Da Vincian Principle 1: Curiositá

In Michael J. Gelb’s book How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci he identifies seven principles that explain Da Vinci’s genius and provides dozens of exercises to help cultivate those same principles in our own lives. Each week, for the next seven weeks, I’ll briefly highlight one of these principles. If you have any interest in creative problem solving and gaining a greater enjoyment of the world around you, I encourage you to read the book. First up is curiositá.

Cusiositá — An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.

As a child, Leonardo possessed an intense curiosity about the world around him. That child-like sense of wonder and insatiable curiosity followed him into adulthood and fueled the wellspring of his genius for the rest of his life. His notebooks are full of questions about the world around him and sketches relating to his discoveries.

In his anatomic investigations, his curiosity led him to dissect and illustrate each part of the human body from three different angles. He also used this three-perspective approach in his study of botany. He carried this same rigorous examination into every facet of his life, including his painting and his studies of flight, physics, architecture and engineering.

So how can we follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps and develop curiositá?

Keep a journal or notebook — Leonardo carried a notebook with him at all times (7,000 pages have survived) so he could jot down ideas, questions, impressions and observations as they occurred.

Develop your ideal hobby — Although Leonardo was gifted as an architect, botanist, musician, costume designer and more, painting became his greatest outlet for creative expression. “Follow your bliss” by passionately pursuing an area of interest that broadens and enriches your life.

Learn a new language — Like Leonardo, you can learn a new language at any age. In his case, it was Latin at age 42. This will open your world to not only new words and ideas but to a new culture.

Build your own lexicon — In his Codex Trivulzianus, Leonardo noted and defined words (9,000+) that were of particular interest to him. Every time you encounter an unfamiliar word or phrase, look it up and record it in your lexicon. A powerful vocabulary correlates significantly with academic and professional success.

Adapted from How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb