How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Lesson Plans

An Insatiably Curious Approach to Life and an Unrelenting Quest for Continuous Learning.

(an excerpt from  “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J. Gelb)
Great minds ask great questions. The questions that “engage our thought” on a daily basis reflect our life purpose and influence the quality of our lives. By cultivating a Da Vinci-like open, questing frame of mind, we broaden our universe and improve our ability to travel through it.

Have you opened your door to freedom? The exercises that follow are designed to help you do so.  But first take a moment to reflect on how frequently and effectively you are already putting your Curiosità to work – and how you might benefit from do so more often.
Consider the role of Curiosità in your life today. Ask yourself how curious you are.  When was the last time you sought knowledge simple for the pursuit of truth?  What did you gain from this effort? Think of the people you know.  Do any of them strike you as embodying the ideals of Curiosità? how are their lives enriched by this?

Your Curiosità can be developed and put to use more easily than you may have thought.  First complete the self assessment checklist on the next page; your answers will tell you how you are already using it – and where there is room for improvement.  Then try your hand at cultivating your own Curiosità through the simple exercises that follow.

Curiosità
Self Assessment
  • I keep a journal or notebook to record my insights and questions.
  • I take adequate time for contemplation and reflection.
  • I am always learning something new.
  • When I am faced with an important decision, I actively seek out different perspectives.
  • I am a voracious reader.
  • I learn from little children.
  • I am skilled at identifying and solving problems.
  • My friends would describe me as open-minded and curious.
  • When I hear or read a new word or phrase, I look it up and make a note of it.
  • I know a lot about of cultures and am always learning more.
  • I know or am involved in learning a language other than my native one. I solicit feedback from my friends, relations and classmates.
  • I love learning.

Exercises:
A hundred questions
In your notebook, make a list of a hundred questions that are important to you. Your list can include any kind of questions as long as it’s something you deem significant: anything from “How can I save more money?” or “How can I have more fun?” to ” What is the meaning and purpose of my existence?” and “How can I best serve the Creator?”

Do the entire list in one sitting.  Write quickly; don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or repeating the same questions in different words (recurring questions will alert you to emerging themes).  Why a hundred questions?  The first twenty or so will be “off the top of your head”.  In the next thirty or forty themes often begin to emerge.  And, in the latter part of the second half of the list you are likely to discover unexpected but profound material.

When you have finished, read through your list and highlight the themes that emerge.  Consider the emerging themes without judging them. Are most of your questions about relationships? Business? Fun? Money? The meaning of life?

Top ten Questions
Review your list of a hundred questions. Choose the ten that seen the most significant.  Then, rank them in important from one to ten.  Do not attempt to answer them now; you’ve done enough just putting them in writing in a place where you can easily find them.

 


Dimostrazione
A Commitment to Test Knowledge through Experience, Persistence, and a Willingness to Learn from Mistakes.

(an excerpt from  “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J. Gelb)
Think of the best teachers you have ever had.  What makes a teacher great?  More than anything else, it is the ability to help the student learn for himself. Thr finest teachers know that experience is the source of wisdom.  And the principle of Dimostrazione is the key to making the most of your experience.

Leonardo da Vinci’s practical orientation, penetrating intelligence, curiosity, and independent spirit led him to question much of the accepted theory and dogma of his time.  In his studies of geology, Leonardo walked the hills of Normandy and held fossills in his hands.  When he wanted to learn anatomy, he dissected more than thirty human bodies and countless animal corpses.  Like his work on fossillization, his anatomic work was a direct challenge to the accepted authorities at the time.  As he wrote: “Many will think that they can with reason blame me, alleging that my proofs are contrary to the authority of certain men held in great reverence by their inexperienced judgements, not considering that my works  are the issue of simple and plain experience which is the true mistress.”
Leonardo da Vinci is considered by most as the the greatest genius of all time. Yet, like everyone, Leonardo was certainly not perfect, and made his fair share of mistakes. Often, when Leonardo erred, he erred big. One hilarious debacle was recounted by Gelb:

Asked to preside as head chef  for a major banquet, Leonardo created a grand plan for sculpting  each course to be served to the more than two hundred guests.  The dishes were designed as minature works of art. Leonardo built a new, more powerful stove and a complex system of menchanical conveyer belts to move plates around the kitchen.  He also designed and installed a massive sprinkler system in case of fire.  On the dya of the banquet everything that could go wrong did. (The regular kitchen staff wasn’t capable of doing the fine carving work Leonardo required for his culinary works of art, so he enlisted the of over one hundred of his artist friends to assist him.) In the vastly overcrowded kitchen, the conveyer system failed, and then fire broke out. The sprinkler system worked too well, causing a flood that washed away all the food and a good part of the kitchen!

Despite mistakes, disasters, failures, and disappointments, Leonardo never stopped learning, exploring, and experimenting.  He demonstrated Herculean persistence in his quest for knowledge.  Next to a drawing of a plow in his notebook Leonardo proclaimed, I do not depart from my furrow.”

Are you ever decieved by your own opinions?  Are your opinions and beliefs truly your own?  The exercises that follow are designed to help you  think with more freedom and originality.  But first take some time to consider the role Dimostrazione plays in your life today and how you might strengthen it further. Ask yourself:

  • Am I an independent thinker?
  • Do I acknowledge my mistakes?
  • Do I learn from my mistakes, and try not to repeat the same mistakes twice?
  • Am I susceptible to advertising?
  • Do I hold on to personal beliefs out of habit, comfort, or convenience?
  • Am I superstitious?
  • Do I keep an open mind?
  • Do I really listen to other people’s ideas and opinions, even I don’t agree with them?
  • Do I let others finish their thoughts?
  • Do you hate to be proven wrong?
  • Are you embarassed when you make a mistake, or when you are proven wrong?
  • Do you learn more from your successes, or from your failures?

Exercises:
What have been the most influential experiences of your life? List five experiences that have made a definite impact on your life, and a short summary about what your learned from each experience.

Next, ask yourself: How has my experiences colored my attitudes and perceptions? Aim to write down , in a sentence or two, the effects of the experiences on your view of the world.

Controlled Debate:
Many people based their beliefs on logic, feelings, experiences, parental instruction, and traditions. Consider these controverisal subjects: ethics, politics, ethnic groups, scientific truth, sexuality, religion, medicine, the meaning of life, art, marriage, parenting, history, et al. Try discussing your feelings on these topics.  Let’s use the first subject, Human Nature, as a model.

How do you feel about human nature? What are three basic beliefs you have? For example:

  • I believe people are basically good.
  • I think behavior is predominantly determined by genetics.
  • It’s human nature to resist change.

When did you first feel this way?  Do you spend time with others who share your views exclusively, or do you have friends who sometimes disagree with conclusions? Once you begin to understand why you believe the things that you do, you can openly begin to understand the viewpoints of others.

 


Sensazione
The continual refinement of senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.

(an excerpt from  “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J. Gelb)
Leonardo di Vinci wrote that “the eye emcompasses the beauty of the whole world.”  You can begin to cultivate keener vision – and appreciate more fully the beauty that the world has to offer – with the following practices:

The Eye-palming exercise

Sit at a desk in a quiet, private place.  Keep your feet squarely on the floor and sit so that you are supported by the bones at the bottom of your pelvis.  If you wear glasses, take them off; contact lenses are okay.  Now rub your palms together vigorously for about twenty seconds.  Resting your elbows lightly on the desk, cup your pal,s and place them over your gently closed eyes; be sure not to touch the eyeball or put pressure on the sides of your nose.

Breathe deeply, in an easy, relaxed fashion, and rest with your eyes closed for three to five minutes.  When you are ready to finish, take your palms away from your eyes, but leave your eyes closed for another twenty seconds or so. (Do NOT rub your eyes!)  Then gently open your eyes and look around.  You will probably notice that colors seem brighter and that everything seems sharper and more defined. Do this once or twice a day.

Study the lives and works of famous musicians who are also visual artists.

Many people in the entertainment industry are highly intelligent, multi-talented individuals with a variety of interests.  Consider what would make a musician also seek expression through art.  How can we compare their art to their music?

Here is a list of Musicians who are also artists:

  • Joni Mitchell
  • Tony Bennett
  • Jewell
  • Michael Jackson
  • Prince
  • Dre 3000 of OutKast
  • Gordon Parks