Tim Ferris has one of the best podcast series around and his most recent podcast with author, Walter Issacson does not disappoint. Issacson is the author of many biographies, including The Innovators, Steve Jobs, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Kissinger: A Biography, and his most recent, Leonardo da Vinci. Both Ferris and Issacson have made their life work to tease out key stories, rituals, habits, and daily practices of well renown people.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Below I share some highlights and lessons that inspire my daily life.
“I think Leonardo da Vinci teaches us the value of both being focused on things that fascinate us but also, at times, being distracted and deciding to pursue some shiny new idea that you happen to stumble upon. Balancing intense focus with being interested in a whole lot of different things is something that we have to do in the Internet age.”
“We relate to Leonardo da Vinci because his genius was just being passionately curious about everything. He wanted to know everything he could know about our universe, including how we fit into it. We can’t all have a superhuman intellect like Albert Einstein’s, but we can be super-curious. And we can also quit smashing curiosity out of the hands our children.”
“Leonardo da Vinci had such a playful curiosity. If you read his notebooks, you’ll see he’s curious about what the tongue of a woodpecker looks like, but also why the sky is blue, or how an emotion forms on somebody’s lips. He understood the beauty of everything. I’ve admired Leonardo my whole life, both as a kid who loved engineering – he was one of the coolest engineers in history – and then as a college student, when I travelled to see his notebooks and paintings.”
“Throughout his life, Albert Einstein would retain the intuition and the awe of a child. He never lost his sense of wonder at the magic of nature’s phenomena-magnetic fields, gravity, inertia, acceleration, light beams-which grown-ups find so commonplace. He retained the ability to hold two thoughts in his mind simultaneously, to be puzzled when they conflicted, and to marvel when he could smell an underlying unity. “People like you and me never grow old,” he wrote a friend later in life. “We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.”
“And by reading his notebooks,” Isaacson continues, “whenever I had the chance and marvelling at how much he crammed on a page, I could see the connection that his mind made as it danced across nature, from the beauty of a woman’s smile to the miracle of a bird in flight.”
“I think that in order to be innovative,” says Isaacson, “you have to question the traditional ways of doing things. Leonardo did that. Steve Jobs did that. Einstein did that … It is the nature of creativity to not just do what was done before, and whether it was Leonardo’s flying machines or his drawings of a dissection of a human body or his plan to divert rivers, or his way of making the smile of the Mona Lisa so mysterious, all of that was a great act of creativity.”
“One of the things I’ve learned from Leonardo is how to be even more curious and how to be more observant; how to make lists every morning of the things I want to learn or the questions I want to ask. We can all be more observant and more curious … Leonardo made me more intentionally curious.”
Issacson has written biographies of so many geniuses that we can use as models and mentors for creativity, education, and passion. In all of his subjects, including his newest book on Leonardo da Vinci, stayed curious, admired beauty in the world, learn through travel, and keep journals with questions you wish to pursue daily.