Lesson 6


Balance the Logical and Imaginative Sides of Your Brain

Are you logical? Or imaginative? In this lesson you’ll work on developing whole-brain thinking for super creativity.

Challenge Yourself to Become What You’re Not

Most of us are a mix of right-brain and left-brain tendencies, but one side is usually dominant. Which are you? It’s important to work out in which way your natural tendency lies, because then you can practice and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Unfortunately, many of us practice our strengths and hope our weaknesses will somehow magically fix themselves.

Leonardo on Arte/Scienza

“Study the science of art and the art of science.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Which Path to Genius: Logic or Imagination?

In this lesson, your aim is to turn yourself into a whole-brain thinker: a person who can think logically, but who also has an active imagination.

Everyone is either right- or left-brain dominant. Very few people (usually the ones we think of as geniuses) use both their right- and left-brain hemispheres equally. Before you get into the meat of this lesson and start to create your own mind maps, read pages 165-169 of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. Michael Gelb explains society’s split-brain thinking and why it’s important to use both left and right hemispheres of your brain.

Mind maps are a brilliant aid to using both sides of your brain — for thinking both creatively and logically. You’ll have fun as you create your own mind maps and learn a wonderful new skill.

Let’s get started. Use this model of mind mapping to help you start thinking of directions you can take when you make up your own. (These mind maps were drawn by first-time mind mapper, Benjamin Davis.)


Left-Brain to Right-Brain Thinker

If you know that you’re naturally left-brained and want to become more spontaneous and accepting of your right-brained side, consciously work on developing spontaneity and a tolerance for chaos.


  • Getting in your car and going for a drive without planning the trip first.
  • Act on your hunches, even if you feel silly (no, don’t bet a bundle on the horses, but if you get a hunch to buy a stock and you’re not 100 percent sure why, buy some shares anyway).
  • Make a note of any insights after your meditation/contemplation sessions, and take these insights seriously — think about them rather than dismissing them, and act on them, without demanding proof. (The issue here is one of trust. Most left-brainers terrorize their right brain to the extent that the right brain has long given up on making suggestions at all. You need to rebuild trust, so act on your intuitions.)
Right-Brain to Left-Brain Thinker

Your challenge is to become more logical and verbal. This may seem impossible, but it’s worth the effort.


  • Balancing your checkbook every month.
  • Developing a mind map (see the next page) of pros and cons for every major purchase before you make the purchase. (You’ll make fewer impulse buys, and will save money.)
  • Cataloging your CD, book, and software collection.
  • Ridding every closet in your home of clutter.
  • Having a garage sale.

The last three suggestions may seem to have little to do with logical thinking, but remember that you are more than your mind. Clearing clutter will help you to think more logically — try it.

Arte/ Scienza Self-Assessment
Are you
left-brain dominant?
Are you
right-brain dominant?

I need to work out
problems logically.
When I don’t understand
something, I muse about
the problem until
the answer arrives.
I enjoy analysis,
and am detail-oriented.
I like to see the big picture first,
and then work out the details.
I am verbally facile. I know what I want to say, but
often can’t find the
precise words.
My friends say I am
Sometimes I get too emotional.
I’m not creative. I’m creative, but usually
don’t trust the results.
When I’m alone in the
house late at night and
I hear a noise, I know
it’s the house settling/
the people next-door/
the dog.
When I’m alone in the house
late at night, I call someone,
or turn on the radio.
The Psychological Benefits of Mind Mapping

Do the “Mind Map Your Day” map. Did you notice that as you wrote and drew and had fun that any tension, anxiety, or worry about upcoming events dissipated? Did you begin to feel excited and hopeful and eager to go out and conquer your day? Mind mapping, no matter what purpose you use it for, seems to carry its own positive energy.

More About Mind Mapping

Tony Buzan created the concept of Mind Mapping after studying how Leonardo and other geniuses processed information. To find out more about how Mind Mapping, read Buzan’s books, Use Both Side of Your Brain and The Mind Map Book: Radiant Thinking, or check out Buzan’s site at

Mind Mapping: Your Brain Integration Tool

The information on visual thinking, or Mind Mapping, is arguably the most important information in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. When you’re used to other note taking, studying, and planning methods, Mind Mapping may initially feel awkward. Persevere. The rewards of making Mind Mapping an integral part of your life are great. Read pages 169 to 174 of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci for a detailed introduction to Mind Mapping.

Why Mind Map?

You need to learn to Mind Map, because it allows you to access both sides of your brain by getting your brain’s hemispheres to talk to each other.

Whether you’re left or right-brain dominant, you have a preferred way of thinking. For many people, after years of schooling, the left brain is in charge. Paradoxically, this is true even for people whose preferred thinking mode is right-brain: they’ve been brainwashed by a left-brained culture into thinking that their way of thinking is wrong –even when they consistently get the right answers.

Visit the Virtual Museum

Explore Floor 4 of our Virtual Museum to see examples of how Leonardo’s visual elements integrate the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

[Flash Animation: Think Like Leonardo DaVinci Museum, 4th Floor Window]

Your First Mind Map

Don’t be intimidated by the gorgeous mind maps you see in books or on the Internet. Your special-occasion mind maps may well be frame-worthy works of art, but most real- life mind maps are nothing like that. And everyone mind maps in their own way, so your way is the right way for you.

Here’s how I do it. My favorite pens are: a red, green, and blue ink combo, in which one click changes ink colors, and a purple-ink rollerball pen. Using these pens, I scrawl my quick-and-dirty mind maps on anything handy: sticky notes, old envelopes, the margins of books (if I own the book), and the backs of letters. Mind mapping has become so automatic to me that I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I’ve been known to Mind Map on the back of menus in restaurants.

The Short-Form Mind Map Rules

My attitude is to do it your way. Michael Gelb outlines the formal rules on pages 176 and 177 of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. Here’s the short version:

  • Put a heading on the page
  • Doodle a center for the map
  • Insert keywords and doodles
  • Radiate arms from the map connecting the keywords to the central image
  • Continue or stop

At this stage, I leave my map for anywhere from five minutes to five days. When I come back to it, I either do a second map focusing on what seemed most important on the first map, or I take action: I call the client, write the chapter of the book, write the speech, etc.

Mind Map Your Day

  • Doodle/sketch a calendar page or similar center for your map.
  • Write down keywords (things to do, things to remember, appointments, etc.).
  • Connect the keywords with radiant lines from your center doodle.
  • Add more colorful doodles, keywords, and lines where appropriate.
  • Stop when you’ve had enough.

Let’s go on to the next page and iron out any questions you have about how to do your own mind maps.

What Are You Avoiding?

Invariably, with a course like this, students practice surreptitious avoidance of some aspect of the lessons in the privacy of their own home. What are you avoiding and why are you avoiding it? Pull out that journal and make some notes about the activity or lesson that’s unappealing to you and exactly what your feelings are on the subject. Share whatever you can with your fellow students on the Message Board.

Develop Creative Solutions With Mind Maps

By now you should have created at least one mind map, so you’ve got the idea, but chances are that mind maps still seem awkward. If you are really stuck on one aspect (or more) of a mind map, visit the Message Board and tell us what’s holding you up.

Six Quick-n-Dirty Maps

Your challenge now is: six mind maps in 60 minutes. Did I mention that mind maps don’t have to be pretty?

1. Mind Map a Report or Essay

  • The biggest difficulty here might be creating the central image or logo. If you can’t think of anything, do a colorful abstract. It’s important to develop an image when you start the mind map because that puts you in touch with your right brain.
  • When you’ve created the image, place your keywords. Don’t take too long at this; it’s a free-association exercise. At this stage, you don’t need to know where all the keywords are heading. They don’t even need to make sense. Just put down whatever words come to you, in whatever order, anywhere on the page.
  • Then connect the words with the central image.

By the time you’ve done this, you’re guaranteed to be well on the way to completing the report.

2. Mind Map a Solution to a Problem

You’re not mind mapping the solution as much as describing the problem with keywords and images.

Trust the process with this one. Within 10 words, you’ll want to put down a word that doesn’t seem to fit. Write that word. Write the next word . . .

Usually by the time you’re drawing lines, a solution to your problem will be evident.

3. Brainstorm With a Mind Map

Central image. Keywords. Place the keywords anywhere on the page. When you run out of keywords, connect the lines and then start sketching and doodling. The sketching will trigger more keywords. Keep going for at least 10 minutes. Use plenty of paper.

You can do a brainstorm mind map on notebook size paper, but the larger the paper the better. Tape the paper to a wall, and start writing down words.

4. Mind Map a Book

You can mind map a book as you read, or when you’ve finished. Place your central image, and then add keywords, lines, and sketches.

5. Mind Map Study Notes

Mind mapping makes preparing for exams easy. Read through your study notes, and mind map as you do so.

You can also create mind maps in lectures or seminars, as an alternative to boring note taking. Try it. You’ll be surprised to find that when you mind map, you retain more of the material.

6. Mind Map a Field Trip

Central image. Add keywords for locations, flora, fauna, or whatever you’re studying on the trip. You’ll probably go through many sheets of paper. When you get home, create a presentation-quality mind map from your field mind maps.

Moving Forward

In the next lesson, we’ll (theoretically) leave your mind for a moment and start working on your body. Becoming healthy and staying healthy is vital, and not merely because your body transports your brain. It turns out that intelligence is a whole-body event: your genius resides in your body as well as in your brain.

So get your running shoes, and let’s go . . . but be sure to drop by the assignment and quiz before you head out!

Assignment : Arte/Scienza: Create a Mind Map

In Lesson 3, Dimostrazione, we emphasized the importance of experimentation and making the most of your experiences. This evening, create a mind map reviewing your day. Map your successes, achievements, and mistakes. Have fun with this and let yourself go.

To prepare for the next lesson, read pages 193-195 in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.


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