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Lessons from Leonardo


I just read Walter Isaacson’s wonderful new text Leonardo da Vinci. Isaacson closes his book with a section entitled “Learning from Leonardo.” Among the lessons we can learn, suggests Isaacson:

Get distracted. The greatest rap on Leonardo was that [his] passionate pursuits caused him to wander off on tangents . . . . But, in fact, Leonardo’s willingness to pursue whatever shiny object caught his eye made his mind richer and filled with more connections.

Respect facts. Leonardo was a forerunner of the age of observational experiments and critical thinking. . . . And when his experience showed that a theory was flawed . . . he abandoned his theory and sought a new one. . . . If we want to be more like Leonardo, we have to be fearless about changing our minds based on new information.

Let your reach exceed your grasp. Imagine, as [Leonardo] did, how you would build a human-powered flying machine or divert a river. . . . There are some problems we will never solve. Learn why.”


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