Laura Rafaty | Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:00 am
So explained Gelb, a best-selling author, motivational speaker and self-made Renaissance man, at the recent Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood, co-hosted by the resort and the Napa Valley Vintners. Convening for four days in February, the symposium attracted some 70 speakers, panelists and attendees, including Joshua Greene, editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine; Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for New York Times; Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter Magazine; and Antonio Galloni of Wine Advocate.
This group of top editors and wine writers met to polish their wine writing, deepen their wine knowledge and experience their own creative renaissance with Gelb’s guidance, based on his book: “How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day.”
Da Vinci was a hero of Gelb’s since childhood; a real-life Superman who “embodied all we know about human potential.” And so in 1994, armed with a fascination for the artist and a free ticket to Florence, Gelb followed in the footsteps of the master, studying da Vinci’s notebooks, inventions and artworks and developing a renaissance roadmap for the journey from intellect to inspiration. Gelb distilled from da Vinci’s work seven universal principles of the creative process — “the essential elements of genius,” he said — which include:
• Curiositá: An insatiably curious approach to life and unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
• Dimonstratzione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
• Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
• Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty.
• Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination.
• Corporalitá: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise.
• Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena.
Exploring these elements will kick-start creativity, although this requires concentrated effort and diligent capture of your every fleeting and potentially brilliant thought, Gelb asserted. It also requires hand-gestures, and Gelb coached the crowd on how to punctuate each Italian phrase with the appropriate wave of the arm, flip of the wrist and twist of the tongue.
Gelb would seem the ideal creativity coach for this group, having previously written the book “Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices.” Appealing to these oenophiles, Gelb celebrated the role wine can play in unlocking genius potential, or at least in loosening it up a bit.
“Wine is the elixir of genius … the preferred libation for many of the finest minds who ever lived,” he said. “All the great thinkers met at the palace of the Medici, where they drank wine and talked about truth and beauty and goodness.”
In fact, the word “symposium,” he explained, means “to drink wine together.”
Not surprisingly, Gelb said he found the Napa Valley to be a particularly conducive atmosphere for creative thinking, as it embodies the joie de vivre and la dolce vita he advocates. “This is one of the most beautiful places in the world … a temple to the elixir of genius.”
Of course, even da Vinci grew older, and some might worry that it may be too late to teach an old brain new tricks. Not so, assures Gelb, whose latest book, “Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age,” promises that even a mature mind can become better, if properly challenged and exercised.
“We grew up thinking that the brain declines after age 30. We now know that it was intended to improve with use,” he said.
As Gelb sees it: “Iron rusts from disuse and water that does not flow becomes stagnant. … It is the same with the human mind.” With a knowing smile, he suggests that adopting da Vinci’s creative strategies for genius thinking might operate like RustOleum for the brain that, when paired with Resveratrol from fine wine, will keep the mental machinery humming.
Watching Gelb, who, despite having some gray hairs, displayed an infectious youthful charm — juggling fruit, spouting limericks and bouncing around like a precocious teenager — it doesn’t take a genius to see that he’s on to something.