I just finished reading this delightful little article that discuses one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do lists from 1490. I’ve always been fascinated by Leonardo, because he had both an analytical, scientific mind and an artistic flair. That’s a rare combination indeed. It’s rather unusual for a genius to also be well-rounded.
What intrigued me most about his list was that the vast majority of the items thereon had something to do with asking someone else to teach him something. Whether it’s having a friar show him a medieval text, or a professor explain proportion, or an expert on hydraulics teaching him how to repair a lock, canal and mill, Leonardo, it seems, didn’t simply rely on his own mind. He asked questions. He opened himself up to learning something new. He realized that some people had pieces of the puzzle that he lacked.
Da Vinci’s obvious curiosity, coupled with an apparent humility, means that he seems to have mastered networking centuries before Facebook. Don’t know something? Find an expert and ask him or her. Drink from the font of human knowledge. Brilliant.
I’ve always believed that a true sign of genius is being able to make yourself understood by a variety of audiences. And I still believe that. But after reading this article, I think I’ll add to my philosophy by saying that it’s also a matter of knowing what you don’t know, and having the courage to consult with those who have other areas of expertise.
So, thanks, Leonardo, for once again expanding my horizons!