Nine Questions For Reflection

As part of the ongoing series of posts in which I work through the How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci book (which I’ve decided to call ‘Renaissance Reflections‘, because alliteration), I’m working through nine questions which the author recommends we all think about.

1. What is one thing I could stop doing, or start doing, or do differently starting today that would most improve the quality of my life?

I like the immediacy of this question. You’re unlikely to be able to answer with “Get a gym membership”, because they normally start the next day, or “Save £1,000” because that takes time. Instead it makes you think about what you can actually do, realistically, now.

I had three things as part of this answer:

  • I could not eat anything shitty today
  • I could eat healthy food today
  • I could go for a long walk today

I’m actually publishing these posts a week or so after I do each exercise, and this one has already helped. I didn’t eat anything shitty, I did eat healthily, and then later on I went to meet my friends in town. The centre is about five miles from my house, and I normally get the bus. This time, however, I walked. And then I walked home. And then the following week I walked to our next meetup too. And I’m still not eating crap.

2. What is my greatest talent?

I’m not sure. Perhaps the ability to look at things critically and draw links between them. Analytical thinking? The ability to understand other people’s perspectives? Holding multiple ideas in my head at once? Determination?

Two weeks later, I’m still not sure, but it definitely has something to do with thinking about things.

3. How can I get paid for doing what I love?

I largely already am 😉 and I’m working towards the rest. Sending off novels, working on papers, etc.

4. Who are my most inspiring role models?

Sunitha Krishnan, because she’s a badass who helps other people and doesn’t care what anyone does to her.

Kierkegaard, because I agree with his views on so many things, and because he argued with himself and did a lot of things people find hard for the sake of philosophical consistency.


Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager, because she strikes the perfect balance between badass who’s definitely in charge and maternal figure who constantly shows you she cares.

My friend Anna in Glastonbury, because she genuinely accepts people and encourages them to be exactly who they are. And because she’s intelligent and caring, and seems to be pretty much unafraid of anything.

Stargirl, because she doesn’t give a fuck.


Lisbeth Salander, because she took the shit life threw at her and used it to fuel a life of badassery and passionate, important battles.

Kinsey Millhone, because she’s a solitary investigator who’s a bit crap at being friends with people but doesn’t stop trying.

5. How can I best be of service to others?

This is similar to the top question I came up with in the “Ten Questions” exercise a couple of weeks ago:

Is it more important to do something urgent with your life, e.g. investigate crimes; to do something important with your life, e.g. to change the sociopolitical landscape of the world; or to do something useful with your life, e.g. to make scientific discoveries?

I’m not sure of the answer.

By using what talents I have to benefit the world, I’m sure, but in which area? Mathematics? Child protection? Sociology? Revolution?

6. What is my heart’s deepest desire?

I’m not actually sure. This isn’t a question with a straightforward answer (for me, at least), but I think it’s something along the lines of ‘solitude and peace’.

7. How am I perceived by: my closest friend, my boss, my worst enemy, my colleagues?

This is impossible to answer, because there will always be blind spots in how we think other people perceive us. I tried to make mine as even-handed and realistic as possible. I wrote the ‘enemy’ one in my notebook, but I’m not publishing it here because I don’t need that shit on my blog.

Closest friend: “A badass who tries her best to make the world a better place and has survived some really awful shit. Cares a lot about people and will drop everything and help if you need her. Generally quite antisocial but fun to be around when she’s in the right mood.”

Client (I don’t have a boss): “Hates everything except Star Trek. Goes through phases where she’s amazingly efficient and others where she gets less done. Loves dry technical stuff; dislikes people but is good at manipulating them.”

Freelancers (I don’t have colleagues): “Nice, fun, cares about how we are. A bit disorganised when it comes to emailing about work but always pays on time.”

8. What are the blessings of my life?

The word “blessings” makes me want to throw up because it’s used so often in precisely the kind of saccharine self-help books I hate. But in the interests of completing the whole exercise (and because gratitude isn’t a bad idea, even if it’s horrifically overdone)…

A selection of the excellent friends
A selection of the excellent friends

Intelligence · Ability to sing · Ability to appreciate life · Having had loads of contrasting experiences that gave me a unique perspective · Excellent friends · Being born in a country with a free (and reasonably good) level of early education · Excellent high school staff

9. What legacy would I like to leave?

I’m a bit weird about this one. I wouldn’t really like to leave a legacy. I’d like to do some useful things and then sort of fall into the aether and disappear into the Land of the Forgotten when I die.

Those are my answers. What would yours be? 

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