| March 20, 2012 11:18 am

I saw this quote on Fountly and quite liked it:

"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."

It’s attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci.*


* I’m highly skeptical of this attribution and want to see a reference. Even better would be to see the quote in context. Most of Leonardo’s words of wisdom come via his notebooks, and that’s not usually how he wrote things in his notebooks. For the open source writing book, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with the notebook translations, and this just doesn’t sound like Leo. Mostly because Leo didn’t seem to be that concerned with others copying him. He enjoyed being emulated. With all that said, I still like the quote. (Even though it is an error to map modern sensibilities onto our ancient role models.)


2 Responses to “Leonardo Da Vinci on Innovation and Success”

jre wrote a comment on May 18, 2012

I left the following comment at Fountly:

Leonardo’s complete works are available online:
The Notebooks are available separately, and searchable through Google books.
Even allowing for the quote being a humorous paraphrase (“You do some stuff.”) nothing like it appears anywhere in Leonardo’s writings, at least as far as I can tell after some searching. Can you point to the source of the quote?

Google turns up dozens of sites with the identical quote (up to the last sentence, anyway).
Most attribute it to Leonardo, though the comically casual style indicates that it is at best a loose paraphrase. It’s a fairly clever observation, and could stand on its own. Why, I wonder, do some folks feel the need to tie it to some artistic colossus?

Rob Oakes wrote a comment on May 31, 2012

Why, I wonder, do some folks feel the need to tie it to some artistic colussus?

I think it comes down to a desire to tie the observation to authority. If said by a Leonardo or Newton, then it must be true and can never be argued with. Such demigods are, well … demigods, after all.

Having known a few living legends (one of which I knew pretty well), though, I’m of the opinion that such reasoning is flawed. While gurus and legends might have tremendous talent or insight, they are still as fallible as any other human being. Simply because they said something, even in an area that they know very well, does not always mean that they are right.

As far as I’m concerned, all statements should be evaluated on the merits of the statement. The reputation of the one who uttered it is of secondary importance.

Care to comment?