How to Come Up With Great Business Ideas: A Lesson from Leonardo da Vinci

By Aaron Edelheit

June 18, 2018   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

how to come up with great business ideas

Today’s investment world is more competitive than ever before. Our investment decisions require creativity and problem solving to navigate a complex market.

How can you outperform and minimize risk? What can you do in this brutal environment? Work harder? Trade faster? Leverage up?


My answer?

I build “hard breaks” into my life and take time to disconnect from work and technology. I give myself space to think creatively about the investment markets. This is something I learned the hard way after 25 years of investing.

So, how to come up with great business ideas? Take a page from history’s most influential artist.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “The greatest geniuses accomplish more when they work less.”

In the 15th century, da Vinci got in trouble for this philosophy. Leonardo’s patron had become frustrated with the progress of his latest work, the famous painting of the Last Supper. Leonardo pushed back and wrote to his sponsor that “It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation. When you come back to the work, your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.”

A modern analog to Da Vinci’s brilliance is “Hamilton,” the most innovative and creative Broadway play in decades. “Hamilton,” was conceived while Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation. Creative thinkers long ago realized that the best ideas happen when you aren’t at work.

The reason for that?

It’s actually simple. When we’re daydreaming and relaxing, our brains don’t slow down. It’s the other way around.

When your brain is on a downtime, its supply of motivation, productivity, and creativity get refueled. As a result, you’ll be able to think about problems, memories, and patterns in your life better.

Creative people have a more active default mode network than others.

I have been an entrepreneur, CEO, and self-proclaimed workaholic for over 20 years now. In the last 12 years, I drastically changed the way I work and interact with technology.

Taking a hard break has made me a better investor, a more creative entrepreneur, and I believe I owe a great deal of my success to the fact that one day a week, I am guaranteed a complete vacation from my work.

Here are some ideas about taking breaks you can actually use:

Turn your gadgets off

business idea

Artists aren’t alone in their habits of rest and disconnecting. Brad Feld, a successful entrepreneur, author, blogger, and venture capitalist running a half a billion-dollar investment company, takes a digital Sabbath.

Every week, he takes one day where he turns off his phone and computer, disconnecting himself from technology. Feld says that by taking a digital Sabbath, he is “doing the best work he’s ever done.”

He has seen such positive outcomes from taking a day off that he now takes a week off every quarter.

Go for a walk in nature

Studies from Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of London have shown that a walk in in the woods “significantly improved cognitive performance.” Creativity can be boosted by 60% just by taking these walks.

Einstein was famous for taking walks when stuck with a thorny problem to figure out. Even Steve Jobs believed in taking walks, the power of reflection and taking a break from work. Ludwig van Beethoven and Charles Darwin are two others in the ranks of famously creative people who regularly took walks.


business idea tips

As mentioned earlier in this article, your brain is more likely to process information and find patterns when it is able to reflect and have a downtime.

How to come up with great business ideas? Maybe take a nap.

Taking hard breaks and downtime may help you become more creative and give you an edge over the rest of the market.

Aaron Edelheit

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