Being curious – about everything!


An inspiration like no other… discern patterns where you never expect…

Having read many biographies and memoirs of successful business leaders, I started to feel that even though each journey was unique and distinct, their experiences, learning and even their approaches were often very similar… but the story of Leonardo da Vinci is an experience on a different plane… and its an experience worth going through.

Of-course I may be biased – with my own interest in seemingly disjoint disciplines (e.g. technology, neuroscience, psychology, design etc.), and my firm belief that bringing together ideas from different spheres not just adds a different perspective to thinking but also allows for innovation in unforeseen areas, I see here a perfect example… an example beyond my wildest imagination.

I have always known that Leonardo da Vinci was not just a painter but his interests and explorations spanned many areas beyond painting and sculpture and included interesting explorations in science and engineering (having earlier read about his flying machine and his (failed) attempts of flying like a bird, his many drawings of machines, etc.)… but I wasn’t much aware of his vast experiments in anatomy, geometry, hydraulics, geology, botany, fossils and fossil traces, birds, weaponry, waterways, bridges, architecture or theatre (there seems hardly a subject he did not study)… nor did I ever appreciate the extent of his study of nature and science…

But what intrigued me the most is that it’s not superhuman powers or divine endowments that make him so special, but his unquenchable curiosity and his obsessive passion, often coupled with inventive imaginationsimple skills that all of us have access to – if only we make an effort

What sets him apart is his ability to discern patterns not just from nature and apply them to science, but also to take his findings from experiments in science and applying them to arts… there are so many examples – from using the observations from water and fluid dynamics and applying them to figure out how the heart valve works or the blood flows in our bodies… from understanding the optics of light and reflections to functioning of the human eye to bring realism in his paintings…. from observing the structure of the wings of birds to design machines for flying… from using perspectives in landscapes to bring flat images to life… and many many-others… each of these correlations were arrived at only after hours and hours of obsessive study and often wild experimentation – an inspiration to all of us to pursue our interests with obsessive passion… his approach reflects his thinking of not accepting received wisdom but supplementing it by his own studies and carefully designed experiences – a lesson that we can all learn from.

I will admit that I have occasionally prided myself on being a successful proponent of driving innovation by bringing together ideas from different disciplines, but I now realise that my many attempts have not even scratched the surface – I cannot even fathom going to the extent that Leonardo da Vinci did – using anatomical studies and hours of hands on dissection to observe the muscles that move the lips and applying that learning to paint the memorable Mona Lisa smile! Not just unbelievable but amazing… I wish I could develop such a level of acute observation, obsessive study and experimentation, indefatigable curiosity and an unnatural degree of imagination

And if I can take one thing away from reading about his life, his pursuits, his passions and his approach, then I would like to slow down, and start looking at everything around me with new eyes, and maybe even stop awhile to cherish the infinite wonders around me – for if I do that I will also start seeing many more patterns and correlations that I overlook today…

I would highly recommend reading his biography, for it is not just an insight into Leonardo da Vinci, but his life is an inspiration like no otherit opens the mind to possibilities that most of us have long forgotten in our single-minded quest for ‘getting it done’

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

This article was first published @LinkedIn on March 6, 2018.