Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. Yet some, like the legendary Leonardo da Vinci, do more with their day than others. The obvious question is, “why?” A recent NPR article may help shed some light on that age-old question.
According to a new book by Toby Lester that will be released in February 2012, da Vinci used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and "whenever something caught his eye," he would make a note, or begin "sketching furiously."
"It is useful," Leonardo wrote, to "constantly observe, note, and consider." But when you are Leonardo, what sorts of things are buzzing around in your head? Well, Lester describes what was essentially a "To Do" list buried in one of da Vinci’s notebooks. It included several tasks da Vinci planned to do one week, or month, in the early 1490s.
“Cannons, wall construction, studying the sun, ice skating in Flanders, optics-- and that oh-so-casual, Draw Milan."
“It's like his mind could wander off in any direction at any time. How did he concentrate? How did he focus?” asks the article’s author, Robert Krulwich.
He suggests that there are benefits to not focusing, to letting your mind wander and see what it can conjure.
“Minds that break free, that are compelled to wander, can sometimes achieve more than those of us who are more inhibited, more orderly,” Krulwich notes. He cites a recent behavioral study that found “minds that break free, that are compelled to wander, can sometimes achieve more than those of us who are more inhibited, more orderly.”
Finally, part of the answer also lies in embracing curiosity.
Da Vinci, the true renaissance man, wanted to know everything. He had a “very hungry mind,” concludes Krulwich.