Mona Lisa Framing

A lifelong learning philosophy.

A Hypothesis

I have a hypothesis that we could all greatly benefit if we viewed the entirety of our waking lives like Leonardo Da Vinci did with his seminal piece the Mona Lisa.

One can almost compare any long-term project, dare I say lifelong project to the grand vision such as that of the Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa, is the epitome of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work where he integrated seemingly everything: all the various ideas and knowledge he had learned over the duration of his life.

Leonardo Da Vinci was known most for painting the Mona Lisa, however he was also an avid student of anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, notetaking and palaeontology.

Framing our education, creative pursuits, and goals as a lifelong endeavor, is something that can greatly benefit us all. This blog post will detail why, using a concept I have created called Mona Lisa Framing.

What is Mona Lisa Framing?

Mona Lisa Framing: a commitment to a future of lifelong learning, devoted to creating something entirely authentic by the end of one’s life.

It is my suggestion that we all use Mona Lisa Framing when viewing our relationship to our learning process.

It may sound trite, but how many of us actually publicly state that we are determined to become lifelong learners?

My guess is not many. Let’s begin to do this.

Setting outrageous goals for our futures with regards to our learning is the only way we will be able to accomplish something worthwhile.

Moonshot Goals

One of my moonshot goals is to read 1,000 books by the year 2032.

Thus far, I am 226 books through. 774 more to go, this will not be easy.

Knowing that you always have something to work on can be very intimidating, yet also very exciting. Knowing this enables future you, to be proud of past you, whereas present you knows exactly what to focus on today.

Think of all the novel routes your pursuit can lead you down. Reshaping your thinking, getting you interested in things you may never have and how empowering this can actually be.

Is reading 1,000 books your Mona Lisa? Or is 1,000 books (insert your own moonshot goal here) a part of the process to help you create your Mona Lisa?

Longevity in the pursuit

Longevity is key when using Mona Lisa Framing. As having the ability to sustain mindful effort and focused attention in the present moment to help bring you closer to your Mona Lisa.

"When you are building something that you expect still to be in use hundreds of years later, you apparently imagine yourself as an ancient, being imagined by those moderns to come." - Matthew Crawford from (The World Beyond Your Head)

Framing our work in a way that builds up cumulatively, vastly reshapes our relationship to just about everything for our life. Understand that with each conversation, article, podcast, experience, task completed… we are continually laying down a block.

What kind of block? A knowledge building block. Consider these knowledge blocks to be like a set of legos, as overtime you can build anything you would like, with the pieces you have accumulated.

This is where our creative side comes out. As true creativity lays bare.. when deciding the way in which we recombine these elements. Just as Leonardo Da Vinci uniquely combined different aspects of creative practices he learned throughout the years with the Mona Lisa.

Living like a polymath

Leonardo Da Vinci is famously known for being a polymath. Meaning he was an individual who was able to draw knowledge from a large number of subjects, to come up with creative solutions to specific problems.

We have long-lived in the industrial mindset that once we specialize in school and/or our job we are set for our education. That we are supposed to stay in our lane. However, we are now entering an age where having a range of ideas/skills is not just a cute thing to have, it is an essential thing to have in an increasingly unstable economy.

The beauty of what knowledge does when pursuing multiple fields of study at once, is that it compounds and we find unique connections due to our diversified studies. Embracing a life of diversified learning instead of specialized learning will be the way of the future.

I have a feeling self-education is going to have a HUGE role in cultivating polymath thinking. Just as it did with our predescessor of polymath thinking, Leonardo Da Vinci.

Question to explore

How can we transform our relationship to learning so that we view it as a process of infinite learning rather than finite learning?

First, let us start by defining the distinction between finite learning and infinite learning. (These definitions were inspired by the wonderful book “Finite and Infinite Games” by James Carse, which I highly recommend.)

“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” - James Carse

Applying these definitions for infinite games, as well as finite games for learning goes like this:

“Finite learning is desired for the purpose of learning one given subject. Whereas, infinite learning is for the purpose of continual exploration and transforming one’s worldview.”

Infinite learning is learning for learning’s sake. This is the type of learning we need to seek as well as encourage in others.

Becoming a Freelance Graduate Student

Now time to define what a Freelance Graduate Student is:

“An individual who has taken their education into their own hands, using Mona Lisa Framing, assigning themselves projects both in the short-term and long-term, shaping their learning and creative goals.”

View your learning as a cumulative process. Frame it the same way Leonardo Da Vinci did with the Mona Lisa, and recognize that this is going to take time. And that this is okay.

“Learning is how we figure out what we want to do, what we’re good at, how we might make a living when the time comes.” - Benedict Carey from (How We Learn)

Cheers to lifelong learning,

Adam Bartley