You too can be like Leonardo daVinci
Ian Dyason. 26 March 2021
Florence, Italy. The province where Leonardo da Vinci was born.
Imagine summer life in 15th century Florence. Life would have been idyllic with the rolling hills, the magnificent cool fresh air, and the warm sunshine on your face. The splash of colour that the flowers all across the countryside makes for a magical setting. One where we can simply lie contented and thank God for a great life. Amidst all these, a creative genius roams the land. He is an artist, a natural scientist, a philosopher and an engineer. He is, as he would later be described by a biographer, "(a man) that transcends nature, a single person (who) is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, (where) all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. ... an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease."
Even today, more than 500 years after his death, we still marvel at the creative genius that he was.
That man was Leonardo da Vinci. Even today, more than 500 years after his death, we still marvel at the creative genius that he was. Not only was he accomplished in solving engineering problems, he designed the tank, helicopter, the parachute and a giant crossbow. His mind far exceeded the technological capabilities of his time. Indeed, he designed a 240m bridge for the then Ottoman Sultan Beyazid to span the mouth of Bosphorus river. The plan was scuppered but not without it first being vaulted away, only to have it resurrected in 2006 by the Turkish government to construct the bridge using that very design to span the Golden Horn! Talk about an enduring genius!
In 1998, psychologist and author Michael Gelb wrote a book entitled, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, where he uncovered seven components of da Vinci's genius. He called them curiosita, sensazione, arte e scienza, connessione, sfumato, dimostrazione and corporalita. These are of course Italian for curiosity, sensations, art and science, connection, focus (or more likely the blurred out-of-focus in painting), logic or proof and fitness and poise. According to Gelb, each of these components (akin to dimensions), when taken together, create the essence of the mental skills that Leonardo da Vinci employed in his creative genius. And so can you! By adopting the right mindset (hint, the growth), you too can think like Leonardo da Vinci. So in this article, I shall share how the 5 Dimensions of the Growth Mindset is very closely aligned with Leonardo's thinking and by focusing on your development of the respective dimensions, you too can be like Leonardo! Let's look at those components one by one.
He could sketch the wing positions of birds in flight as he tried to uncover the secrets of flying. This curiosity is also key in the growth mindset.
da Vinci had an intense curiosity for the natural sciences around him. He used to collect cadavers and dissected them to uncover how the human body (and that of animals too, like the horse) works. He was even known to lay out the bones and used string to act as muscles to see how the whole musculature worked. Even in engineering, he would build replicas, and sketch designs in his many books, to learn how things operated. He was always filled with a sense of wonder, especially of flight. He could sketch the wing positions of birds in flight as he tried to uncover the secrets of flying. This curiosity is also key in the growth mindset. It drives the Learning dimension, and as they say, the growth mindset IS the learning mindset. So if you want to think like Leonardo, then be curious. Stop and ask many questions. Uncover what is really happening.
he will dive deeper, probe for what is really happening, and then from that central perspective, take action.
Feelings, the use of the senses and sensations; these are the essence of the second component. Leonardo did not just look at things from afar, he got down and dirty. He touched, smelled, tasted, heard and saw all aspects of a problem - especially the last sense. He used his keen powers of observation to uncover what lies beneath. Hence, he will not just surrender to his assumptions; instead, he will dive deeper, probe for what is really happening, and then from that central perspective, take action. This is very much true of the growth-minded Pride dimension. When one is more growth in Pride, it means that the person will not assume that (s)he knows all the answers, but will endeavour to find that out, applying her/his full faculties to get at the truth. Never assume that you know the answer, find that out.