  3. harmony and sustainability;
  4. The joy of little things;
  5. being in the here and now.

I think it probably would have been natural to develop each pillar in a chapter, but instead, they were often mixed throughout chapters.

The verdict: read it or not?

I think the book is worth reading, with some patience for the idea that it is sometimes challenging to follow the author. There are concepts here that I haven’t seen in any other books, and I think the book could be a good springboard for studying Japanese culture in more depth.

How to Read More Books

How to Read More Books

I often have people ask me how I manage to read so many books with a full-time psychiatry job, writing, teaching, and a family with small children. Last year, I read over 80 books, a combination of nonfiction and fiction (mostly mysteries). The most likely answer is that I do less of other things- I watch only a little television on the weekends (O, “Game of Thrones,” why do you make me wait until 2019?), and reading is really a way of life for me. I learn new things from reading, keep myself cognitively sharp, and in the case of fiction, gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of others. Reading is a valuable use of my time, but also helps me slow down and relax.

In terms of book consumption, fiction is different than non-fiction.

I read fiction mostly on a Kindle or in the Kindle app on my iPad. I get a lot of books from the library, because it’s easiest. I think there are a fair number of people who don’t know that you can register for a library card at your local library, and use it to sign up for their e-library. You visit the virtual library, check out a book, which is delivered instantly to your Kindle. After two weeks is up, the book disappears. The benefits are clear- mostly instant access, free books, and very portable. One downside is that if you reserve several books with a waiting list, and they all “drop” at once, you have some fast reading to do. Or sacrifice the book you weren’t as interested in. The other issue has more to do with the length of time it takes to read certain books- I take longer to read non-fiction, so I never pick up non-fiction by the library via Kindle. Also, Umberto Eco is out for me- his books take me longer than two weeks to read! Books with pictures are not as good in Kindle but generally ok on iPad. I also don’t read poetry on a kindle- sometimes the formatting doesn’t translate very well.

If you’re going to read electronic books from the library, you’ll also need an Overdrive or Libby account (free) and a PDF reader. Though less common, there are some books only available by Overdrive and PDF. Libby is the new version of Overdrive if you’ve not seen it. I don’t think it’s a huge improvement, and I’d rather use my Kindle account if possible, since I share library books with other family members. There are other types of readers, too- Nook, Kobo, etc. You can also get a fair number of books through sites like Project Gutenberg.

I want my own non-fiction books, in paper.

I like to mark up non-fiction books, and take notes. I tend to buy these in paperback, unless it’s a monumentally sized book, in which case it may be easier to have in electronic format. I only buy cookbooks in paper format now- the electronic format was not as pleasurable to flip through.

I listen to audiobooks on the train and bus, and on the exercise bicycle in the morning.

I just started this- I used to be a podcast listener- but I get through about an extra book a week this way. You can also borrow these from the library!

I read in small pockets of time.

I always have a book with me, so I don’t miss little bits of time. I read during breakfast (I know- not very mindful), at lunch if I am not having lunch with a friend, and before bed. I read when my kids are reading, or if they’re watching cartoons- they regard reading as something that everyone does at this point.

I don’t have a formal speed reading regimen.

I’ve been reading every day since I learned to read. I’m at this point, a pretty fast reader. But I don’t have never taken a speed reading class- to me this seems like making the point of reading to consume more, but to me, reading is an activity to be savored. Life is already too fast as it is. Why speed up reading?

Calm app review: worth the money?

Calm app review: worth the money?

I have been a dedicated Headspace user, and in an effort to let some of the many subscriptions I have run out, I started using the Insight Timer app, which I still highly recommend [here]. However, Groupon had a discount on the Calm app, and I took the opportunity to try it out for a year at a much reduced cost. I was particularly interested in Calm since it was named App of the year by the App Store in 2017, and has such good reviews.

The good….

Like Headspace, Calm has many different series of meditation classes, each building on the last. There is a good selection, from beginning meditation with several levels of guidance, to anxiety, sleep, relationships, self-care, etc. There’s a body scan version of meditation, for fans of Andy on Headspace. There’s an “insight of the day” which I particularly like.

Like the Insight Timer app, there is relaxing music, with the purpose of helping you sleep, focus, or simply unwind with nature sounds. The music is a little repetitive, and many consist of short loops of music played over and over for 30 minutes or so. Still, some of it is nice to focus on other tasks with, since the music is so simple- it isn’t distracting.

The masterclasses are new for the app, which mostly seem like well-researched options. In particular, the “Rethinking Depression” masterclass has classes on exercise in depression, sunlight, nutrition, social connection, sleep, and negative thoughts, all of which have basis in the scientific literature. I haven’t listened to the entire group of sessions, so I can’t speak about every claim that the instructor makes, however. There’s also Masterclasses on rest, breaking bad habits, and social media/screen addiction. My only quibble is that there is officially no official “screen addiction” diagnosis, but I understand what the instructor is getting at.

The interface is easy to use, engaging, and as advertised, calming. I have had no crashes or bugs. It keeps track of how long you’ve been meditating daily, and can write to Apple Health. It also keeps track of streaks, to help motivate you into meditating more often!

The not-as-good…

Calm works best on a subscription and it’s not cheap. In fact, $59.99 per year seems like a lot to me, though you can get it for $12.99 per month and $299.99 lifetime. Groupon had a sale, and I think it was $39 for a year, which was worth trying for me. Another negative: I haven’t seen a ton of updates and new features since I bought the premium app, other than a few Masterclasses, which I discussed above.

Each meditation ends with some nice quote, which I love, and supposedly you can share it on Facebook or Twitter, but that has never actually shown up as a quote on my Facebook feed, which is a bummer.

Features that the Jury is still out on…

Calm is one of the only apps (maybe the only app) that has a bedtime story function. There are a variety of stories, mostly excerpts of classics. The narrators are of varying qualities and I found some quite monotone. There’s a kids’ bedtime story function, and some of those stories can be found in the regular adult bedtime stories. I tried a variety of the stories with my children who fight sleep as if it is the enemy, and though they LOVE to be read to, they were thoroughly unimpressed by the stories.

I discussed the music above- it can occasionally be repetitive but is overall nice. I particularly liked the nature sounds. However, the music on Insight Timer, which is free with some non-essential paid functions, is more interesting, and mostly not loop generated.

Will I renew next year?

I’m uncertain. I will probably wait to see if there are any great features I can’t live with out, and then consider either Stop, Breath and Think plus the Insight Timer for music, or just stick with the Insight Timer altogether.

There are a TON of new meditation apps since I last reviewed them- which ones do you like? Let me know in the comments below!

Choosing paper for your fancy new fountain pen

Choosing paper for your fancy new fountain pen

I’ve written before about fountain pens here. Once you’ve caught the fountain pen bug, it’s hard to go back to ordinary pens. The variety of ink colors, textures, and even scents; the ease of writing; the pleasure of the pens themselves- all of these things are why I’ve used fountain pens for more than a decade. However, using a fountain pen will be an optimal experience only if you use the right paper. A visit to a fountain pen store, or a website like Goulet Pens, my personal favorite, will reveal a somewhat bewildering range of choices.

What are you looking for in a paper? Let me help you decide.

There are a lot of factors involved in choosing the perfect paper. If you really catch the bug, you’ll probably end up with a lot of different kinds of paper! To start, though, I think it’s useful to consider a few questions:

  1. What are you using the paper for? If it’s a journal, you’ll probably want to consider a bound book of some sort. Are you taking notes for studying? You might be more flexible and a letter sized pad, spiral notebook or loose leaf paper might work better. Are you writing letters? Then you might want stationery.
  2. Are you left or right handed? Left-handed people CAN use fountain pens- I am left handed and almost never smear ink. However, there are things to think about if you’re left handed. Some notebooks are designed to be used from back to front, avoiding the spiral where your hand should go. Some papers are faster drying, and therefore might be better for left handed writers since they may smear less (though I write from below, and never really smear ink).
  3. What size paper do you want to work with? Many of the better quality papers use the European style numbering- A4, B5, etc.
  4. When you write, do you prefer blank, lined, graph or dotted paper? There’s even paper ruled to help you with handwriting (french ruled).

My recommendations.

My absolute favorites, in hardcover:

  1. The Rhodia Web notebook– a hardback that comes in several colors, with the smoothest, nicest paper ever. It has a paper pocket for small papers in the back, and an elastic band to keep it closed. Ink dries a little more slowly on this paper. Ink does not bleed through these pages! Comes in blank, lined and dotted varieties.
  2. The Leuchturm 1917: a hardback that comes in a ton of colors, and has an optional pen loop you can buy for a few dollars more (which could actually stick to any of these notebooks). It has nicely numbered pages, which many notebooks do not, and an index at the beginning. It closes with elastic as well. The paper dries faster, so is theoretically nicer for left handed people, but I am not as fond of the paper as I find some inks bleed through. Comes in blank, lined, dot grid, and graph. This is the journal of choice for the Bullet Journal.
  3. Shinola journals: Similar to the Rhodia, but with bookcloth covers instead, and a little harder to find. This is a brand from Detroit that has been re-vamped recently, and I am impressed.

Paperback journal favorites:

  1. Apica A4 journals:I actually think this is the best paper on the market. It is very smooth, no bleed through and a pleasure to write on. This is a bound paperback journal, and I like to write in these when I’m taking reading notes. It comes in a lot of other sizes, too.
  2. Shinola journals: these come in all different sizes and colors, but in paperback bookcloth instead of hardback, as above.
  3. Rhodia: Rhodia comes in every shape and size. You can get spiral bound, reverse bound, and stapled composition book sizes. I use the composition book sizes if I want something light to carry with me.
  4. Field notes: small, fits in your pocket, nice paper. Basic. I carry these around for random thoughts.
  5. Traveler’s notebook: a piece of leather that holds one or many small paper notebooks with a piece of elastic. There are planners, credit card holders, plane ticket holders, etc, as well as notebooks. I carry these when I’m, well, traveling. Cool in an Indiana-Jones kind of way.

Favorite letter writing paper:

  1. Rhodia A5 pads: smooth, plain, white paper. A very basic, inexpensive pad of paper that shows off ink nicely.
  2. Tomoe River: thin, dries VERY slowly, but shows ink with shimmer nicely.
  3. G. Lalo: beautiful, thick paper in several colors- perfect for a love letter or something weighty, like a condolence letter.

Another great way to try notebooks is with a variety pack. Companies like Goulet pens have reasonably priced variety packs that let you try several kinds of small notebooks to see what you like. I hope you explore writing by hand soon. Please let me know below if you have any favorites!

The Hybrid planner: What if digital and paper are both the answer?

The Hybrid planner: What if digital and paper are both the answer?

I am dedicated and steadfast in many areas of my life, except dark chocolate versus milk chocolate, tea versus coffee, and probably most costly, digital planning versus paper planning. I can see the value of both, and at certain times of my life, I really need one over the other. When I am managing multiple priorities, none of which I can really let go with good conscience(patient care, kids, spouse, etc), digital tends to work better for me, because I don’t have time to write and re-write things. However, it is clearly better for retention of material and prioritizing to use a paper planner -what better way to decide that something is important than to be willing to re-write it? Also, paper is a much more efficient way of gathering data- you can open your Field Notes notebook and jot something down much faster than you can unlock your phone, choose an appropriate app, and start typing.

For a long time, I switched back and forth between paper and digital. I think I’ve tried them all- Filofax, Franklin Covey, Circa from Levenger, various bound planners, the Midori Traveller’s Notebook…and in the digital world, I’ve used Outlook, iCal, Fantastical, Calendars 5, BusyCal, Informant, Sunrise, etc.

I’ve come to the conclusion that some form of written calendar AND digital calendar work best for me right now, at least until I find a good way to remind myself to look at my digital planner and task manager a few times a day.

My current method.

After using both Fantastical and Reedle’s Calendars 5, I have decided that I like Calendars 5 a little bit better on my iPhone and iPad. I already have Fantastical on my Mac, so I’ve been using that when I am using my laptop. Fantastical and Calendars 5 both have natural language event entry- “dinner with Sarah at 8 pm on Thursday” as opposed to tapping tiny drop down boxes to achieve the same thing. I haven’t noticed much difference between the two, and I like Calendars’ format better. Also, both have integration with my email app, Airmail, which is also important. I’m using a task manager -more about this in a different blog entry regularly. The paper part changes for me, and is less consequential since it is just a daily (or weekly, depending on my mood) reference while I’m at my desk working. I write down just that day’s (or week’s) events, and the big three things I need to do that day. I use it to write down incidental notes during my workday as well. Right now, I’m using a weekly Circa planner, but sometimes I use a daily planner sheet from Circa, or whatever strikes my fancy. I’m eyeing one of the on-sale Economist planners right now, partly to get my hands on the enhanced content (“How to write a CV,” anyone?). I’ve also used index cards to record this information- I even made my own version of a planner page on an index card, which are particularly nice to keep track of habits and expenditures.

There’s a hybrid for everyone!

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs, and listen to podcasts on my commute, and have heard of many different kinds of hybrid systems along the way. There are a few all-in-one systems. A few of these are Moleskine’s smart writing system and the Slice planner. I haven’t tried either of these, partly because I’m too cheap to pay $179 for just the Moleskine pen, and although I know some people love the circular timeline of the Slice planner, I just do not think that way. I would miss appointments all the time. I read reviews about these two systems, and they are somewhat mixed, but I’d be interested to hear what anyone with first-hand experience thinks.

There are also other kinds of smart pens, which generally require some kind of specific dotted paper, which our occupational therapists at work like for patients who have traumatic brain injury. I’m unsure if these are helpful or not since I haven’t seen anyone use them consistently. Other options could be a PDF planner in a program like Goodnote, with an Apple pencil on an iPad pro (or the new iPad that apparently uses the Apple Pencil).

Another configuration could be like Michael Hyatt uses: a digital calendar and task manager, with his own daily Free to Focus planner for daily essential information, which also helps with setting and achieving goals (see my previous Day One post). Something simpler, but also great is the “Medium method:” a digital planner and task manager, with a notebook that each day, has a post-it flagging the day with events and the top three important tasks on it. The page is used to write any notes or thoughts that need to be captured, and the post-it can move from a desk sized notebook, to a portable, Field Notes type journal if needed. Key to this method is sitting down at the end of the day, and transferring the notes that need to be in digital format: calendars, important notes (could go in Evernote, DayOne or One Note), and tasks.

Another option I can think of, if you’re at your computer all day would be a dedicated Trello board- each morning in a review of your task cards, you can add cards with times for appointments and meetings in a “Today” list. I’ve tried this out, and think it is great for when I am sitting at my desk, but not as favorable for when I am wandering the wards, visiting patients with residents much of the day. I think the Kanban method (post-it lists) via Trello works much better with more screen acreage than I get from an iPhone or even iPad.

How do you choose a method with so many choices?

I think the first thing to consider is how you personally have learned best in the past. Are you a kinesthetic, hands-on learner? You probably need some kind of written journal. What do you need in terms of portability? Are you at your desk all the time? You could probably use a desktop version of a digital planner or a large desk sized planner. I use public transportation, and for me, something light and portable is important. What do you want to record? Are you making a record of your days for posterity, with decoration? You might want paper, then. Do you use Mac at home, and a PC at work? Perhaps you will need to consider if your digital app comes in both a PC and a Mac version, or at least a web-based version. Do you need help sticking to your goals? Consider a method like Michael Hyatt, or one like mine, where the goal planning is done in DayOne, with an electronic component and a daily paper reminder system. Are you a little bit fickle like I am? A method like mine could be good, where the paper version can be whatever you want, since you’re not planning ahead at all on the paper, so there’s little commitment in terms of the paper version. Another nice option for the fickle planner geek could be the Traveler’s journal where you can swap out whatever planner, lined journal, blank book, etc, that you want, and it’s ultra portable. You could use a Filofax, and print out your own pages every week that suit that week’s fancy from Philofaxy for free.

I hope this has been a great introduction to the Hybrid planner. I would love to hear if anyone is doing something different that I haven’t heard of, in the comments below!

DayOne app: not just a journal!

DayOne app: not just a journal!

I get asked fairly frequently by people how I manage my morning ritual since I advocate for this as part of an overall lifestyle change for patients. A big part of my morning ritual- and life planning- involves the DayOne app. I use it on my Mac most often, but I also use it on the iPad, iPhone, and probably eventually, on the web version. There are people who use DayOne in a much more sophisticated way than I do, but I think it’s worth talking about how to use this app in a simple, but useful way that reduces the amount of paper I carry around, improves my ability to plan, and helps me keep the things that matter to me at the top of my list. So how am I using DayOne?

As a Journal.

I think DayOne shines as a journal. Yes, you can use OneNote just as easily. But to me, DayOne has a cleaner, nicer interface. There are more ways to get material into DayOne for me- or at least, they are more easily accessed. Locations and weather get added automatically.

I feel a little conflicted in general about digital journaling- for one, the recent security issues with multiple websites have made me a little more cautious about what I put on line, and made me think about how I interact with technology in general. Secondly, there are good studies that writing by hand is very different in terms of memory and processing information than typing is. On the other hand, I’m not studying a journal entry, and there’s no test at the end of the semester here. DayOne allows me to take a photo of something with my iPhone during my day (today, a huge meadow of spring daffodils I saw from the train window), and then write about it in the evening. I can save the best of photos from my kids, along with my journal entries, and then have the journals printed (DayOne has a handy book printing option) at the end of the year. I use public transportation, and traveling light is important to me- carrying a heavy hardback journal isn’t part of my plan right now.

As a planning tool.

I love Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner ™. I also love the Panda Planner ™. If you’re looking for a bound, hardback or in the case of the Panda Planner, paperback planner, I can happily recommend these. What I really like about both of these planners (and other planners like these) is that they assist in the reflection and practical goal planning necessary to make progress. The idea of breaking goals down into practical steps, reviewing your progress daily, and making the next step clear, really helps me stay focused. Both of these paper planners excel at this. However, I work in a fast-paced medical environment, with multiple meetings, many of which repeat weekly. You might think that I would remember these repeating meetings that occur at the same time every week, but sadly, this is not what happens. I FREQUENTLY make plans for the exact same time as the meeting that occurs twice a week, at the same time every week. It helps me to have these on my calendar, so I literally cannot plan over them, even if it clutters up my calendar somewhat. Additionally, I don’t want to carry around a planner for the same reason I don’t really carry a journal- it’s inconvenient to have a written planner on rounds in the hospital, on the metro or bus, etc.

So, what I’ve done, is re-create these goal planning and monthly/weekly/daily planning worksheets electronically. I use a text expander program to create planning templates with just a few keystrokes, that focus my day. In the morning, I open a DayOne entry in my life planning journal, and type (tilda) 5m, which tells my text expander program to add my daily template to the journal. Here, I type what I am grateful for, what my three biggest goals for the day are, and what my meditation for the day is. In the evening, I come back to this entry, and at the evening portion of the daily template: what was successful that day, and what I could have done better.

I also have a weekly version of this that helps guide my weekly planning. I’ve referenced this in my blog post about Things 3 before, but not in detail. My weekly template, added to DayOne with “(tilda) week”, gives me a chance to reflect on how I did with my weekly goal, what I’ll change, and what my three biggest goals for the week will be. The Things 3 weekly review prompts the DayOne entry as part of the workflow- along with reviewing marginalia, my inbox in Evernote and email, Instapaper, etc, so that I keep on top of all my inboxes, and don’t get overwhelmed.

As a commonplace book.

Commonplace books used to be…well, common, among serious readers and students of life. All kinds of historical figures, including Thomas Jefferson, had one. They could include thoughts, quotes from books, etc, so they were available for quick reference. There are some nice articles about commonplace books online- Ryan Holliday seems to have revived the custom in the last few years with his article you can find HERE. I tried his index card method, and perhaps I’m still not done with experimenting with that method, but I read a LOT of articles, magazines, newspapers, and books digitally, and the idea of copying them down is a little daunting. I think the idea of improved retention of the material when it is hand written is more important here. However, if I’m never getting around to that because I’m busy as a physician, mom to little kids, etc, waiting until my life is less busy to copy down quotes from the eighty something books I read last year is probably not practical.

For that reason, I tried using One Note as a common place book, but I am not crazy about the interface- plus, I’m already paying for Evernote and DayOne, which are both potential options for common place books. I think either would be a really reasonable option. For now, I’m using DayOne, in essentially exactly the way that was detailed by Chris Bowler in the Sweet Setup Blog, which you can read HERE. He gives really nice instructions, in a three-part series, on how to set up your own Commonplace book in DayOne.

Other ideas.

I think there are a lot of other good ideas for DayOne, some of which they feature on their blog. Ways I have seen others use DayOne include a prayer or spiritual journal (using text expander to create templates for bible study), a wine tasting journal (just snap a photo of the label and tap a few impressions on the keyboard which you can expand later) and even a Tarot card reading journal (same idea as the wine tasting journal, essentially). I’ve even seen people use DayOne for time logging, though there might be dedicated apps that work better for this.

I’d love to hear how you use DayOne! Please comment using the form below- I’m always looking for new ideas to use a favorite program!

Book Review: Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

Untitled Design 4

I think this book can often be summarized best by Leonardo Da Vinci himself: “He who can go to the fountain does not go to the water-jar.” Learn widely and deeply, from the source itself, from exploration and experimentation- not from pre-digested secondary sources, in other words. In some ways, Leonardo Da Vinci is so relevant to our current age that I found myself pondering the how his life and beliefs could be applied to today’s world of broad, shallow knowledge.

I think that many of us feel disconnected and fragmented- too different from others, ill at ease with  others, compounded by our tendency to connect virtually. We take our information in via  the sound bite, the Twitter feed (and if you want to know what the Chief Executive has said, you virtually must have a Twitter feed), the TV broadcast, the mobile phone notification.  I see increasingly more patients who question-“have I always had ADHD? My kids have ADHD” but yet have not optimized sleep, mood, and have not developed (or lost) the skills of deep focus. One of the best selling books in business today is “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. We require teaching to help us focus given the number of distractions competing for our attention- the fabric of our minds is being frayed at the edges by the constant requests for our attention. Or is it? I think the answer is yes and no. I think we expect absolute focus, and value conformity in our young students. Heck, I value conformity in my young children. I understand- I feel a little upset when my kids aren’t listening in class, or appear to fall behind. I feel a little upset (and amused, I admit) when I get a crayon drawing with “I will not talk when the bell rings” from my son’s school, and a drawing for “better choices” that he might make later. But by forcing people into a mold for achievement, are we sacrificing creativity, zest for life, the joy of learning?

Leonardo did not live in a time like this, but struggled maintaining focus all the same. However, his restless intellect, periodic hyper focus, so common in ADHD (not the more often destructive bipolar disorder, as the author posited, though perhaps there is better evidence somewhere else), was admired at the time. The author himself points out that had Leonardo been able to follow through with his projects, we might have more surviving projects. He also admires Da Vinci’s joy for exploration and learning- and on trying to live a little more like DaVinci, observes that his life was richer for having made the attempt. Can we really say that Leonardo, the inventor of countless devices, painter of accurate optics and beauty, explorer of the mind, probably would have done a lot better on Ritalin? To be clear, the author is not saying this. But I wondered this- have I seen a Leonardo in my practice? Would I have checked the boxes of the DSM-5, and started medication? I like to think (and hope) not.  On the other hand, I can’t say I know better than my patients- some of these people are really suffering, and prevented from achieving what they feel they should. But are they trying to fit themselves into society’s expectation- I “should” behave some way or another, etc? I think observing Leonardo’s life with a critical eye- much like he might have himself- can give us some clarity to the place we have found ourselves.

Also interesting and much appreciated, was the author’s ability to review the evidence, and provide what he felt was the likeliest conclusion – too often, biographies, at the risk and worry of being paternalistic, or making judgements, leave us wondering why something happened. I really appreciated the author’s willingness to make himself vulnerable, to say, “this is what I think is most likely.” The book was surprisingly funny in places- the hilariousness of Da Vinci’s to-do lists- was worth the time reading the book alone.

I heard about this book on a podcast- I think it was Tim Ferris’s podcast- and was inspired to check it out from our local library. I am so glad I did. I encourage anyone interested to spend the time with this book. I’ll probably head back to the library soon for the biography this author wrote on Benjamin Franklin next.