7 Success Steps to Genius Every Day: How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci

7 Success Steps to Genius Every Day: How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci

How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci
How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
by Michael Gelb
Pub. Date: February 8, 2000, Bantam Dell
336 Pages
Success Rating: 4
Buy How to Think like da Vinci at AmazonWhy I Read this Book: Our mind is all of our most powerful asset. This has served as my guide to expanding and developing it towards its full potential.

Topics Covered:

  • The mind’s great potential and how to realize it
  • Mind mapping as a tool to enhance memory and senses
  • Journaling to better discover and understand your thoughts
  • Enhancing interactions and ability to relate with others
  • Asking the right questions and making mistakes
  • Becoming a more dynamic thinker and applying it to your success


I don’t think any of us can question that our mind is our most powerful asset and our greatest enabler of success. It also happens to often be the most underutilized—filled with more potential than most of us will begin to realize. By some studies we use as little as 5% of our brain’s power throughout our life. But most of us don’t know any better. The more we understand and train our mind to reach its true limits, the more likely we are to experience success on a level never thought possible. So the question begs to be asked, how do we realize that potential? In How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb guides us to do just that. And who better to teach about the wondrous mind than Da Vinci himself.

A number of years ago I met up with a couple of Materials Science PhD students to help them dive into a new preventive health care business they’d created. The CEO recommended only one book for the team to read and apply—this was it and since then many of the techniques have become daily rituals of mine and have done wonders opening my mind and its abilities. It’s a constant work in progress no doubt but I feel much better off now than I was. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long for the review. So sorry to have kept it to myself.

Gelb has taken one of the most brilliant minds ever to have existed, and dissected the rituals, routines and techniques used by Da Vinci to develop your mind into the nearly limitless tool that it is. Have no fears if you are not the art, history or science buff. I am far from one. The principles apply to all. The only requirement is a desire for personal, life and mind success. That is something I know we all share.

It is one of the most complete guides to mental and physical development I’ve seen. And the self assessments and exercises at the end of each chapter make it crystal clear where the reader’s time is best spent as not all action items are created equal for all people—it all depends on where you’re going and from where you came.

So many of the things covered throughout this site and in countless books, are touched upon by Gelb. Instead of a deep dive into every mind/body topic—be it presence, meditation, nutrition, journaling, visualization and so on, he makes a point to spend very little, yet focused time on each. For instance the core message in meditation is to be mindful, tend to your breath and sit in the present moment, clearing your mind of all the thoughts racing everywhere. Instead of spending a chapter or a book on that, he just leaves it as its simplest form and allows you to do the discovery on your own. The same goes for every topic in the book. It’s no wonder why a year is recommended to fully ingrain these topics. Of all the books I’ve read, if I were to take one and have it guide my actions for the year, I think this would be it. And if not a year then a month or at least a week. You’ll be amazed at the outcome.

A number of these principles have become a part of my life—mind mapping and journaling as well as some lovely sensory development (i.e. wine tasting) when I can get away. I encourage you to be a sponge as you read it and then realize where your focus could really make a difference and try for a few days or a few weeks to think just a little like Da Vinci here and there. I promise you won’t be disappointed. To this day I don’t go much of anywhere without my journal, a good book and a sketch pad to collect anything that happens to find its way out of my head.

If you take any one concept from this book you will be well served, so don’t be overwhelmed. Take for example the habit of carrying a journal by your side. Of everything mentioned, that has had the most significant effect on my development and understanding for life as well as myself. It’s also been the easiest to make a part of my daily ritual. There are so many thoughts rushing through our mind almost constantly. Most of us try to sort them out inside our head, yet in doing so only scratch the surface. It is not until these ideas get out of our minds and onto paper, be it a journal or a visually charged mind map, that we can really begin to break through to the core.

As soon as our mind is able to clear the surface ideas, it gets a chance to really uncover and understand the heart of what’s going on up there. A profound but not necessarily intuitive phenomenon. You might think that you only have a few thoughts on a subject so why ever write them down. But as soon as you do you will start to realize that writing those few ideas out is like the flood gate of your true thoughts being released. Short of talking to someone, a journal is the only real tool to allow that (and it’s often much more practical than another person since you do not hold nearly as much back when talking and writing only amongst yourself).

I have since carried a journal just about everywhere I go. I have one for work and one for life. Some days it gets a ton of attention and other days none at all, but it’s always with me. Sometimes I’ll reread what I wrote and others times I’ll never go back to it—just the act of getting it out of my head is service enough to my mind and emotions. It is simple tools like this and so many more that when made a part of life can have a dramatic effect on your experiences, outcomes and success. How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci covers them all.

Da Vinci breaks his teaching down into 7 principles:

  • Curiosita: a curious approach to life and the desire to never stop learning
  • Dimostrazione: testing knowledge through doing, learning from mistakes
  • Sensazione: refinement of the senses, especially sight, to enliven life’s experience
  • Sfumato: embrace ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Arte/Scienza: whole-brain thinking, balance between logic and imagination
  • Corporalita: cultivation of grace and fitness
  • Connessione: systems thinking and recognizing the interconnectedness of life

As I look back over these, so many of them are common to what we read in today’s personal development books. Whether it’s state change as Tony Robbins has made famous, interacting with others as Dale Carnegie teaches, or the power of presence from Kabat-Zinn and Eckhart Tolle…The apple really does not fall too far from the tree. It appears Da Vinci’s brilliance provided quite the framework for the famous gurus of today. We can all be thankful. It amazes me how timeless guidance can be when it comes to success.

Gelb recommends that the true Da Vinci connoisseur spend a year making these teachings a part of your life. I couldn’t agree more—however let’s be practical. Not all of us can quickly make time for a twelve or thirteen months filled with nothing more than drawing, reading, mind mapping, juggling or wine and chocolate tasting. Don’t we wish? And of course our path to success will allow for just that retreat at some point if that’s our desire. But for now let’s shoot for a day, an evening or a weekend. That was more than enough to see results.

I even took a short day-long retreat this past week just to reconnect with many of these principles. All I brought with me was a notebook, some inspirational reading, a cushion for sitting and of course a mind full of thoughts. No computer, TV or phone. Relaxing indeed. Give it a shot. A one day reset can be just the setting for getting into a development adventure like this.

So go enjoy some music or a glass of wine and a dash of chocolate. Write down how it makes you feel. Sketch out what you see. Do one or do them all together. Take this as an opportunity to enjoy the journey of mental cultivation. With Da Vinci by your side and creativity to guide you, expand your mind a bit and enjoy the success you will deserve as a result.

What has been your experience with developing your own mind? What’s been most useful and most challenging? What is something you’ve made a part of your routine that has allowed your mind to reach towards it’s full potential? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Also, don’t forget to check out our new site feature: What Should I Read? If you are curious what to read next, just tell us your goals for success and where you are in life and we’ll tell you what you might want to read. We have read hundreds of books and are happy to help! In fact you can see a lot of the books we’ve read on Good Reads.

And if you know someone who could benefit from this review, give a gift and please email it to them.

~Reading for Your Success

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