Be a da Vinci Entrepreneur

The best entrepreneurs aren’t limited by anything but their potential. Benjamin Franklin, Walt Disney, Sam Walton, P.T. Barnum. What separates these guys from the scores of failures is what lies between their ears. Great entrepreneurs don’t have one little thing they’re good at. They have lots of things they’re good at. It’s no surprise, then, why they seem like geniuses.

Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the quintessential genius. In 1998, Michael Gelb authored How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. The book examines characteristics that da Vinci advocated as the keys to unlocking the power of one’s whole mind. They are the seven virtues of thought and a perfect recipe for entrepreneurial success.


Ask questions! An insatiable curiosity ensures that the mind is always expanding. Even geniuses can’t learn everything, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. As an entrepreneur, it’s not enough to understand where the financing is going to come from.

Learn about your employees. Learn about your market. Learn about your internal processes. Learn about everything!

From a strictly business perspective, asking questions can’t be beat. That’s how you find opportunities for innovation and improvement. When you become satisfied with what you know, you’ve peaked.


To demonstrate is to do. Test what you think you know. Reading all the philosophy books in the public library won’t give you half the wisdom that experience can. Your beliefs, your perspective, your understanding – challenge them all and do it often. Invite people into your life who will compel you to think differently.

Only once you’ve thoroughly evaluated your methods, can you say for certain that the ones you’ve chosen are the best.


As a gifted artist, it is no surprise that da Vinci valued the information he gathered with his senses. Although he uses a different vocabulary to do it, he advocates a state of perpetual mindfulness. Utilize your senses to their maximum benefit.

Walk through the shop (or the office or the sales floor) and really listen. A familiarity with the hum and grind of your machinery will strengthen your ability to discuss it or to recognize a problem. Truly watch your employees and see how the state of your business reveals itself. Don’t just look. See.


Many times in business (as in life), the boundaries which separate black from white have been removed. It’s unclear whether a deal is profitable or not. You can’t determine whether a highly motivating but underperforming employee is worth keeping. There’s ambiguity.

Sometimes such ambiguities can create anxiety. Don’t shy away from such moments. Learning how to court those situations and analyze them thoroughly, serves to develop your reasoning. Think through paradoxes and doubt and you won’t be limited by the lines other people draw for you.


The relationship between art and science is a contested and a beautiful one. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to nurture whole-brain thinking rather than be limited by just one of these categories.

A pure artist may be a genius, but if his work lacks all order, an audience cannot capture its meaning. Likewise, an absolute scientist may unravel the secrets of the universe, but if he can’t explain the beauty of them, they are worthless. Don’t get trapped. Think  with both sides.


As an entrepreneur, your ideas move the company forward. Especially in the beginning, success follows your train of thought. Therefore, your physical well-being can sometimes be lost.

It’s important to have a capable body because the mind and the body are two sides of the same coin. Exercise. Learn new physical skills. By enhancing your body, you 1) provide your mind more outlets for expression and 2) strengthen your brain.


Even most mildly successful businessman can appreciate the interconnectedness of a company or organization. Connessione is systemic thinking. Don’t consider just the accounting department. Forget about only the sales team. Your business is an organism of working parts that must cohabitate. It’s not hard to see that.

If you can stretch the skill a little further, the benefits are even greater. When you can see not just how your departments are connected but also how social media and plastics (for example) relate to each other, you’re thinking on a big picture scale. You’re thinking differently than your competition. You’re thinking like a genius.

Be like the Maestro

Leonardo da Vinci died almost five hundred years ago, but his insight to the mind is as valid as ever. There is nothing in your life that can’t be impacted by changing the way you think. Practice the methods of the genius and you’ll find yourself among the entrepreneurs of legend.

Read More