Think like Da Vinci

Think like Da Vinci

7 Easy Steps to boosting your everyday genius

By Michael Gelb

I think this is a very inspiring book. Basically, there are 7 Da Vincian Principles highlighted to boost your genius :
1) Curiosita : An insatiably curious approach to life and unrelecting quest for continuous learning.

2) Dimostrazione : A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
3) Sensazione : The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
4) Sfumato : (literally “Going up in smoke”) A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
5) Arte/Scienze : The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole brain” thinking.
6) Corporalita : The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
7)Connessione : A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena systems thinking.


1) Curiosita

Leonardo da Vinci carried a notebook with him at all times so that he could jot down ideas, impressions, and observations as they occured. You can, like Leonardo, faciliate curiosita by keeping a notebook or journal. Get a bound notebook or journal filled with blank pages. The important thing is to carry it with you everywhere and write in it regularly. Supplement your notebook with scrapbooks or files on diverse areas of interest. Cut out and collect newspaper and magazine articles, or download information from the internet, on any subject you fancy  science, art, music, food, health ….

Busy lives and job responsibilities tend to drive us towards hard conclusions and measurable results, but the exploratory, free-flowing,unfinished, nonjudgemental practice of keeping a Da Vincian notebook encourages freedom of thought and expansion of perspective. In the manner of the maestro, don’t worry about order and logical flow, just record.  Use your notebook to record your questions, observations, insights, jokes, reams and musings…


2) Dimostrazione
When Leonardo was questing for objective knowledge, he viewed his subject from at least 3 different perspectives. Do the same with your beliefs and opinions.

Leonardo had even used a mirror to see his paintings in reverse, try making the strongest possible arguement against your belief. He also sought perspective by reviewing his paintings from a distance. Try reviewing your belief “from a distance” by asking yourself, Would my views on this change if I : lived in a different country, come from another religious, racial, economic or class background; was 20 years older / younger or was a member of the opposite gender?

Finally, seek out friends or acquaintances who you suspect might offer perspectives different from your own. Interview your friends, aiming to see the issue from another point of view.

Leonardo made many mistakes and experienced tremendous adversity in his quest for truth and beauty. In addition to false accusations, invasions, exile, and the wanton destruction of one of his greatest works, Leonardo’s most significant adversity was probably the sheer loneliness of being so far ahead of his time. Although he experienced self-doubt and questioned the value of his efforts, he never gave up. His courage and persistence in the face of adversity are tremendous inspiring.He strengthened his will to continue through his work through affirmations that he wrote in his notebook, such as :

“I do not depart from my furrow.”
“Obstacles do not bend me.”
“Every obstacle is destroyed through rigor.”
“I shall continue.”
“I never tire of being useful.”


3) Sensazione

“The five senses are the ministers of the soul.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo’s vision was supreme, and painting was therefore the greatest discipline. Hearing, and therefore music, came next in importance.  Yet Leonardo reflected sadly the average human “looks without seeing, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or frangance, and talks without thinking.”

Vision : Looking and seeing.
Try the eye-palming exercise to rest your eyes. Rub your palms together vigorously for about 20 seconds.  Rest your elbows lightly on the desk, cup your palms and place them overy our gently closed eyes. Breathe deepely, rest your eyes closed for 3-5 minutes. When you are ready to finish, take your palms away from your eyes but leave your eyes closed for another 20seconds or so. Then gently open your eyes and look around. You will probably notice that colours seem brighter and that everything seems sharper and more fedined. Do this once or twice a day.

Listening and learning
Learn the major movements of western music example
1) Medieval (A.D 450-1450)   – chants, secular songs of churches. Human voice most important.
2) Renaissance (1450 – 1600)  – evolution of polyphony, music with parts.
3) Baroque (1600  1750)  consistent, rely on rigid set of rules.
4) Classical (1785  1820) – Sonata was born – more freedom to reveal individual style.
5) Romantic (1820 – 1910)- personal passion and deep feelings came to life in great works of Brahms, Chopin and Schubert etc.
6) Twetntieth Century (1910 –  ) seek our new virtuosos and better recordings of past greats rather than new composers and musical forms.



Aromatic Awareness
Make “smells” a theme for a day. Record what you smell and how it affects you through the course of the day.


Explore wine tasting. Learning to appreciate and enjoy wine is the most powerful and delightful way to refine your sense of smell and taste.  If you choose not to drink alcohol, you can try the following exercises with the nonalcoholic wines produced by Ariel, S.Regis, and others. Organize your tasting around a theme. Try, for example, comparing a top level California chardonnay, pinot noir, or cabernet sauvignon with a similarly priced white burgundy, red burgundy, or Bordeaux from France.


Touching and feeling
Go outside and explore the textures of nature.


4) Sfumato
The painter who has no doubts will achieve little – Leonardo Da Vinci.
Great musicians claim that their art comes to life in the spaces between notes. Master sculptors point to the space around their work as the secret of its power. Similarly, the spaces between your conscious efforts provide a key to creative living and problem solving. These spaces allow perceptions, ideas and feelings to incubate.

Incubation is most effective when you alternate as Leonardo did, between periods of intense, focused work and rest. Without periods of intense, focused work, there is nothing to be incubated. As Leonardo learned more, he was plunged deeper into ambiguity. Ad as his awareness of mystery and opposition deepened, his expressions of paradox became more profound. Mona Lisa is Leonardo’s supreme expression of paradox. They mystery of her smile has unleashed torrents of ink through the ages.

E.H Gombrich, author of “The Story of the Art”, helps us begin to understand how Leonardo achieved this supreme evocation of the essence ofparadox, Sfumato : “The blurred outline and mellowed colors… allow one form to merge with another always leaving something to our imagination…. Everyone who has ever tried to draw or scribble a face knows that what we call its expression rests mainly in 2 features : the corners of the mouth and the corners of the eyes. Now it is precisely these parts which Leonardo has left deliberately indistinct, by letting them merge into a soft shadow. That is why we are never quite certain in what mood Mona Lisa is really looking at us… ”


5) Arte/Scienze

Leonardo emphsized, for example, that the ability of the artist to express the beauty of the human form is predicated on a profound study of the science of anatomy Lacking an appreciation born of a detailed analysis of bone structure and muscular relationships, the would-be-artist was liable to draw “wooden and graceless nudes that seem rather as if you were looking at a stack of nuts than a human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the muscles…”


6) Corporalita 

Combined with aerobic conditioning, strength training, and flexibility exerises, a healthy diet will help you live a longer, happier, more balanced life.
-> Seek food that is fresh, natural and wholesome.
-> Eat plenty of fiber. Raw and lightly cooked vegetables, grains, beans etc.
-> Avoid overeating.
-> Get enough water.
-> Minimize your intake of additional salt and sugar.
-> Moderate your intake of fats, and minimize saturated fats.
-> Eat only “free range” meats, in moderation. Enjoy one serving per day as a recommended maximum.
-> Vary your diet.
-> Enjoy a little wine with dinner.
-> Don’t eat, dine. Discipline yourself to sit down and enjoy every meal.
-> Listen to your body before every meal and determine what you actually want to eat.



The ability to see relationships and patterns, and make unfamiliar combinations and connections, is the core of creativity. You can develop Da Vincian powers by looking at things that at first glance seem unrelated, and finding different ways to link them. For example, what connections can you make between : A bullfrog and the internet?

The frog’s feets are webbed; the internet links you to the world wide web.

You can aim to generate three or four conenctions for the above. To understand the systems in your world, think abou thow they perform in extreme circumstances.


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