Still on the Shelf: How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

Here’s another of my Still on the Shelf series, where I tell you, book by blessed book, why I periodically run a dust rag across them, pull them off the shelf, and open them up to read.

A lifetime of reading has left me with a sizable number of books. Throughout the years I have donated them for tax deductions and traded them by the carload for credit at used book stores. But for all the trimming and weeding my collection has undergone these past decades, the ones remaining on the shelves are there for a reason: they’ve withstood the tests of time. Although I’m most inclined to pick up my Kindle these days, there are still plenty of books on my shelves, and How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci is one of them.

How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps To Genius Every Day
by Michael J. Gelb
Delacorte Press, 1998

Da Vinci once wrote:0 Leo 1

The painter must be solitary…
For if you are alone, you are completely yourself,
but if you are accompanied by a single companion, you are half yourself.

Reading this book, contemplating the seven steps to genius and the theories behind them, and doing the exercises are best done alone. This is a solitary endeavor, not a group thing.

Part One is an introduction to the workings of the brain, of genius, and the life and times of Da Vinci himself. Don’t skip Part One. It’s mandatory to get the most out of the book. It lays out context and history, and it provides a foundation on which to build your own creative style.

Part Two is a discussion of the seven Da Vincian principles:

  • Curiosita: an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  • Dimostrazione: a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  • Sensazione: the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  • Sfumato: a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  • Arte/Scienza: the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination, whole-brain thinking.
  • Corporalita: the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  • Connessione: a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.
0 Leo Mind Map 2

Mind map from How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

The sections contain related sidebars, self-assessments, hints for applying the techniques to family and corporate life, and numerous exercises designed to help readers discover the insights of the principles.

Part Three includes a beginner’s drawing course and a chronology of Da Vinci’s life and times.

There is also a list of recommended reading, as well as a section on resources.

This book is a wonderful discovery–to discover yourself, as well as your potential. It educates and nurtures, and celebrates life and creativity. It will keep you busy for years. And that’s why it’s Still on the Shelf.

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