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Superficial Observations and Brilliant Self-Help Exercises
on November 28, 2000
This book is very hard for me to grade. It contains some of the best and worst material I have ever seen, all in the same book. That combination is unprecedented in my experience.
If the book were solely built around the exercises, I would say that it deserved more than five stars.
If the book were soley built around the analysis and history of Leonardo da Vinci as a thinker, I would grade it at two stars.
The exercises are so terrific that I urge you to read the book. I also urge you to see the text leading up to the exercises as merely an introduction to the excercises.
If you want to learn about Leonardo da Vinci as a thinker, I suggest you go elsewhere for that guidance. I do encourage you read the Leonardo notebooks directly. They are fascinating. While you are doing so, try to imagine yourself with the limited scientific knowledge of the day. One of the things that you will learn is the power of conceptualizing what is needed that is missing. This helps to set the goal that energizes those who then meet the goal. Leonardo had enormous influence in this way with his pioneering work on helicopters, submarines, parachutes, and many mechanical devices.
Research on creativity and innovation has shown that it is valuable to increase one's curiosity, testing of ideas, observation skills, openness to new ideas and ambiguity, whole-brained thinking, balance in life activities, and seeing systems connections. This book espouses those concepts as well. In fact, it felt to me like the author was more influenced by the creativity and innovation literature than by Leonardo. If the book had drawn on more of this kind of research, rather than just trying to oversimpify Leonardo da Vinci, it would have been a better book.
As I read the book, I did at least one exercise in each section. I found these exercises to be very well constructed and that I derived great personal value from the experiences they gave me. I think you will feel the same way, if you are like me and want to improve your ability to see, hear, feel and grasp.
The only totally inappropriate exercise I encountered was one that encouraged you to write backwards like Leonardo did. You should know that I am probably biased on this, for this habit of Leonardo's is primarily responsible for a miscommunication of his work that delayed the pursuit of many of his best ideas by others. Civilization is the poorer, as a result.
The book also has a lot of self-assessments to help you understand what you need to work on. I found these to be below-par in value.
The worst part of the book were the very poor reproductions of paintings by Leonardo. The Last Supper can barely be discerned. If images cannot be better reproduced than this, they should be left out of the book.
After you have thought about reading this book or actually do so, I suggest that you also question as to whether or not your goal should be to think more like Leonardo da Vinci. True, he was a great genius. But he had his drawbacks. Most of his ideas did not see fruition in his own lifetime. He also spent most of his time either entertaining noble patrons with songs and stories or with creating war machines. What legacy would you like to leave? A legacy can be shaped by your thoughts. What thoughts will expand your legacy. Mother Teresa did not have to think like Leonardo to leave a great legacy.
How can you think like yourself in better ways?