Use all your thinking gears

Use all your thinking gears

Use all your thinking gears

Your brain is far better than you think and what other people’s opinion may suggest. Use it well, engage all its gears and do not fight yourself or look down on your own potential.

Your life will go in the direction of your most dominant thought. Think noble, big, connected and inspiring thoughts and you will inch your way towards greatness. You are what you think about all the time. Your thoughts are shaping your life experiences and directing your energy.

Energy is too precious a commodity to be wasted. This is why you do not afford the luxury of dwelling on negative thoughts, fruitless dog-fights and baseless ego-battles. Think big and you will see the world opening up to opportunities for growth and development.

Your mind could be compared to a powerful bicycle with seven gears, and perhaps more. Do not be content to operate only one gear. Engage all the gears and take your life to the next level.

One of the greatest thinkers of all time was Leonardo Da Vinci. Michael J. Gelb (1998) has written an excellent book entitled “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci”.  In the book, he identified seven principles of thought that Da Vinci used. It is these thinking gears that guided the way he thought and these thought principles are still relevant today. I would like to share with you my take on these seven gears of thinking, as I like to call then.

But first, who was this Leonardo da Vinci?  Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452. His mother, Caterina, was a peasant from Anchiano, a tiny village near the small town of Vinci, about forty miles away from Florence, Italy. Your greatness does not depend on how poor your parents may have been. Never let the circumstances of your birth hold you back. You do not need to wear your background like a billboard to advertise your misery.

Do not go around thinking like a victim and expecting everyone to feel pity for you. Re-frame your birth and background circumstances into a motivational fuel and not a stumbling block. Do not think in terms of excuses but solutions you provide and possibilities to explore.

Leonardo’s father, Ser Piero da Vinci, who was not married to his mother, was a prosperous accountant and notary in the city of Florence. Young Leonardo was taken from Caterina when he was five years old and raised in the home of his grandfather, who was also a notary. At the time, children born out of wedlock were disqualified from membership in the Guild of Notaries, and Leonardo was not eligible to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

When one door closes, there are always some open for you. Welcome the path your life takes as a blessing.

Leonardo could have been perhaps the greatest accountant of all time but alas, another path waited him. He was sent instead to be an apprentice in the studio of the master sculptor and painter, Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488). Under him, Leonardo developed his artist skills and started his journey as a thinker. Beyond painting, Leonardo spent time busy with his studies of scripture, anatomy, astronomy, botany, geology, flight, geography and plans for inventions as well as military innovations. His interests were broad, proving that it is with your thinking that you limit your world. Leonardo died at the age of 67 on May 2, 1519.

The seven Da Vincian principles or thinking gears. You can use and apply these in your life and work.

  1. Curiosità — This is an insatiably curiosity that you carry into every detail of your life and work. It is an unrelenting quest for continuous learning and exploration. 2. Dimostrazione — This is a commitment to apply and test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  2. Sensazione — This is the continual refinement of your five senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience. We live in a wonderful world and many pass through it blindly. This principle is a call to raise your awareness and live in this moment and make the best of it. 4. Sfumato (literally “Going up in Smoke”) — This is a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty. It is your ability to embrace the VUCA world we live in. 5. Arte/Scienza — This is the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. We would call this “Whole-brain” thinking. 6. Corporalità — This is the cultivation of wellness and fitness. It is the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise. 7. Connessione — This is a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. We would call this Systems thinking.


Be curious and think about your environment. Have an insatiably curiosity that you carry everywhere. Do not be satisfied with just looking at things as they are, search beyond the surface and be an explorer. All great leaders are great learners. Your curiosity will always drive you beyond where your certificates took you. Eric Hoffer was right when he said: “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Embrace Curiosità and, like Leonardo, carry with you a journal to record your thoughts, observations and insights. Keep asking questions and challenging your limitations. Ask the magic questions always. It is not enough to just complain, explore possibilities and seek to be an answer and solution provider. Do not delegate innovation to others in far away places.


It is not enough to just learn and see all that has been as what will always be. Commit to applying and testing knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. You will never learn unless you are willing to try, risking the possibility of failure. Apply what you know and test your thoughts. Some things will work and others will not work. Do not fear failure so much that you never do anything. The world is not just sitting waiting to see you embarrassed. If you ever fail, do not quit trying. There is no shame in that. If you failed just take that as a learning event but never as your identity. Keep holding your head high and applying yourself. Greatness comes as you move from failure to failure without a lack of enthusiasm and drive for success and growth.


Open your eyes to the wonder that you live in. See the beauty in things that others may easily ignore. Look at the beautiful sunrise and let it inspire you to raise your faith and your game. Look at the purple jacarandas in wonder and let them inspire you to add colour to your life and thought. Hear the sound of good music play into your soul and let your soul sing along. Be alert and be aware of the wonder you live in. Count your blessings and take time to sense them fully.

Sensazione is the continual refinement of your five senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience. Eyes that look are common, but eyes that see are rare. It is a call to being alert and aware. Open your eyes and observe. There is opportunity all around you waiting for you to see. Leonardo was a keen observer of nature. He used these observations to develop models and sketches. Some of the ideas sketched were 200 – 400 years ahead of his times. When you start thinking and being aware of your environment your mind will open to possibilities beyond your wildest dreams.

You live in a magnificent corner of the world, do not pass through it blindly. All that you need to become great is already around you. This principle is a call to raise your awareness and live in this moment and make the best of it. The answers you seek are closer to you than you think.


We live in a VUCA world characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguousness. Regrettably, the VUCA phenomenon will not be going away anytime soon. It is a global reality. The earlier you embrace it in the way you think and strategise, the better life will be. Everyday the forces of disruption are out to disturb your rhythm and change the rules of the game. Embrace a Sfumato mindset. See the present going up in smoke and imagine a new order of things. This is the call to innovation and creative destruction. The best way to survive is not to wait for disruption but to disrupt yourself. Keep thinking about the winds of change blowing into your field of play. VUCA can be survived. The first step is not to think like a victim and to choose to embrace the sfumato mindset.


Develop balance and realise that all things in life are connected. There is no need to see what is different as an enemy. Balance science and art, logic and imagination, finance and marketing, structure and imagination. This is called “Whole-brain” thinking. While you encourage compliance also spur innovation and creativity. Use both your right and left brains.


Your health is your wealth. When you lose it, you cannot be useful is other arenas. Preserve your health and cultivate your vitality and energy. My School Headmaster always used to say, “A healthy mind requires a healthy body.” Move your body, feed it like a special temple of divinity and fuel it for peak performance. Everyday cultivate grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise. Package yourself well and put your best foot forward everyday. Translate your energy into execution of worthy strategies.


All things are connected and everything occurs in systems. Think in systems. A decision that looks simple may also upset many other things if you do not think and see in systems. Recognise and appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Think synergies, partnerships, connections and collaborations. Connected thinking leads to break through insights.

No one gear works all the time in the same way. Use all the thinking gears that you have. Create time and space to think. Leonardo da Vinci carried a notebook with him at all times for him to jot down ideas, impressions, observations as they occurred. His notebooks still exist today making up more than 7,000 pages. The notebooks contain jokes, fables, observations, thoughts of scholars he admired, personal financial records, letters, reflections on problems, plans for inventions, treatises on anatomy, botany, geology, flight and painting. There are doodles, sketches, illustrations. If you do what great thinkers do, you could also think great thoughts. A good journal could be a first step to tracking your thought streams, recording your ideas and unleashing the power of your thoughts. You have a powerful mind – use it well.

Committed to your greatness.

Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634. His website is:

Leave a comment