3 Lessons from Leibniz

August 7, 2015 at 10:53 am (Innovation, Thinking) (, , , , , )

When most people hear the name “Leibniz”, they usually think of his work in discovering calculus or as a philosopher. Well okay, let’s backtrack: most people say “who is that?”. Long story short, Gottfried Leibniz led an interesting and ambitious life that I believe we can extract some lessons from. This all began as I was reading a biography that focused more on the man than his work. As I read about what he was supposed to have been like, I became interested in his approach to life. Here are several notes on what I find interesting about Leibniz, and what I take away from his story.


Be self-motivated

At an early stage in his life, he was motivated to learn everything he could. He moved beyond his formal education at the time  to learn the language skills he needed to be able to tackle his father’s library. To go on a tangent, it was typical for him to cover every surface of the room with open books so he could jump around between topics in quick succession. I personally got excited about this since my living room is constantly in this shape; it’s nice to hear that other people have the same habits.

As most good biographies about Leibniz will tell you: at one point in his life, Leibniz had decided that he didn’t know as much about mathematics as he wanted; this motivated him to spend time changing that. I don’t think I need to remind many of you that this led to some pretty big stuff for everybody.


Have broad interests

A quick browse through a good biography on Leibniz will reveal that had his hands in many projects. He was constantly looking for interesting problems to solve, and injecting himself where he thought he could provide some utility. One such example of this was a project involving draining water from mines that he thought he could complete using some of his innovative ideas.

I believe that it is important to diversify your interests; it provides tools to be more creative in all endeavors of life. It is far too easy to get stuck focusing on the same details on a daily basis, which helps to lead to a boring life. By keeping side projects and interests that are unrelated to anything of current use, you not only have a productive escape, but also have a chance to let your brain work on your problems in the background.


Don’t over-commit

That being said; he was notorious for over-committing to projects and not seeing them through. I’m sure none of us can relate to that aspect of his life, right? Over-commitment is a silent cause of disaster; not giving enough attention to the proper things leads to over-stress and the demotivation of involved parties (among many other things).You really run the risk of earning a list of failures when you haven’t even tried to succeed yet.

We all know what kind of pavement the road to hell sports, so if you commit to something, ensure you can see it through. At the very least, be honest with everyone about your bandwidth or delegate to others.


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