Learn Like Leonardo da Vinci

The Mission News: October 18, 2017

Published in
4 min readOct 18, 2017


I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. -Leonardo da Vinci

It’s hard to talk about accelerated learning without mentioning the impressive genius of Leonardo da Vinci. He was a master artist, anatomist, engineer, scientist, biologist, and experimenter. What makes his successes that much more amazing is that he never received formal education beyond basic reading, writing, and arithmetic.

So how did he manage to learn so much? Self-education.

Leonardo was a genius because he not only questioned everything around him, but he actually, physically sought the answers to his questions. He wasn’t content with just reading about a study; he wanted to perform the experiment himself. Leonardo was the ultimate doer and learner. From flying machines, to paintings, to dissection, Leonardo’s creativity and imagination knew no bounds.

Here are 5 quick lessons we can learn from Leonardo da Vinci:

  1. Don’t limit yourself to one field of study.
  2. Embrace curiosity and train your mind to question everything.
  3. Don’t just sit on these questions; seek answers.
  4. Learning happens over time. Leonardo didn’t wake up one morning knowing the entire anatomy of the human body. It took years of experimentation and questioning.
  5. Record, record, and record some more. Recording your thoughts and experiences gets those creative juices pumping and helps you better recall information. All thoughts and ideas are valuable enough to record even if they aren’t valuable enough to actually pursue.

This list barely brushes the surface of all that Leonardo has to offer. Here are some resources so that you can learn more about his personal life and techniques for mastery.

News that matters

➜ A recent study performed by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has found that art classes help medical students improve their observational recognition skills in the clinic. Studying a variety of subjects doesn’t hinder your ability to succeed in one field, but can actually improve your performance across disciplines.

What we're reading

The Drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci by C. Lewis Hind

From the book: “The world at large today reverences him as a painter, but to Leonardo painting was but a section of the full circle of life."

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci translated and presented by Edward MacCurdy

Leonardo kept a record of most everything he encountered or pondered. Interestingly, he also documented all of his wrongdoings. He would list on the left what he had done wrong and on the right, how he had eventually made up for it. For example, he owed work to his brother and instead of fulfilling the job, Leonardo ran away. He recorded this on the left and later in life, wrote on the right that he had made up for it after his brother died by taking care of his brother’s children.

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.” -Leonardo da Vinci

What we're listening to

The Tim Ferriss Show — Lessons from Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, and Ben Franklin

Two master learners talking about other master learners. Prepare to feel like a slacker… ;) In this episode Tim interviews Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of The Aspen Institute and author of many biographies - his most recent being about Leonardo da Vinci. Walter shares little-known information about Leonardo’s personal life and explains his secrets to mastery. They also discuss some of history’s other famous innovators and the tools they used to learn so much so quickly.

The main takeaway from the episode: Don’t limit yourself through specialization. Embrace curiosity, seek the answers to many questions, and learn from everything that the world has to offer. Creativity happens at the intersection between different disciplines.

What we're watching

The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything

This is a 50 minute long BBC documentary about Leonardo’s early life. This film summarizes Leonardo’s personal background and explains what was going on during the time he was living. We recommend checking it out, but if you don’t have the time right now, here’s a 10-minute entertaining overview of Leonardo’s life:

Great Minds: Leonardo da Vinci

Originally published on our M-F Newsletter.

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