Tag Archives: procrastination

5 Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci to Every Marketing Professional

“Talent hits a target that no one else can hit. Genius hits target no one else can see”

-Arthur Schopenhauer

vitruvian man

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. You don´t get to this level of of anatomic excellence unless you have opened up couple of bodies.

I recently read the autobiography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. The book was magnificient read and made me appreciate Leonardo even more (as a painter and as an inventor). He was able to achieve so much (majority of it not truly understood and appreciated when he was alive) in many different fields despite leaving quite a lot of things unfinished. Although it is unlikely that none of us reading (or writing) this blog will paint the most heralded painting in the world, there are still plenty of lessons we can take from Leonardo da Vinci and instil in our professional and everyday life:

  1. Have childlike sense of wonder

Why sky is blue?

How are clouds formed?

What is yawning?

These were just a few questions on Leonardo´s notebook. If you keep on questioning on things that others might take for granted you will get closer to the truth.

So as a marketing professionals, we need to always challenge the preconceived notions. We cannot be afraid to ask questions that everyone is thinking but no one dares to ask.

  1. Observe the world around you

As part of his curiosity, Leonardo spent hours and hours observing the world around him. This was connected to his maniacal list taking and notebooks filled from top to bottom and left to right with scribbling about his observations. He had his intense observation skills from his childhood to his last days. It was probably connected that he was not school educated but instead learned by observing and analysing those observations.

Working in marketing means being customer-centric. We need to obsessively observe our consumers and how they act and make decisions in this world.

  1. Experiment with open mind

“Vision without execution is hallucination. Skill without imagination is barren”

-Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci opened up over 30 bodies to learn more about anatomy. He tested rigorously his hypotheses about different subjects and was also willing to change his preconceived notions when he had different test results or received new information.

Marketing is not science that you can only theorize. It is about active doing and eventually you need to get your hands dirty and start shipping. We need to be also ready to change our approach if results shows so. We should be in state of constant experimentation and improvement.

  1. Find analogies and patterns among different disciplines

Leonard da Vinci was self-learned and despite being a true renaissance man, he was not particularly good in all fields. He struggled with algebra and languages. To learn and understand better different fields, he used analogies to make them more easily understandable for other people and to himself as well. He was brilliant at discerning patterns and abstracting from them a framework that could be applied across disciplines.

As marketing professionals we have to rise above jargon and find easily understandable ways to explain what we are doing and connect it to things that audience cares about (working hypothesis being here that majority of people are not caring about what we do). As marketing communications has become highly fragmented and specialized, we need to force ourselves to actively learn from other fields and keep our renaissance mentality. Different disciplines feed and support each other. Leonardo excelled at painting, but his detours to maths, physics, biology and weapon design made him a better painter.

  1. Procrastinate with peace of mind

“Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work the least”

– Leonardo da Vinci 

For majority of us, this comes quite naturally. However procrastination is not synonym for being lazy. When you’re not actively working on that difficult/daunting task, your mind is actually subconsciously collecting ideas and processing things to prepare you for it.

The most astounding revelation in Isaacson´s book is how much Leonardo left loose ends and unfinished projects behind. One part of it was that his curiosity led him to rabbit holes and as a true renaissance man, he suddenly might be interested in totally different subject. Other part of procrastination was his perfectionism. He carried Mona Lisa with him over 16 years and improved it slowly. He might look at this paintings for hours and then add one brush stroke.

If world´s most greatest artist and scientist was prone to procrastinate, we should not feel bad if we are delaying the start of our latest presentation.

Trust me, it will be better for it.

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Embrace The Constraints but Break The Barriers

I work only to deadlines.

Generally it would never occur to me write a presentation today, which would be due next week. When writing (whether a document or presentation) I need to be in a state of panic, despair and insanity to produce anything.

I am not probably the only one.

Constraints are good, because they help you to focus what you need to do. You have week to do this, the budget would be 100k and we will use mobile. You immediately know what to do. Being without constraints does not actually help creativity, because when you are working on a clean slate you can mess it up with all sorts of irrelevant crap. Thinking outside of the box is not helpful; instead you should try to expand the box as much as possible. The box is always there.

Constraints bring effectiveness, because humans procrastinators by nature (which is not necessarily bad thing). Constraints define the playing field you are and what game you are playing. Which is essential. Playing soccer in basketball court is not innovative, it is just lunacy. You can still do innovative and crazy things within your constraints.


  • Time (Faster is better)
  • Money (Usually there is never enough)
  • Brand belief (Good brand knows what it is and what it is not. It stays true to its belief and does change according to fads)
  • Target audience (Hardest projects are those where you are trying to speak to really broad mass audience. Quite often that is not really the case and you can actually narrow it down, but certain brands and products really have target audience of entire population)

What makes the job hard is not constraints, but the barriers.

They are quite often mistaken for constraints, but the difference is obvious. Instead of defining playing field, barriers are stopping you from doing great work inside that playing field. Sometimes they might come from your inner insecurity (“I don´t dare to do it”) or from general spinelessness of other people (“I am afraid to rock the boat”). Common trait of these barriers is that people who keep throwing them to your playing field genuinely believe that they are helping in defining the problem. In reality they are just making everyone´s life miserable and increasing the mediocrity in this world. And this is an unforgivable sin.


  • Fear (“We cannot present this, it is too bold”)
  • Reluctance (“We tried this 4 years ago, it did not work”)
  • Egoism (“I know better because I won this award 10 years ago and have lived off it since then”)
  • Stupidity (“The copy text has word don´t, isn´t that negative?)
  • Weakness (“Let´s give them exactly what they ask and not what they need”)

So embrace your constraints because they help to get shit done. At the same time try to break the barriers as much as possible, because that helps you to do things that you can be proud of.

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