Customer Reviews: How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
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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?
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on January 23, 2005
This book is not for everyone. Here's how it helped me and here's a test to know if the book's for you:

If you really want to see the "world" (cliche' but I do mean the entire world: your dog, your business, your lover's response, the smell of air) in a new way and if you really try to do so, then you know how difficult a task it can be to catch a new glimpse or a new idea. Though it's not too difficult to find what other's have already pointed out, it's the place of prophets and poets and the great entrepreneurs to see something new. As a research chemist 20 years ago, and now as a physician involved in research, I use a very powerful tool that helps improve vision; the tool (the notebook)and good techniques for using it are described in this book.

I see peole buy notebooks and diaries for school and personal use but I don't know many people who catch the real power of this tool. You could read this whole book (How to Think Like...) and not catch the power of the tool without giving the notebook technique a try. You could try the technique and not catch the power unless you keep trying and keep revising techniques and keep trying to see and to hear and to block out the voice of your teachers who told you what to see and what to hear.

Einsten kept a notebook with him even when he went sailing. Another famous mathematician kept notes and had theories even about why the good guy is quicker in a western gun fight. King David must have kept an extensive notebook (we read some of his notes in the Psalms). Seems most people have the idea that personal notebooks are for 13 year old girls to decipher puberty. But ship captains, scientists, poets, businessmen (who mostly journal expenses), track stars (who keep up with workouts) and people who accomplish great things or bite off great fun keep journals.

Nope, I don't have a Nobel prize. But, I've made a few contributions with the help of notes. Even more importantly, keeping a journal (and this book gives possibly the best advice I've seen on how to keep a journal) enriches my life by allowing me to capture the new joke my or the fun adventure of a camping trip with my son.

As I stumble through literally rooms full of books in my home, if there were a fire, the books I would grab first would be the ones I wrote and scribbled over the past 20-plus years.

No! I cannot think like Leonardo Di Vinci. I don't want to. I also don't want to think like you or anyone else. But I do want to think like Leonardo in that I use some of the same tools that he and many others with excellent thinking and vision have used (for more tools you can see my book "Anytime...for as Long as You Want"). Even if I can't think with the brilliance of Leonardo, I can use the same tools to improve my own thinking.

The test to learn if this book is not for you:

If the idea of carrying a notebook with you to the next camping trip, to the grocery store, to the library, and to your mother-in-law's house sounds just too weird and nerdy to you, then this book will not be of much use to you. There are several other books about Leonardo that do a better job telling the story of the life of this great man; if you want to know more about Leonardo, read one of those instead.

--Charles Runels, MD
Author of "Anytime...for as Long as You Want: Strength, Genius, Libido, and Erection by Integrative Sex Transmutation (A 15-Day Course for Men to Improve Life and Sex)"
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on September 21, 1998
Michael Gelb has written an insightful and challanging book. Not being a da Vinci scholar, but one always impressed by da Vinci's ideas and especially his drawings and paintings, this book increased my knowledge of this genius and challanged me to think that I could benefit greatly by thinking like Leonardo.
Gelb sets out seven Da Vincinian Principles and illustrates each with examples from da Vinci's life and work. He encourages the reader to assess oneself with regard to each of the principles and then presents an abundance of exercises to develop one's awareness of the principle and skill at using it.
I found myself, over the course of reading the book, using the principles as I observed the world around me throughout the day, listening to the sounds of nature, really watching birds in flight, wondering at the beautiful pumpkin from a friend's garden that I was peeling, seeding and chopping to make into soup. The latter exercise was further enhanced by pouring myself a glass of the chardonnay that went into the soup and truly tasting it and savouring it (my own version of an exercise found in the Sensazione chapter.) The last of the principles presented is Connessione. I understood this principle clearly as I reflected on the earth from which the grapes were grown, the grapes and all that nourished their growth, the many hands and minds and hearts that created the wine, packaged it, shipped and distributed it and the many consumers who were enjoying it.
Yes, I can say wholeheartedly that this book is worth buying, reading and keeping around as a guide filled with practical ideas and exercises (including a beginner's drawing course) for stimulating and encouraging one's self understanding and indiviual genius.
Da Vinci's passion to know kindled and sustained the fires of his genius. Gelb is obviously one touched by these fires and has thoughtfully extended a hand to the other passionate seekers to fuel the fires of their own genius.
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on February 9, 2000
I picked this book up after the title grabbed me from the bookstore shelf and was instantly hooked. I've always admired DaVinci greatly and couldn't resist reading anything that could shed some light on his creative thinking process.
Will reading this book make you a genius? Probably not. What it will do, however, is open up avenues in your mind that you probably never thought existed. It has some great techniques on how to "think outside the box" and will be helpful to anyone who needs to address a group of others on learning issues. (I am a training instructor and have discussed some of this book's techniques with my students)
I walked away from this book with a whole new outlook on learning and whole brain thinking, and have found myself reflecting on it when trying to compose creative writing and solve problems. The price of this book was well worth has given me many, many returns on my investment.
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on October 25, 2001
I really hate self-help books. I really do. Most of them spend 20 pages telling you how to help yourself and 250 talking about how wonderful it is to read the book you're reading.
But this book is different. I came upon this book very casually, not really looking for anything in particular. When I saw it, I knew that I had to have it. I have always loved da Vinci's art and his intellect - from the first time seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris as a teenager up to my latest trip to Florence a few months ago. But when I bought this book, it didn't occur to me that it might be in the genre of self-help because I was so fascinated with the subject, but that didn't matter once I started reading.
I really believe this book does give us a picture of how to think like da Vinci. The key is don't go into it expecting a lot, and you'll be pleased. Unlike some may perceive on buying this book, I never believed it to do so, and it never says, "You'll be a genius if you read this book." Mr. Gelb just describes da Vinci's methods of thinking, and credits da Vinci everywhere with multiple quotes. From start to finish, I don't think the author once tried to go off subject of how 'his (the author's) methods' were superior or any of the other self-help (...)- it's all credited to da Vinci. It's written fairly simply with daily exercises to produce the desired effects.
One thing that I find very beneficial in this book is that it gives a few paragraphs on how to help teach your children to think more broadly with each section. Having a child that is labled as 'difficult,' it helped me to understand him better, and to encourage his naturally intelligent behaviors such as curiosity when everyone has been trying to repress it...this to me is invaluable. By changing my thinking it really gave me a greater appreciation for a 3 year-old!
I only have one criticism of this book, where I truly believe the author inputs his own preferences exclusively - and that's mostly to do with the Sensazione exercises section in particular. Whether it's telling you to prefer Jazz over other music, or classical, I think his own opinions come through. But simultaneously I must add that his opinions are given as 'starting points' so to speak.
I have truly enjoyed this book. Although I haven't started the exercises (he suggests reading it thoroughly first) I feel that I have learned a great deal. It is also important to note that there is a companion workbook, which probably isn't necessary, but I'm going to buy it because I found this one to be a great book on improving insights and personal qualities.
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on October 26, 1998
As a dedicated free-thinker I'm suspicious of self-help schemes that require higher powers, 'spiritual' raptures and untestable beliefs. I am, however, willing to test things out in my own experience and am willing to appear 'childish' while doing so. Leonardo, I have learned from Michael Gelb, did likewise. I've found inspiration and wisdom in Gelb's book and recommend it to anyone willing to open themselves to his message of human potential.
Leonardo's life provides examples of qualities that we can all move towards in our own lives. The book emphasizes that we are all much more creative than we realize. Open yourself to this message and you'll find applications that can make a real difference in your life. The book has a wealth of suggestions and a broad reading list. It provides a program of exploration and self-development that you can begin at once and continue to unfold for years. Read the book, toss aside your cynicism (as an experiment) and do the exercises.
A few days before she died from lung cancer, I did the Mona Lisa exercise with my mother. She had no trouble getting that smile. I will always remember that look on her face. Thanks, Michael!
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on November 29, 2002
And I quote, "Then experiment with gestures and perhaps an improvisational dance that expresses that feeling; if you are not sure what to do, then you have got the idea. What music would you choose to accompany your ambiguity dance?" I could just see the Old Italian gentleman now, dancing around like Tinker Bell.

Michael Gelb fills this book with exercises of this nature. At the beginning of the book, Gelb provides only a very short biography (less than 25 pages) of Leonardo's life. Gelb then goes onto describe what he calls "The Seven Da Vincian Principles" giving them clever Italian names. He sprinkles short quotes from Leonardo throughout the book that seem to support his principles, but the support is short lived and most of Gelb's book is filled with exercises such as the dance described above. Granted, some of Gelb's suggestions are good, "keep a journal," but you can get suggestions like these from reading just about any self-help book.

One thing that any historian would agree on is that Leonardo Da Vinci was a very practical man - a man of science. The title of this book promises something special. It promises a look into the mind of a man who was one of the world's greatest thinkers. In my opinion, it fails to deliver.
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on December 5, 2000
Some of the best ideas are the simplest, the most obvious to understand and basic common sense. I used to have a professor in high school who defined common sense as the sense that is commonly absent. At any rate, this book has does a fantastic job of introducing you to 7 principles (based on Leonardo Da Vinci and his life - a true genius in the history of the world). As other reviewers point out if you're interested in learning more about just Vinci, there are plenty of other (perhaps better) sources to learn from. However, if you're interested in applying some of the master's techniques to your day-to-day personal and professional life (starting right now), then this your book! I strongly recommend you buy it and start using it right away to tap your own genius!
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on March 15, 2000
Gelb has created a fantastic, thought-provoking, even life-changing work. I would highly recommend reading this book and then following that up with some additional research about the life of Leonardo da Vinci.
I read this book some time ago. It had a profound and lasting impact on the way I live my life. Better yet, Gelb provided me with some very powerful tools so that I could come to better understand the most important person in my life... me. I have found the concepts and the tools presented in this book to be powerful and "top of mind" even a year after having read the book for the first time.
Gelb has a wonderful accomplishment in "How to Think". Join him and discover yourself.
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on September 27, 2003
After reading this book I realized that I am a modern Renaissance man and didn't even know. This book puts into to words and seven principles the way I feel I have conducted a large part of my life. I followed the author's suggestion and read the entire book before embarking on the exercises. I have just started going back through the book and the exercises that are suggested are profound in their effect. The very first thing it suggests to do is keep a journal/notebook in which you write, draw, and ponder. The second exercise is unbelievable. As quickly as you can, write out 100 questions of importance to you. Allow your mind to steer you, instead of trying to steer your mind and you will be amazed at some of the questions you ask. For more of these great exercises though, you'll have to buy the book...
If you feel you need to cultivate your inner self, I would highly recommend this book. It offers great insight into what you should be doing to be like Leonardo da Vinci, or any of the other great mind for that matter.
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