4 Lessons from Think Like da Vinci

Table of Contents

Introduction: Unpacking Key Lessons from Think Like da Vinci

What does it mean to think like da Vinci, the great man? This is the central question explored in Michael Gelb’s book Think Like da Vinci: 7 Easy Steps to Boosting Your Everyday Genius. As the title suggests, Gelb examines the creative brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci and provides insights on how anyone can nurture their inner genius. With society facing increasingly complex challenges, the ability to tap into creative thinking is more valuable than ever.

As Gelb highlights, creativity is not some mystical talent reserved for the chosen few but rather a skill that can be strengthened through deliberate practice and an open, curious mindset. In this blog series, we will dive deeper into Gelb’s key principles for boosting everyday creativity by learning from the Renaissance master himself. Da Vinci’s relentless curiosity, willingness to experiment, and ability to make connections across disciplines allowed him to conceive ideas far ahead of his time.

By exploring lessons from how da Vinci approached learning and life, we can enhance our thinking habits to unlock innovative solutions to problems. Beyond generating clever ideas, creativity enables us to pursue wholehearted living and self-actualization. As such, this series will provide inspiration and tangible steps for adopting a da Vincian approach of embracing creativity in all aspects of life—from honing professional skills to enjoying hobbies.

The forthcoming sections will guide readers to cultivate an integrative mindset, apply creative thinking techniques, take inspiration from da Vinci’s resilience, and more. By internalizing lessons from one of history’s true geniuses, anyone willing to open their mind has immense creative potential waiting to unfold. The journey begins with a willingness to challenge old assumptions, introduce novelty into routines, and fearlessly infuse creativity into life’s pursuits.

Creativity in Problem-solving and Personal Growth

Creativity allows people to find solutions to problems that have never been considered before. It pushes the boundaries of what is possible and opens up new avenues for innovation. Without creativity, societies would struggle to progress and advance. Creative thinking enables people to adapt to changes and uncover better ways of doing things. As such, actively boosting one’s creative abilities has profound professional and personal benefits. Individuals with heightened creativity also have an advantage when seizing opportunities, overcoming obstacles, and realizing their full potential.

Enhancing Creative Thinking

While creativity may seem like an elusive gift that some possess more than others, it can be strengthened through purposeful habits and mindsets. Gelb’s book, which provides science-backed insights on how anyone can boost their creative thinking, is based on this notion.

By examining da Vinci’s unique approach to nurturing his creativity across disciplines, modern readers can extract lessons to apply in their own lives. Upcoming sections will offer practical strategies to develop skills that spark creative brilliance—from honing observation to fueling curiosity. While da Vinci’s genius may be rare, his success was also rooted in trainable methods of thinking that amplified his imagination. Adopting even a few of da Vinci’s practices allows anyone to become a more inventive thinker.

1. Unleashing Your Inner Genius

Leonardo da Vinci was the epitome of creative genius. His insatiable curiosity, willingness to experiment, and mastery of diverse fields led him to produce innovative works of art, engineering designs, and scientific discoveries far ahead of his time.

Cultivating Curiosity and Open-mindedness

A key principle Think Like da Vinci emphasized is the importance of nurturing curiosity about the world around you. Da Vinci exemplified a childlike sense of wonder and awe towards life, allowing him to see possibilities where others didn’t. He observed minute details in nature, asked probing questions about how things worked, and constantly sought new information to expand his knowledge.

Cultivating this beginner’s mindset opens you up to new ideas and perspectives. It enables you to find inspiration in unexpected places. You never know when a curious observation or random fact might spark an innovative solution to a pressing problem.

The Value of Cross-disciplinary Thinking

Central to da Vinci’s creativity was his interdisciplinary approach to learning and work. He fluidly connected insights from art, engineering, anatomy, botany, optics, and other fields to feed his designs. For instance, his study of light and shadow in painting informed his innovations in camera obscura. Bringing together perspectives from different domains can lead to unconventional ideas.

By developing working knowledge across disciplines, you expand the connections your brain can make. You have more conceptual building blocks for creativity. Dabbling in diverse interests as da Vinci did—from playing music to studying fossils—strengthens your ability to think outside the box.

Prototyping and Iteration

Experimentation through rapid prototyping was core to da Vinci’s genius. He moved concepts from his mind onto paper via sketches and models to visualize ideas and test feasibility. He could identify flaws, refine designs, and bring innovative concepts like the parachute and helicopter to fruition by creating tangible prototypes early.

Letting ideas manifest physically enables you to improve and build upon them. Use sketching, tinkering, and crafting to explore possibilities. Refrain from judging early prototypes harshly. Each iteration offers learnings to take you closer to creative breakthroughs.

2. Cultivating a Renaissance Mindset

Embracing a holistic approach to learning and life opens the door to enhanced creativity. Much like Leonardo da Vinci, who pursued diverse interests across art, science, engineering, and more, exposing ourselves to various perspectives and disciplines expands our thinking. New and innovative ideas emerge when connections are made between seemingly unrelated domains.

The Interplay of Art and Science

Da Vinci did not classify his many talents and areas of study. Instead, he allowed his artistic endeavors to inform his scientific pursuits and vice versa. We can foster this integration in simple ways. For example, pay attention to the visual beauty of equations, allow your curiosity about the natural world to inspire artistic expression, or use creative writing to crystallize scientific concepts. When art and science intermingle, creative synergies flourish.

Incorporating Philosophy and Contemplation

A hallmark of da Vinci’s genius was his tendency to question assumptions and conventional wisdom. Setting aside time for philosophical reflection allows us to cut through the noise and re-examine beliefs that may constrain creativity. Simple practices like journaling, attending mindful walks, or discussing ideas with people from different backgrounds can introduce new mental models. This fuels innovation by exposing us to unfamiliar concepts.

Trying Unconventional Approaches

Stepping outside your comfort zone also expands the creative palette. If an activity or subject area seems unrelated to your work, explore it with childlike curiosity. Not only will this help unearth unexpected connections, but it will also condition the mind to remain open and hungry for stimuli. Da Vinci let his boundless interests guide him rather than staying narrowly focused. Allowing peripheral visions to enter your field of view lays the foundation for genius.

3. Tools and Techniques for Creative Thinking

Leonardo da Vinci was a master of creative thinking and problem-solving. He cultivated diverse interests and skills that allowed him to make connections across disciplines. According to Think Like da Vinci, there are specific techniques da Vinci used to stimulate his boundless imagination.

Careful Observation

Da Vinci was an exceptionally keen observer of the world around him. He carefully studied phenomena in nature, mechanics, anatomy, and more, always asking why and how things worked the way they did. By training himself to observe details, he could recognize patterns and formulate new ideas.

We can boost our creative capacities by purposefully honing observation skills. Pay attention to sights, sounds, and textures around you. Sketch or take notes on elements that stand out. The more mindful we become through observation, the more inspiration we may gather.

Reflective Questioning

Da Vinci relentlessly questioned assumptions and conventional thinking. He would ask simple questions like:

  • Why are trees shaped this way?
  • Why do birds fly in a V-formation?

Pondering such curiosities led him to uncover fascinating truths about the natural world.

Asking thoughtful questions breaks us out of rigid mindsets. Some techniques to try are questioning why things are the way they are, identifying problems or flaws with existing solutions, and wondering about untapped opportunities or alternatives.

Recognizing Patterns

Da Vinci had an uncanny ability to recognize meaningful patterns in nature – patterns that revealed important mathematical, anatomical, botanical, and physical principles. Detecting these patterns allowed him to infer certain rules and develop innovative ideas.

Train yourself to actively look for patterns around you. Notice repeated shapes, structures, and behaviors and consider what insight they provide. Connecting these dots can spark creative breakthroughs, from developing efficient systems to composing music.

Putting such techniques into practice takes time and discipline. However, engaging deeply with the world through mindful observation, questioning, and pattern recognition can enhance your creative thinking abilities.

4. Embracing Failure and Iteration

Failure and setbacks are an inevitable part of the creative process. However, as Leonardo da Vinci demonstrated throughout his prolific career, viewing these experiences as opportunities for growth and learning can lead to greater innovation and success. Da Vinci produced a vast portfolio of work across disciplines—from intricate anatomical drawings to grand architectural plans—by being willing to experiment, take risks, and iterate based on the results.

Learning from Failure Fuels Creativity

Rather than viewing failures as definitive endpoints, da Vinci saw them as signposts directing him toward new possibilities. With each unsuccessful test or flawed prototype, he gained key insights to refine his designs and push his creative boundaries further. Modern cognitive research affirms da Vinci’s approach – evidence suggests that the most innovative individuals and teams embrace small failures as a critical part of their iterative process.

Lessons from Think Like da Vinci

This growth mindset fuels out-of-the-box thinking by mitigating the fear of failure that often stifles creativity. Knowing that setbacks hold valuable information encourages bold experimentation from which breakthroughs emerge. Thomas Edison famously embraced this philosophy, viewing each unsuccessful filament in his quest to invent the lightbulb as bringing him “one step closer to success.”

Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Da Vinci transformed obstacles into creative fuel by maintaining fierce curiosity and an openness to learn from every experience. Even challenges that seemed impossible initially, like designing a functioning flying machine, became rich opportunities to expand his knowledge. This resilient attitude allowed him to iterate past countless barriers that would have halted others.

Cultivating such persistence and flexibility provides space for groundbreaking discoveries to take form. Albert Einstein once defined genius as “1 percent talent and 99 percent hard work” – a reminder that breakthroughs often emerge slowly through repeated small tweaks rather than in sudden bursts of inspiration. By patiently iterating in the face of obstacles, we can all tap into more of the creative brilliance that lies within.

Leonardo da Vinci’s embrace of experimentation, failure, and dogged iteration fueled his Renaissance-era innovations and enduring legacy. By adopting a similar resilience and commitment to learning from setbacks, we can view the inevitable failures along our creative journeys not as endpoints but as opportunities for growth. With a willingness to iterate and evolve, ordinary obstacles become the seeds from which our creative brilliance may one day bloom.


In this write-up, we explored lessons from Think Like da Vinci, a bestselling book on tapping into our creative potential. By adopting da Vinci’s approach of insatiable curiosity, experimentation, and interdisciplinary learning, we can nurture the creative genius within.

The key takeaways include:

  • Unleash your genius by questioning assumptions, exploring ideas without limits, and connecting diverse perspectives.
  • Cultivate a Renaissance mindset that integrates science, art, and humanities to fuel creative insights.
  • Use observation, reflection, and pattern recognition to sharpen perception and make new associations.
  • View failures as opportunities to iterate and refine ideas rather than endings.

As da Vinci exemplified, the brilliant innovations we remember through history often required unrelenting dedication and effort. Challenge yourself to tap into that persevering spirit of creativity. Nurture your curiosity each day. Broaden your perspectives by bridging different disciplines. Experiment relentlessly with ideas while viewing failures as feedback. By embracing this mindset and putting the lessons from Think Like da Vinci in your daily lives, you can achieve moments of creative brilliance that elevate and inspire.

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