How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

by Michael J. Gelb

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day unlocks the most essential life principles taught by maestro Da Vinci. Starting from curiosità, which propels us to continually evolve and learn more, and ending with connessione, which presents us with the opportunity to find patterns everywhere in the world, this book offers practical advice for realizing our potential and using the full power of our own genius. 

Summary Notes


“Curiosità is an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.”

People are born curious. Curiosity amplifies the natural desire for learning. Babies are curious about their surroundings and try to get a sense of the world through different experiences. Unsurprisingly, as soon as they learn how to speak, they start asking questions about everything. Curiosity is what gave impetus to Leonardo da Vinci’s genius, and what can transform your life, as well.

To measure your level of curiosity, you need to do a self-assessment. Ask yourself whether you: 

  • take enough time to reflect on things
  • record your thoughts and insights into a journal
  • constantly learn something new
  • ask for feedback from family, friends, and colleagues
  • consider different viewpoints when resolving a problem
  • are an avid reader
  • learn from small children

The steps you take to kindle your curiosity will depend on your self-assessment. Always carry a journal with you so that you can take notes of your observations, questions, inspirations, etc. Remember to include one hundred questions that you consider to be of any significance to you. Then, select the ten most important questions on the list and rank them according to significance. You would benefit the most from those questions if they revolve around ways to improve the quality of our lives in a variety of ways.

The problem-solving mindset is inextricably linked to curiosity. You might find out that sometimes the solution to a problem can be found in reframing the problem.

Actions to take


“Dimostrazione is a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.”

Gaining experience is inevitably linked to making mistakes. When we perceive failures as lessons, we start learning from our mistakes and become more experienced. In the process, we might conclude that opinions and beliefs can change through experiences and experiments. 

Sometimes, our viewpoints and belief systems are not even ours. Adopting other people’s ideas and ideologies without putting much thought into them can hinder your personal progress and can prevent you from becoming an independent thinker. To ascertain your independence of thought, think about whether you:

  • recognize and acknowledge your own mistakes
  • learn from your mistakes
  • can share your reasons for your beliefs
  • see obstacles and hardships as opportunities for growth
  • have a critical mind

In order to absorb more knowledge through experience, you need to be able to access the center of your heart, which can be achieved through the use of emotional affirmations.

Actions to take


“Senzacione is the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.”

Leonardo da Vinci is considered the master of the visible world. His observing powers were successfully translated into the world of art and science. Our senses are the doors through which we receive the outer experiences. To determine your sensory awareness, ask yourself if you:

  • are sensitive to color harmonies
  • know the color of your friends’ eyes
  • can describe a setting in detail
  • a good listener
  • are a good singer
  • have a favorite scent
  • take the time to smell fresh flowers
  • enjoy different types of food
  • eat consciously
  • appreciate the quality of a fabric
  • like to touch and be touched
  • enjoy describing one sense in terms of another

Being aware of the different sensations you experience every day can ignite your brain function. Moreover, receiving information about the world via different receptors can make you appreciate your surroundings even more. It is tremendously important to engage in activities and exercises that heighten at least one of your senses and intensify your experiences in the world.

Actions to take


“It’s a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.”

The “sfumato,” or smoked, technique which Leonardo da Vinci employed frequently in his paintings, is a metaphor for his open-mindedness in the face of the unknown. 

Da Vinci’s tremendous curiosity and astute perceptiveness have led him to make discoveries and form opinions on a variety of topics. In the process, he understood the vastness of the unknown and the fact that acquiring knowledge is a never-ending quest. He was interested in exploring dichotomies. For example, he came to understand that his quest for beauty meant confronting ugliness, as well. 

Paradoxes, mysteries, and uncertainty that Leonardo encountered in his life were also present in his artwork. One of his masterpieces, “The Mona Lisa,” has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. 

In order to assess how comfortable you can be in uncertainty, consider if you:

  • enjoy riddles and puzzles
  • trust your instincts
  • recognize the importance of conflict as an impetus for creativity

Da Vinci believed that facing paradoxes, ambiguity, or dichotomy can result in the development of razor-sharp senses.

Actions to take


“It’s the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination.”

Nobel Prize winner Professor Roger Sperry laid the foundation for the distinction between the two types of thinking that happen in the left and the right hemisphere. People usually have a dominant hemisphere, which means that people whose thinking is more logical are left-brained, whereas more creative people are right-brained. 

The negative implication of this is that society often underestimates the right hemisphere and favors the left one. Nevertheless, Leonardo da Vinci has proven that both of his hemispheres were highly functional, which means that he managed to excel both in arts and in science. 

To become better at finding a balance between the artistic and the scientific, think about whether you:

  • rely on logic
  • are organized
  • are good at brainstorming
  • are quite imaginative
  • rely on intuition

The answers to these questions can propel you to unlock your brain powers. One way to do it is by learning the rules of mind mapping. Mind mapping can improve your judgment and overall development. When you practice mind mapping regularly, you will be able to remember and comprehend different concepts more easily.

Actions to take


“It’s the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.”

It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable physical beauty influenced his thirst for knowledge of the human anatomy. He was a firm believer in the positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise on the quality of life. Da Vinci also considered the psychological aspect of people’s well-being. He considered anger and desolation to be detrimental to a person’s welfare. A step further in becoming healthier and happier is to think about whether you:

  • are fit
  • coordinated
  • know what constitutes a good diet

Developing a good fitness program is crucial for attaining great physical strength and emotional and psychological well-being, and it should involve strength training and flexibility exercises.

According to Da Vinci, the food you consume should be fresh, natural, and rich in fiber. He advises against highly caloric suppers, and against consuming too much salt and sugar. In principle, he advocates for moderation.

Actions to take


“It’s a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena.”

What set Leonardo da Vinci apart from many others is his extraordinary ability to notice patterns and connections in his surroundings. He was fully aware that even the smallest bird can affect the Earth’s movement. It was his interpretation of the domino, or the butterfly, effect. 

To employ the concept of connessione even more in your life, start by doing a brief self-assessment. Think about whether you:

  • are ecologically aware
  • use metaphors
  • make imperceptible connections
  • Intertwine your life goals with your values
  • focus on people’s similarities, rather than differences

When you reflect on your life, think about periods when you experienced wholeness or disconnection. Moreover, think about an internal conflict you’ve experienced and try to discover the root of that conflict. 

Making connections between concepts that seem to be completely disconnected can help you see patterns and relationships that weren’t obvious from the beginning.

Reflecting on your values can also help you set real and achievable goals. To do so, try implementing the SMART technique. The goal should be specific and measurable; make yourself accountable; furthermore, the goal should be realistic, and, finally, there should be an established timeline for achieving the goal.

Actions to take

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