How To Become A Polymath- It’s Natural.
It’s a common question that starts right at an early age…
“What do you want to be when you grow up.”
It can be almost anything, but it generally comes with a title.
This natural tendency to be curious right from a young age allows for unlimited possibilities.
But at some point, this innocent question that did not take much thought goes from a natural easy response to one that causes us anxiety and keeps us up at night, and based on the economy sometimes a few times throughout your life and career.
Somewhere along the journey, we are programmed and pigeonholed into thinking that we have to choose A or B.
In other words…
Pursue one career and groomed to specialize in and follow through so to do that one thing exceptionally well, hopefully finding your true calling and purpose and devoting your life to that pursuit.
Not to diminish the value of specialization;
It’s simply a nudge to tilt the scale in the other direction, a scale that has been rather one-sided over the last century.
With the industrialization came specialization and the narrowing of knowledge, this was great for the time and gave us incredible leaps in all areas.
But what if your specialization is no longer needed or you lose your job?
Could be from…
- The Economy (as in the oil and gas recession of 2015 and the loss of over 100,000 jobs and careers in one Canadian province alone)
- Downsizing from new technology
What about if your purpose and priorities change.
- As in a Divorce
- A severe health scare
- A loss of a family member
Then your left looking and asking that question all over again…
“What do you want to be when you grow up.”
This time you are in your midlife, 45-55 years of age.
Did you do something wrong?
Is there something in your character that is not right?
I will let you in on a little secret…
There is nothing wrong with you.
This uneasy feeling is the polymath that is naturally inside you just waiting to get unleashed on your new and uncertain landscape.
This is where the polymath thrives, shines and does its best work.
The polymath inside us all can morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation.
By assessing the new landscape, attaining knowledge, exploration of new ideas and perspectives, and not afraid to connect the unconnected so to create a new reality.
“By Nature, People Are Polymaths And Not Specialist ”
The Rise Of The Polymath In The Modern Era Is Happening.
Let me ask you a question…
How many of you do NOT have ANY interests at all?
Not a one?
Most people do, even if its a hobby.
Well, that curiosity towards any interest in your life is the polymath wanting to come out.
Remember that boundless curiosity that you had as a child, well it’s the same place.
What Is A Polymath?
Based on a definition by Wikipedia…
A polymath is an individual whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.
The term entered the lexicon in the 20th century and has now been applied to great thinkers living before and after the Renaissance.
This description means you can celebrate your accomplishments in a lot of different areas, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a genius in any one area.
But to be clear, we are not talking about a…
Jack of all Traits
Polymaths are not “Jack of All traits.“
More often than not, “Jack of all traits are masters of nothing.”
They skim the surface of whatever they decide to try, out of necessity.
This process of learning something “out of necessity” can be useful and a great teacher, but generally this is about reaching the least needed to achieve something.
The polymath, on the other hand, is continuously reaching for the most required to produce something.
That’s the difference.
A polymath digs deeper into the areas of interest or passion, so to get a thorough understanding and competence level of skill in which to bring forward into their lives.
But it does not mean that you have to be exceptional in every area of ability…
Hard To Find
During the Renaissance period, to be well versed in multiple disciplines was considered normal.
But based on the structure of the last number of decades finding the polymaths is not easy.
With the education systems so structured, unfortunately, the natural curiosity that is in the evolving polymath gets shut down.
We are groomed right from the time in junior through to high school and then again in university to specialize and become experts in our chosen fields.
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Ok To Be Flawed
The 10,000-hour rule for mastery in skill set development made famous by Malcolm Gladwell need not apply to the polymath.
To be a successful polymath, you do not need to be in the top areas of your fields of discipline; you need only to be better than average.
Remember, you have so much time and energy, thus striving for excellence in all fields is not necessary, and to be an expert does not mean you need to know everything about your area.
Although to meet your goals of being a polymath, you will need dedication and commitment.
Do not put off pursuing and learning interest because of the mindset that you are not qualified.
There needs to be a confidence that comes from the understanding that you have as much right to use this knowledge as any anyone else.
Top-quality education has never been more available to you than now with the rise of the internet and the online educational platforms.
Udemy and or Wealthy Affiliate are examples of some top online educational platforms that give us the same playing field as any other person wanting this knowledge and ability to improve. (More on this later in the post.)
“Expertise Is Not Only Achieved Through Exclusivity.”
By having many interests and professions, you can become better at all of them in each area then you would have been in one specialized area alone.
Unlike a specialist, the polymath will devote their focus to many different areas.
They continue to acquire new skills and tools by trying various endeavours.
Do not be afraid to lose yourself in your interest and or obsession.
Do what you love the mistake is to get concerned with practicality, some obsession has nothing to do with practicality whatsoever.
Follow your bliss, and the world will unfold as it should.
You will never know how this combination of skills will fit together and develop into a radical new entity that you can operate life and career from in the future.
How To Bring Back This Once Revered Multi-Skilled Person?
Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat.
Curiosity and the desire to satisfying that curiosity is the thing that drives the need for deeper understanding in a polymath, but this is not an idle curiosity; it is an active one.
A want and need to learn more about everything that they find interesting.
To cultivate the polymath inside yourself, nurture that curiosity and dedicate yourself to its pursuit…
This could be…
• A problem you want to solve
• An intellectual desire you need to see through
• An inspiration to learn something
“The Important Thing Is Not To Stop Questioning. Curiosity Has Its Own Reason For Existing” Albert Einstein
Polymaths Identify Priorities And Timewasters.
The habits of polymaths are such that…
They usually do not watch mindless TV or surf the net endlessly for no reason.
When they socialize, they prefer to discuss important topic’s so to draw upon concepts and ideas, in place of gossip or small talk.
Connections, friendships and associates are easily made.
The Comfort Zone Is NO Comfort At All.
Comfort zones are genuinely the worst place to put a polymath for they are continually looking to expand beyond what they consider comfortable.
All new growth and learning will always occur outside of the comfort zone, and if we are to explore new and untapped areas, then go through life more as an explorer than a tourist so to take in new experiences and cultures.
A great way to dig below the surface and get deeper into your interests and skillsets in all areas.
You Could Be Thinking…
Are you always learning something from SCRATCH?
One of the strengths that come from nurturing that polymath inside is…
When interested in something a polymath will put a lot of effort to get up to speed on that one thing they are wanting to learn and will absorb everything they can on the topic.
Because beginnings are something that they are comfortable with trying, new skills and being out of there comfort zones are less intimidating.
They can draw from past accomplishments, so it’s never really starting from the beginning.
That’s why whatever field you apply your energy into is rarely a wasted effort.
Learning new things based on our priorities and interest is a skilled lot of us miss out on.
Learning Now Can Be Done Using Many Avenues.
Formal education is not the be and end-all and that we do not all need a certificate to show that we have done the training.
learning can also get done through…
- Books/Magazines and Reading
- U-tube videos
- Web-based education platforms
What’s excellent about web-based learning today is you can have access to so many “authorities” that we’re not so long ago impossible to spend time with. For instance, I learned to edit from a New York Times and Washington Post editor, no way could I have done that years ago.
As in any level of production in anything, the ability to set goals, have action plans in which to achieve these goals and work hard, becoming a polymath will not be any different.
This pursuit of growth means that learning stops when your heart does.
You have to continue to educate yourself in every capacity available, both formally and informally.
Foster some patience for some things can be learned in a short period like weeks or months while others can take the rest of your lives.
Strive to be well rounded
You do not want to be eclectic for this says that you are a dabbler and non-focused.
Well rounded is something entirely different it is a broadly experienced with real skill in numerous areas.
Take Action And Engage.
Part of the engagement is to, not stop the learning, learn by doing and above all else, to learn from your results, also not settle for the norm, push beyond and “if it’s not broke break it.“
Believe in yourself and stay humble.
It’s ok to feel a little ignorant for a while, so to learn something completely new, leave your ego at the door.
So this all starts with you…
What are your adventures and journey?
“I Did Not Fail I Just Learned 10000 Ways Something Did Not Work.”
Problems And The Evolving Era…
To solve a problem at the edge of your ability will require a different approach or finding the solution based on where you are will not happen.
Meaning you have to get more information.
Based on the ever-increasing complexity of the problems we are facing having the input of a specialist only will not solve it.
The answer will not come from only one source.
It’s the combination of two or more fields, also the combination of the specialist and polymath joining at the intersections that will create innovation.
A polymath can approach a problem from many different directions at once because of the different amounts of information they expose themselves to.
They can go WIDE, whereas the specialist can do DEEP. This intersection makes for a great union of the two and ultimate success in the projects and problems that need solving.
What Steps Could You Be Taking?
Embrace your passions and follow your curiosity down the rabbit holes.
Only this allows you to release the polymath inside of you and lead you out of the specialization paradigm.
Ben Franklin and Leonardo Da Vinci did not become masters all in one year.
A Polymath will never be associated with the term “overnight success” unless you associate 15 years of dedication and hard work to their studies and skills…..overnight.
Design Our Lives Around How We Are Naturally.
If you are a specialist, then specialize. If you are not then pursuing the path of the polymath, and it is easier than it sounds.
Instead of asking…
“What do you want to be when you grow up.”
“Where will you do your best work?“
This design leads us to a happier and more authentic experience.
Give it a go…
As always if you have any questions, thoughts or feedback, would like very much for you to share them with me.
Do not hesitate to leave it in the comments section of the post, and I can get back to you in a timely fashion.
Thanks for the moment.
Feature Image by Moshe Harosh from Pixabay