Today, April 15, is Leonardo da Vinci's birthday. Had the Renaissance Man discovered the path to eternal life, he would be 553 today.
So why does this matter to us here at The Motley Fool? For one, da Vinci was a man of great genius, and we enjoy honoring people of his ability. Second, a brief review of da Vinci's life and accomplishments can teach some valuable lessons about business. Really.
Da Vinci is well-known for his diverse interests. He did everything: paint, sculpt, write, invent, and conduct research in fields from architecture to anatomy. But with all of these demands on his time, he didn't do any one thing particularly to completion.
Take painting, for example. Da Vinci was a great painter. His Mona Lisa was recently moved to its own wall in the Louvre because of its popularity. There are a lot of things about the Mona Lisa that excite the art connoisseur. Perhaps the most exciting of all, however, is that da Vinci actually finished it. In his lifetime, he completed only six paintings. Had da Vinci the painter been a public company (LDVP, maybe), he would not have created very much long-term shareholder value.
Leonardo da Vinci also designed a tank, a submarine, and a flying machine. Of course, he didn't build any of them. For a man of genius, though, this wasn't a big deal. His vision was appreciated, and he was lauded by his apprentices and students. But if he were a company (LDVD in this case), his bubble would have burst. Agog over his ideas, 15th-century Wall Street might have driven up the price of his stock, only to be left lamenting its losses when he decided to take up painting again. (If da Vinci had successfully constructed a tank and submarine and used them to conquer Europe and then the world, his investors would have been made wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and we'd all likely be shopping at da-Vinci-Mart. But I digress.)
As folks who appreciate culture, we wish Leonardo a very happy birthday today and join in the celebration of his many accomplishments. But since we're folks who search every day for the very best investment opportunities for your money, da Vinci reminds us that public companies reward their shareholders by sticking with what they know and finishing what they start.
Leonardo was Tim Hanson's least favorite Ninja Turtle. Since LDVP and LDVD do not actually exist, he owns shares in none of the companies mentioned.